New Jersey Pardon Information
The New Jersey Constitution says that the Governor “may grant pardons and reprieves in all cases other than impeachment and treason, and may suspend and remit fines and forfeitures.” every year, the Governor is required to report to the Legislature every pardon, reprieve, and commutation he granted the previous year, stating the name of the convicted person, the crime he was convicted of, the sentence he received, the date of he was sentence, the date the Governor granted him the pardon, and the reason why the Governor granted him the pardon.
The Legislature has created a body called the New Jersey State Parole Board who has the authority to accept, investigate, and make recommendations on pardon applications. The Parole Board is made up of seventeen members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate; they serve six-year terms. A pardon application will typically go through the Parole Board before it is considered by the Governor.
Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we will not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, amnesty, parole, or other types of clemency that may be available in New Jersey here. We will also not discuss judicial alternatives such as record expungement, record sealing, setting aside or dismissal of convictions. You should talk to an attorney if you think any of these alternative options may be more appropriate for you.
|See http://www.recordgone.com/NewJersey/ for more information and options for record sealing and expungement|
There are no formal requirements (such as a waiting period) before you can apply. You can apply for a pardon even if you are still serving your sentence and are being confined in correctional facility (jail, prison, etc.).
However, as in most states, a New Jersey pardon is an extraordinary measure; you must provide a very good reason for why the Governor should grant you a pardon. Simply saying that you want to clear your name or put your past behind you is probably not enough.
Some good reasons for applying for a pardon include:
- You have been prevented from pursuing certain jobs, housing, a trade or occupational license because of the conviction, and this has in turn prevented *you from providing for yourself and/or your family an adequate standard of living.
- You have strong evidence (such as DNA evidence) which proves you are innocent of the crime you were convicted of.
- You are facing deportation for a minor crime, and unless pardoned you would be separated from your spouse and children.
- You are currently confined but do not have much longer to live because of a documented terminal illness, and you would like to spend your last days with your loved ones.
Unless your reason for applying is based on innocence of the crime convicted, you better be able to point to evidence indicating you have been on good behavior (either in prison or out in society). In other words, simply needing the pardon is not enough; you must demonstrate why you are deserving of the pardon.
The Parole Board/Governor can only consider pardon applications for New Jersey State convictions. If you want a pardon for a federal conviction, you must do that through the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Pardon Attorney (see our page on this site on federal pardons). If you want to pardon for an out-of-state conviction, you should find the appropriate page on this site dealing with pardons in that particular state.
Keep in mind that the Parole Board/Governor receives hundreds of applications every year, but the vast majority of them are denied. From the time period March 2011 to February 2013, 2 pardons were granted. Your chance of getting a pardon largely depends on your individual circumstances. Naturally, the older and less serious your conviction, and the more compelling your life story, the higher your chance of getting a pardon. Your chance of getting a pardon can also depend on who is serving as Governor at the time your application is reviewed; some Governors are simply more lenient than others in handing out pardons.
The Application Process
There are no application fees to apply for a pardon in New Jersey. At the time of this writing, neither the Governor’s office nor the Parole Board has made a pardon application form available on the World Wide Web. To obtain an application form, you should call the Parole Board at 609-292-4257. You can also email them at [email protected] or write to:
New Jersey State Parole Board
Attn: Clemency Investigator
P.O. Box 862
Trenton, NJ 08625
If you look hard enough on the Internet, you may be able to find a sample New Jersey pardon/clemency application form that other individuals or entities have placed there. You should only use any form you find on the Internet as a preview. We highly advise you to contact the Parole Board in order to obtain the official, most updated form. If you use an unofficial or outdated form, your application may be rejected.
The form should be quite simple and self-explanatory, as it was created for the non-lawyer to use. You will be asked for basic information such as your name, any aliases you have used, your date of birth, driver’s license number, immigration status, information about your family (their names, addresses, and occupations), your education history, your marital status, and your employment history, among other things.
You will also be asked to list information about all of your arrests and convictions, including the date of arrest, what the charges were, the final disposition (outcome), what your sentence was, and the date you were sentenced. Remember you must list all arrests, even those that did not result in a conviction. If you are missing information about a particular arrest or conviction, you should contact the law enforcement agency that was involved in the case and/or the court where you were charged or convicted. The Parole Board will want to know the circumstances of each arrest.
If you don’t remember all of your arrests and convictions, you may need to obtain a criminal report for yourself. You can do this by contacting the New Jersey State Police at (609) 882-2000. You can also log onto its website at www.njsp.org/. You criminal report should list all arrests, charges, and convictions you have ever received in New Jersey.
If you have arrests and convictions in other states, you can obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal report for yourself from the FBI. You can find out how to do this by calling the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., at (202) 324-3000, or logging onto its website at http://www.fbi.gov. The FBI’s website also has a list of local FBI offices you can call. Alternatively, you can contact the criminal history record repository (which keeps a record of all criminal activity in a state) in each state where you have arrests/convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states. You will also be asked to list your reasons for seeking a pardon and why you think you deserve it. This is perhaps the most important part of the application. Submit, on a separate sheet of paper, a detailed and genuine personal statement.
In you person statement, do not simply say you want a clean criminal record again. Tell the Parole Board/Governor how your conviction has negatively affected you and/or your family. For example, explain how you have been denied housing or employment opportunities because of your conviction, and how this has prevented you from providing your family and you an adequate standard of living. Submit any proof you may have (such as denial letters) to support your claims.
If you are facing deportation because of a conviction, explain how being separated from your family will negatively affect you as well as them. If you are pursuing a career in a field that requires you to obtain a pardon, submit documents, letters, or other proof from a prospective employer, licensing agency, or attorney verifying this necessity. If you need to regain your gun rights, explain why you need this—for example, you are pursuing a career that requires the use of firearms, or you want to take part in your family hunting traditions, or you simply want to feel more secure and able to defend yourself and/or your family after a recent traumatic event.
Also indicate in your personal statement all the positive things that have occurred in your life—for example, educational achievements, new or stable employment, marriage and children, community involvement, charitable services or donations, law-abiding behavior, etc. Submit copies of your college transcript, high school diploma or GED, military certificates, marriage certificate, honors and awards, and other proof of your rehabilitation and good character. Explain what your future plans are and how a pardon would help you.
In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Parole Board/Governor will not be retrying you for the offense. Although you may feel the need to explain the facts of the crime from your perspective, avoid trying to make excessive excuses for your crime and arguing away your guilt. However you feel about the crime, you have already been found guilty. The Parole Board/Governor is probably more interested in seeing your remorse for the crime, and your understanding of its effects on the victim and society, than anything else.
You are required to submit testimonials/letters of recommendation from at least 2 individuals who have knowledge of your rehabilitation and adjustment into the community during the past two years; these individuals should preferably also know about the crimes for which you are applying a pardon. The testimonials/letters of recommendation should be addressed to the current Governor of New Jersey, whoever he or she may be at the time you apply. If you cannot obtain the testimonials/letters of recommendation, you must attach a statement explaining why you cannot provide them.
Finally, your application form must be notarized, which means it must be signed in front of a notary public. You can find a notary public in most banks. They may charge a small fee, usually depending on whether you have an account with that bank.
Make sure you keep a copy of everything you send for your records. Your completed application form, together with all supporting documents and testimonials/letters of recommendation, should be mailed to:
New Jersey State Board of Parole
Trenton, NJ 08625
If you are still confined in a correctional facility, your complete application materials must be sent to the Chief Executive Officer of the facility where you are currently being confined. In all other cases, mail your application to the above address.
After the Parole Board receives your application, it will conduct a thorough investigation into your life. This may include checking your criminal history, your financial background, your medical and psychological history, among other things. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Parole Board, the Governor’s office, and their agents at all times.
There may or may not be a hearing on your application. If a hearing is held, you must not only attend, but also look and act your best. Dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial. This means, for men, a suit and tie.
If a hearing is held and if allowed, you should have family members, friends, neighbors, church members, co-workers and others in your community attend the hearing to show their support. The hearing is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Parole Board not only see you in person but also see the amount of support you have in your community.
After the investigation and hearing (if any) are complete, the Parole Board will hand your entire file over to the Governor with a recommendation. The Governor has the final say on whether or not you receive a pardon. The Governor’s decision is typically final; this means you cannot appeal to a court if you are unhappy with the decision. However, in most cases you can reapply if you are denied.
Getting a pardon does not necessarily mean you are suddenly “innocent” of the crime. A pardon in most states, including New Jersey, is not so much about erasing your criminal act as it is about “forgiving” you of the act. As they say, a pardon “forgives but does not forget.” In addition to forgiving you of the act, a New Jersey pardon is an official declaration that you have been rehabilitated.
However, unlike in many other states, once you are granted a pardon in New Jersey, you are then eligible to apply to a court to have your conviction expunged from your criminal record. Once you are granted an expungement, your arrest, conviction and other proceedings pertaining to the case are deemed to have never occurred, and you can answer “no” to any questions asking you whether you have been convicted of the crime. There are some exceptions to this rule. If you are interested in obtaining an expungement after you have received a pardon, you should talk to a record expungement attorney who is familiar about the process. (Depending on your circumstances, it may even be possible to get an expungement without necessarily getting a pardon.)
Other than making you eligible for an expungement, getting a pardon also restores citizenship rights which have been lost as a result of the conviction. For one, a pardon restores your right to serve on a jury, if it was ever lost at all.
Your right to vote, if it has not already been restored after you completed your sentence, will also be restored by the pardon. If you lost your right to hold public office as a result of the conviction, a pardon for that conviction would also restore your right to hold public office.
Also, once you have been granted a pardon and/or expungement, a licensing authority (for example, the state agencies that issue nursing or teaching licenses) cannot discriminate against you or disqualify you solely because of your conviction. However, this does not necessarily mean the licensing agency has to completely ignore the underlying crime. If the act you committed is related to the type of licensing you are seeking, the licensing agency may very well consider it.
If you are you concerned that your conviction will be a problem when you apply for a job, housing, a trade or occupational license, you should send a copy of your pardon to the employer, landlord, or licensing agency so they know you have been pardoned. Many if not most employers, licensing agencies, and landlords will probably ignore your conviction if they know you have received a pardon for it.
On the other hand, after you receive an expungement, the general public (including most employers) will not have any access to your conviction records. Furthermore, with a few exceptions you will be able to legally deny that you were ever convicted of the crime. Thus, expungement is highly advantageous.
|See http://www.recordgone.com/NewJersey/ for more information and options for record sealing and expungement|
Under federal law, if you have received a pardon from any state, the pardoned conviction cannot be used by federal authorities to prosecute you for “unlawful possession of a firearm” under federal law, unless the pardon specifically says you cannot possess a gun. However, just because you cannot be prosecuted under federal law does not mean you cannot be prosecuted under state law. Some states have stricter gun laws than federal law. If regaining your gun rights is important to you, make sure you make you desire known during the application process.
In most cases, federal immigration authorities cannot rely solely on a conviction that has been subject to a pardon for the purpose of deporting you from the country. If immigration is not an issue for you, this benefit is obviously irrelevant.
Finally, keep in mind that the effects of a pardon can vary from one state to the next. For example, if you receive a pardon in New Jersey and then move to another state, that other state might take away your gun rights or require you to register as a sex offender again even if the pardon lifted these restrictions from you while you were living in New Jersey. Thus, you should always check with the laws of the state you move to rather than just assume that the benefits of the pardon moves with you across state lines. Fortunately, states tend and honor each other’s pardons.
- New Jersey on Wikipedia
- Jersey State Bar
- ApplyForPardon .com - Pardon form completion service. Enter your information and get a neat and clean looking form sent to you.
- Record Clearing .org - post conviction information
- N.J. Const. art. 5, § 2.
- N.J. Stat. § 2A:167-3.1.
- N.J. Stat. § 2A:167-7.
- N.J. Stat. § 30:4-123.47.
- See State v. Todd, 570 A.2d 20 (N.J.Super. 1990)(“The Governor has the power to pardon a defendant who has been sentenced to prison.”).
- See N.J. Admin. Code § 10A:16-8.1 et seq. (illness-based application for executive clemency).
- The Sentencing Project, New Jersey, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/NewJersey.pdf
- Susan Meier, Executive Clemency Assistant
- See Brezizecki v. Gregorio, 588 A.2d 453 (N.J.Super. 1990)(“[A] pardon is an exercise of sovereign or executive clemency toward the guilty . . . Pardon implies guilt. If there is no guilt, there is no ground for forgiveness.”).
- In re L.B., 848 A.2d 899, 369 N.J.Super. 354 (2004); N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-2 et seq.
- N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-27.
- The Sentencing Project, New Jersey, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/NewJersey.pdf; see also N.J. Stat. § 19:4-1(6)-(7).
- The Sentencing Project, New Jersey, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/NewJersey.pdf; see also N.J. Const. art. 2, para. 7; N.J. Stat. §§ 19:4-1 and 19:34-4.
- N.J. Stat. § 2A:168A-3; see also Storcella v. State Dept. of Treasury, Div. of State Lottery, 686 A.2d 789 (N.J.Super. 1997)(“The wording of N.J.S.A. 2A:168A-3 does not direct the licensing authority to issue a license upon presentation of a pardon, rather it prohibits a licensing authority from automatically disqualifying an applicant based on the convictions alone. . . . The Legislature has not mandated that a licensing authority totally ignore the criminal activities underlying the pardoned convictions, particularly where those activities have a direct relation to the license being sought.”).
- See Brezizecki v. Gregorio 588 A.2d 453 (N.J.Super. 1990)(“When there is a requirement that the offender show good moral character, the pardon will not preclude use of the underlying crime, because then it is not the conviction but one’s character that is relevant. This is typically found in situations where a pardoned offender seeks citizenship, restoration of the right to practice a profession or hold certain licenses, or to become a law enforcement officer.”).
- 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).