New Mexico Pardon Information
The New Mexico Constitution gives the Governor the power to “grant reprieves and pardons, after conviction for all offenses except treason and in cases of impeachment.” The Legislature may regulate the manner in which a person can apply for a pardon. However, the Governor has a lot of discretion in granting clemency/pardon. In making pardon decisions, he is not restrained by anything other than his “conscience, wisdom and sense of public duty.”
The Legislature has created the New Mexico Parole Board which has the authority to, at the request of the Governor, accept, investigate, and make recommendations on pardon applications. The Parole Board is made up of fifteen members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate; they each serve a six-year term.
Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we will not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, parole, or other types of clemency that may be available in New Mexico 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.
The Governor cannot grant a pardon on a treason offense or in cases of impeachment. The Governor cannot grant a pardon for violations of municipal ordinances (e.g. a traffic ticket) either. If you want a “pardon” for petty violations of municipal ordinances, you should inquire with the mayor’s office of that city.
The Governor can only grant a pardon for a New Mexico state conviction. 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.
Also, if you received a deferred sentence for an offense, the Governor will not grant you a pardon for that particular offense. The rationale here is that the offense would have been dismissed and your citizenship rights (including your right to bear arms) would have already been restored at the time you completed the deferred sentence. Thus, there is no need for a pardon in such cases.
You can apply for a pardon even if you are still incarcerated in a correctional facility (jail, prison, etc.). If you are no longer serving your sentence, then there is typically a five-to-ten-year waiting period following the completion of your sentence before you can apply. The length of the waiting period depends on the seriousness of your offense and whether you received a satisfactory or unsatisfactory discharge.
Also, the Governor will typically not grant a pardon for the following types of situations or offenses:
- Where you have multiple felony convictions.
- Sexual offenses.
- Violent offenses.
- Physical abuse involving minor children.
Finally, keep in mind that pardons are granted very sparingly in New Mexico. For example, in the 7 years between 1995 and 2002, there were 2000 eligible applicants for pardon, but only 110 were granted. In 2010, 241 applications were received. 19 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 Mexico.
The Governor’s office has conveniently provided a clemency/pardon application form for you to use; you can access it on its website at http://www.governor.state.nm.us/pardon.php?mm=6. If cannot access the Governor’s website or the application form itself, you can call the Governor’s office at 505-476-2200 and have it mailed or emailed to you. You can also write to:
Office of the Governor
State Capitol Building
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501.
You may want to read the Governor’s Executive Clemency Guidelines before you begin applying so you have a better understanding of the application process in New Mexico. The pardon application form itself is a simple, one-page, self-explanatory form. You will be asked basic information such as your name, date of birth, and social security number.
You will also be asked to list information about your convictions, such as the name of the offense, the sentence you received and the date you were sentenced. If you do not have sufficient information about a particular conviction, you should contact the law enforcement agency that was involved in the arrest and/or the court where you were convicted.
If you do not remember all of your convictions, you may need to obtain a criminal history report for yourself. You can do this by contacting the New Mexico Department of Public Safety at (505) 827-9181. You can also log onto its website at http://www.dps.nm.org/. Your criminal history report should list all arrests, charges, and convictions you have received in New Mexico.
If you have convictions in other states, you can obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal history report 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 convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.
You will also be also asked to attach a letter stating the facts/circumstances of your offense(s) and why you are asking for a pardon. This is perhaps the most important part of your application.
In your letter, 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 on 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 letter, keep in mind that the Parole Board/Governor will not be retrying you for the offense. Although you are asked 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.
Also, although not required, we suggest that you submit a few letters of recommendation from credible people (such as your boss) who know you well and can say good things about you. These letters should indicate to what extent the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you should be granted a pardon. The letters should also indicate the writer’s contact information for verification purposes. If possible, you should choose individuals who are not related to you, in order to avoid the appearance of bias.
Make sure you keep a copy of everything you send for your records. Your completed application, along with all supporting documents and letters, should be mailed to:
Office of the Governor
State Capitol Building
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
After the Governor’s office receives your completed application, it will typically refer your application over to the Parole Board to first determine if you are eligible. If the Parole Board determines that you are eligible, it will conduct a deeper investigation into your case and then make a recommendation to the Governor.
As part of its investigation, the Parole Board may look into your entire background (e.g., your criminal background, drug and alcohol use, medical and mental history, employment history, etc.) and may ask for the opinion/recommendation of the prosecuting attorney or trial judge who was involved in the case. If you are still incarcerated, the Parole Board will request prison reports from the warden of the correctional facility where you are being confined. You may also be interviewed by an agent or representative of the Parole Board or the Governor’s office during the investigation. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Parole Board, the Governor’s office, and their agents at all times.
After investigation is complete, the Parole Board will send a report with its recommendation, together with everything in your application, to the Governor. The Governor then has the final say on whether or not you receive a pardon. The Governor’s decision is final. If he denies your application, you may reapply in four years.
A pardon will automatically restore all citizenship rights which you lost as a result of the conviction, including your rights to vote, to serve on a jury, and to hold public office. The pardon does not necessarily restore your gun rights, however.
If you are no longer incarcerated in correctional facility (jail, prison, etc.), the Governor may also restore your gun rights at the same time he grants you a pardon. For obvious reasons, you cannot ask for your gun rights restored if you are still incarcerated. If getting your gun rights restored is important to you, make sure you make your desire clearly known during the application process.
Keep in mind that you cannot possess a gun in New Mexico if you are a convicted felon. However, your right to possess a gun is automatically restored if ten years have passed since you completed your sentence. In this case, a pardon would not be necessary to restore your gun rights.
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.
If you are still serving a prison term, getting a pardon means you will not have to serve the remainder of your prison term. The pardon would void or erase the remainder of your prison term; in other words, you would be released early.
However, a pardon is not the same as an expungement. It will not erase or “expunge” your arrest or conviction from your criminal record. Your conviction and all records pertaining to it (the arrest, court proceedings, etc.) will remain in police, prosecution, and court records. Unfortunately, with few very exceptions, adult convictions cannot be expunged or sealed in New Mexico. Nevertheless, the fact that you have been pardoned will become a part of your record.
If you are concerned that the conviction may be a problem when you apply for a job, housing, a business or occupational license, you may want to send the employer, landlord, or licensing agency a copy of the pardon. A pardon is, after all, a strong official declaration that you have been rehabilitated and forgiven of the crime you were convicted of. Most employers, licensing agencies, and landlords will probably ignore your conviction if they known you have been pardoned.
A conviction that has been pardoned cannot be used to impeach you (attack your credibility) if you are ever a witness in any future court proceeding, provided you are not convicted of another felony after you receive the pardon. However, the conviction may still be used to enhance your sentence for any future convictions you may have.
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 Mexico 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 Hawaii. 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 Mexico on Wikipedia
- New Mexico 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.M. Const. art. V, § 6
- State of New Mexico, Executive Clemency Guidelines, available at http://www.governor.state.nm.us/MEDIA/PDF/ExecClemencyGuidelines.pdf, p. 1
- N.M. Stat. § 31-21-17
- N.M. Stat. § 31-21-24
- State of New Mexico, Executive Clemency Guidelines, available at http://www.governor.state.nm.us/MEDIA/PDF/ExecClemencyGuidelines.pdf, p. 2
- The Sentencing Project, New Mexico, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/NewMexico.pdf; State of New Mexico, Executive Clemency Guidelines, available at http://www.governor.state.nm.us/MEDIA/PDF/ExecClemencyGuidelines.pdf, p. 4-5
- State of New Mexico, Executive Clemency Guidelines, available at http://www.governor.state.nm.us/MEDIA/PDF/ExecClemencyGuidelines.pdf, p. 4
- SNew Mexico Parole Board
- State of New Mexico, Executive Clemency Guidelines, available at http://www.governor.state.nm.us/MEDIA/PDF/ExecClemencyGuidelines.pdf, p. 5
- See N.M. Stat. § 31-13-1; N.M. Stat. § 10-1-2
- State of New Mexico, Executive Clemency Guidelines, available at http://www.governor.state.nm.us/MEDIA/PDF/ExecClemencyGuidelines.pdf, p. 3
- N.M. Stat. § 30-7-16
- 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33)
- The Sentencing Project, New Mexico, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/NewMexico.pdf
- N.M. Rules. Evid. 11-609
- See State v. Gaede, 128 N.M. 559, 994 P.2d 1177 (1999)(“New Mexico law provides that a finding of guilt constitutes a conviction, even if there is a deferred sentence ending in dismissal of the charges, a pardon, or the entry of an order setting aside a conviction following a defendant’s satisfactory completion of probation.”); see also State v. Edmonson, 112 N.M. 654, 818 P.2d 855 (1991)(“Our Supreme Court has held that a pardon does not prevent the use of a prior conviction for habitual-offender sentencing in New Mexico.”); Shankle v. Woodruff, 64 N.M. 88, 93, 324 P.2d 1017, 1020 (1958)(stating that a pardon does not precludes use of the prior conviction to enhance subsequent sentence under habitual offender statute)