Oregon Pardon Information
The Constitution of Oregon gives the Governor the power to grant pardons, reprieves, and commutations, after a person has been convicted, for all offenses except treason. The Governor also has the power to remit fines and forfeitures. The Governor can place any restrictions or limitations on a pardon as he deems proper. The Legislature has the power to regulate the manner in which the Governor can exercise these powers.
The Governor is required to report to the Legislature every year, detailing information on all pardons he granted the previous year, including the name of the applicant, the crime which he was convicted of, the sentence he received and the date of the sentence, the statement of the victim and/or her family, the reason for granting the pardon, and the date of the pardon, among other things.
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 Oregon 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.
You are generally not eligible for a pardon if you are eligible for a judicial expungement under section 137.225 of the Oregon Revised Statutes and have not applied for that. Clemencies (including pardons) are granted only in exceptional circumstances where you can show that you have been clearly rehabilitated based on your conduct as well as your words.
The Governor generally does not consider applications from those who are still serving their sentence (either in a correctional facility or on parole). Only in extraordinary cases will the Governor make an exception to this rule. Otherwise, you are eligible as long as you have completed your sentence.
If you have multiple convictions, the Governor will generally not grant you a pardon for all of your convictions. Therefore, you should specify in your pardon application which particular conviction you want pardoned the most, and then rank the rest in order of priority. If you do must apply for a pardon for all of your convictions, you are expected to provide a separate reason for why you should receive a pardon for each crime.
Because clemency/pardon is an extraordinary remedy to be used as a last resort, the Governor will usually not grant you a pardon if you have not exhausted your judicial alternatives (appeal, expungment, habeas corpus, other post-conviction relief). Again, you should check with an attorney first to find out if you are eligible for a judicial expungment under Oregon Revised Statutes, Section 137.225, or any other remedy, before you apply for a pardon. Keep in mind that sex crimes are not eligible for judicial expungment.
The Governor can only grant you a pardon for an Oregon 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.
Unfortunately, pardons are granted very sparingly in Oregon. From July 2011 to February 2012, 262 pardon applications were received. 1 pardon was granted and 109 applications were denied. 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
Unlike many other states, in Oregon you must apply for a pardon directly with the Governor. There are no application fees. Governor Ted Kulongoski does not have any particular requirements with regard to the form or format of a clemency/pardon application. However, the Governor’s office has a standardized application form that you can use at your option.
Unfortunately, as of this writing the Governor’s office has not made its clemency/pardon application form available for access on the Internet. However, the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation (CJPF) has obtained a copy of the application and has made it available on its website at http://www.cjpf.org/clemency/Oregon.html.
If you cannot access the CJPF’s website or the application form itself, you can call the Governor’s office directly at 503-378-6827 or 503-378-3111 to have one mailed or emailed to you. You can also write to:
Governor Theodore R. Kulongoski
160 State Capitol
900 Court Street
Salem, Oregon 97301-4047
The Governor’s form is titled “Clemency Application.” There is a separate form at the end of the application titled “Clemency Affidavit,” which you must attach your application to. After you do that, take both forms to a notary public and sign the Clemency Affidavit form 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 particular bank.
If you prefer to create your own application rather than use the Governor’s form, these are the minimum things that must be included in your self-made application:
- Your full name.
- Whether you currently are or have ever been an inmate in any state correctional facility; if so, provide your identification number, the name of the facility, and the dates you were incarcerated.
- Your address.
- Your date of birth.
- Your social security number.
- Whether you are a US citizen; if you are a naturalized citizen, state where and when you were naturalized.
- For each crime, state the:
- Name of the crime.
- Date you committed the crime.
- County in which you were convicted.
- Date of your conviction.
- The court case number.
- Whether you filed an appeal. If so, state the date you filed the appeal and what the outcome was.
- Whether there were any other post-conviction legal proceedings.
- A brief and accurate description of the events surrounding the incident. If your version is different from the “official” version (as presented by the police and prosecution), you must first state the official version and then explain how your version differs from it. You can explain any mitigating circumstances.
- Whether you have applied for judicial expungement under section 137.225 and, if so, what the outcome was. If you have not applied, explain why (for example, if you saw an attorney who said you were not eligible for expungment, state that in this section).
- Your family situation and responsibilities, including whether you are single, married, or divorced, and whether you have any dependent children or someone else you are financially supporting.
- Your employment before and after conviction, including:
- Names and addresses of past employers, the kind of work you did and why you left.
- If currently employed, describe where and for whom you are working.
- What your plans are for future employment.
- Describe any involvement in public/community service.
- Any special accomplishments, honors, achievements, or awards you have received.
- List all debts you owe, and how you plan to pay them off.
- List three or four character references. Include their names, addresses, and their relationships with you (employer, neighbor, etc.). Do not use relatives as references. Ideally, the character references should be people who know about your crimes. At the least, they should be familiar with your current circumstances and activities. Although you are not required to do so, if possible you should submit letters of recommendation from these individuals as well, explaining in their own words why they think you should be granted a pardon.
- Finally, explain why you are applying for a pardon, and why you feel the Governor should grant you a pardon. The Governor grants pardons very sparingly. This may be the most important part of your application. You must be compelling. Use a separate sheet of paper if necessary. If you need the pardon to avoid deportation in order to not be separated from your family, explain that. If you are hoping to restore your gun rights because you have a job offer from a law enforcement agency, explain that. If you are pursuing a particular trade or profession that requires you to have a clean record, explain that. If you have been denied various jobs or licenses because of your conviction, explain that. Submit any documents you may have (such as denial letters or court documents) to support your claims. Don’t simply expect the Governor to take you at your work.
In writing your personal statement for #15 above, keep in mind that the 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 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.
If you do not remember all of your convictions, you may need to obtain your criminal history report. You can do this by contacting the Oregon State Police, Identification Services Section, at (503) 378-3070. You can also log onto its website at http://www.oregon.gov/OSP/.
If you have convictions in other states, you can obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal 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.
Your completed application must be notarized—signed and dated in front of a notary public, in the same way you would if you were to use the Governor’s form. Again, you can find a notary public in most banks.
Whether you use the Governor’s form or one you create yourself, you must send a copy of your application to the following individuals before you submit your application to the Governor’s office:
- The District Attorney in the county where you were convicted;
- The State Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision;
- The Director of the Department of Corrections; and
- If you are currently incarcerated, the District Attorney of the county where the correctional facility is located.
If you create your own application (rather than use the Governor’s form), you should have a line in there stating that you have mailed a copy of your application to those individuals. Again, all applications must be notarized.
After the Governor receives your application, his staff will obtain all the necessary information he needs to make an informed decision. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Governor’s office and its agents at all times. The Governor may obtain relevant information about you and your conviction from the above individuals. The things the Governor may look at include, but are not limited to:
Statements of the victims and/or their families. Statement of the district attorney in the county where you were convicted. Crime photos, including any autopsy reports.
The Governor cannot grant you a pardon sooner than 30 days or later than 180 days after receiving it. Governor Kulongoski’s practice is to interview each applicant personally. However, each Governor may his or her own way of doing things.
Meeting the Governor is a very formal event. If you are called in for such an interview, you must 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 allowed, have a few close friends and family attend the interview with you. The interview is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application. It lets the Governor see you in person as well as the support you have in your community.
If the Governor does not grant you a pardon after 180 days, it is deemed denied. The whole process can take up to six months. If the Governor grants you a pardon, the Governor will file the records of the pardon in the Secretary of State’s office, where it will be subject to public inspection.
The Governor’s decision is final. This means you cannot appeal to a court if you are not happy with the decision. However, in most cases you can reapply after a few years.
The primary purposes of a pardon are to forgive you of the crime you were convicted of, remove any further punishment for that conviction, and relieve you of legal disabilities because of that conviction. However, a pardon does not seal, erase, or expunge your conviction from your criminal record. Getting a pardon does not mean you are suddenly “innocent” of the crime. As in many other states, a pardon in Oregon “forgives but does not forget.”
Nevertheless, a pardon will restore most if not all of your basic citizenship rights which you lost as a result of the conviction, including your rights to vote, serve on a jury, and hold public office. A pardon will also restore your gun rights, if they were ever lost at all.
Furthermore, a conviction that has been pardoned cannot be used to impeach you (attack your credibility) in any future criminal proceedings, whether you are a witness or the defendant. Moreover, if you are required to register as a sex offender, a pardon will release you of the duty to continue registering as a sex offender. (Of course, if you have other convictions which require you to register as a sex offender and which have not been pardoned you will probably be required to continue registering.)
Remember, however, that not all pardons necessarily have the same effect. The Governor can place any limitations or restrictions as he deems proper. The Governor can, for example, restore all of your rights except for your gun rights.
If you are given a conditional pardon and are released from prison early as a result, a violation of any of the conditions of the pardon can cause you to be rearrested and thrown back in prison. In this sense, it is much like parole.
Also, because the pardon erases your conviction but not necessarily the facts leading up to the conviction, a state licensing agency can still consider those facts in deciding whether or not to issue you a particular license (for example, a nursing or teaching license).
As indicated in Part B of this chapter, there is a process you can go through to have a court judicially “expunge” your conviction (or arrest) from your record. There is a waiting period, the length depending on whether you are seeking to expunge a conviction or merely an arrest, and not all crimes would qualify. The procedure requires submitting a formal “motion” to the court. Because the procedure will be more formal and adversarial than applying for a pardon, you might want to retain an attorney to help you with this.
Once expunged, your conviction is sealed and treated as though it never occurred, and you can represent to prospective employers that you were never convicted of that crime. Furthermore, an expungement will restore your rights (including your gun rights) much in the same way a pardon would. Judicial expungements are granted much more frequently than executive pardons. As we indicated in Part B, the Governor requires you to try to obtain an expungement before you apply for a pardon.
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. Thus, 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 Oregon 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 Oregon. 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.
- Oregon on Wikipedia
- Oregon 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
- Or. Const. art. V, § 14
- Or. Rev. Stat. § 144.649
- Or. Rev. Stat. § 144.660
- The Sentencing Project, Oregon, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Oregon.pdf
- Or. Rev. Stat. § 137.225
- Attorney General Opinion, 38 Or. Op. Atty. Gen. 411, December 29, 1976 (“The governor has the legal authority to pardon any person convicted of an [sic] state crime except treason.”)(emphasis added)
- Karin Potts, Department of Corrections
- Or. Rev. Stat. § 144.650
- Or. Rev. Stat. § 144.670
- Schlichting v. Bergstrom et al., 511 P.2d 846, 13 Or. App. 562 (Or. Ct. App. 1973)(“An example of Oregon jurisprudence would be the Governor’s executive clemency power; whether he grants or denies a pardon is not subject to judicial review.”)(citations omitted)
- 38 Or. Op. Atty. Gen. 411 (December 29, 1976); see also In re Anderson, 191 Or. 409, 230 P.2d 770 (Or. 1951)(“A pardon is the exercise of the sovereign’s prerogative of mercy. It completely frees the offender from the control of the state. It no only exempts him from further punishment but relieves him from all the legal disabilities resulting from his conviction. It blots out the very existence of his guilt, so that, in the eye of the law, he is thereafter as innocent as if he had never committed the offense.”)(citations omitted)
- See id. (“[A]lthough the pardon removes the punishment and legal disabilities, it does not obliterate or wipe out the fact, and upon inquiry affecting the moral character of the person pardoned, the fact of his conviction may be considered notwithstanding the pardon. . . . The fact that a criminal conviction has been pardoned may be recorded on an offender’s criminal record, but the record need not be sealed or expunged since the pardon does not change the fact of the conviction.”)(citation omitted)
- The Sentencing Project, Oregon, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Oregon.pdf; see also 38 Or. Op. Atty. Gen. 411 (December 29, 1976)(“Since a pardon wipes out the conviction and terminates any incarceration, no legal or political rights may be lawfully denied to a pardoned offender on the basis of the prior conviction.”)
- Or. Rules Evid. R.609
- See Or. Rev. Stat. § 181.596(4)(e), § 181.597, § 181.595, § 181.592
- See Or. Rev. Stat. § 144.350
- See 38 Or. Op. Atty. Gen. 411 (December 29, 1976)(“Since a conviction cannot be considered in issuing a state license but the underlying facts may be and a pardon eliminates the conviction but not the underlying facts, it follows that a pardon would have no effect on the offenders [sic] ability to obtain a state [sic] issued license.”)
- Or. Rev. Stat. § 137.225
- 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33)