Texas Pardon Information
The Texas Constitution gives the Governor the power to grant pardons, except in cases of treason and impeachment. However, the Governor cannot act alone. Before she grants a pardon, she must get a written recommendation from a majority of the members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. We refer to it here as the “Board.” The Board is made up of seven members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.
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 Texas 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.
There are basically three types of pardons you can apply for in Texas:
- Full pardon
- Conditional pardon
- Pardon based on innocence
A full pardon not only releases you from the conditions of your sentence (the punishments) for that particular conviction but would also restore basic citizenship rights which you lost as a result of that conviction. These include the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, the right to hold public office, and the right to be an executor or administrator of an estate. A full pardon also removes some (not all) barriers to employment and professional licensing.
A conditional pardon is like a full pardon in that it releases you from the conditions of your sentence, except it does not restore any rights you lost as a result of the conviction. Furthermore, there are typically conditions attached to the pardon (hence the name), which if you break will allow the Governor to revoke the pardon. The Board will only consider an application for a conditional pardon in two situations: (a) to release an inmate to another country or (b) where there are extreme, unusual, and exceptional circumstances. In either case, you must have reached your minimum statutory parole eligibility.
A pardon based on innocence does not just forgive you of the crime and releases you from further punishment for the crime; it declares you innocent of the crime (“exonerates” you of the crime) and erases the conviction. In order to receive this type of pardon, you will need actual evidence of innocence from at least two trial officials or a finding by a judge in a habeas corpus action declaring you innocent of the crime. You can only receive a pardon based on innocence for a Texas state felony conviction.
If you have federal felonies or felonies from other states prior to receiving your most recent Texas conviction, the Board will not consider your application for a pardon unless you can show (a) that your convictions from the other states/jurisdictions have all been pardoned or (b) written proof that the other states/jurisdictions will not act until Texas grants you a pardon.
If you want a pardon for a federal conviction, you should 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.
You are eligible to apply for a full pardon once you have been discharged from a felony sentence. The Board will only consider your pardon application for a misdemeanor conviction if extreme, exceptional, and unusual circumstances exist. The burden is on you to show that such circumstances exist. An example of such a circumstance might be you are facing deportation because of a minor misdemeanor conviction, and without the pardon you will be separated from your spouse and children.
If you are still in prison, the Board will generally not consider your application for a full pardon unless exceptional circumstances exist. If you are suffering from a terminal illness and do not have much longer to live, this would probably qualify as an exceptional circumstance.
You are eligible to apply for a pardon even if you still have unpaid fines or other monetary obligations.
Finally, keep in mind that the majority of pardon applications are denied. For example, in 2002, the Board received over 350 applications for a full pardon; even though it gave a favorable recommendation to 56 of those, the Governor did not grant a single pardon that year. In 2003, the Board received a little over 230 applications; it gave a favorable recommendation to 76 of those and the Governor ultimately granted pardons to 67 of them. In 2012, 529 applications were received. 38 pardons were granted and 172 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
There are no application fees to apply for a pardon in Texas. The Board has conveniently made its application forms available for you to access on the Internet at http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/forms/forms.html. If you cannot access the Board’s website or the forms, you can call the Board directly at 512-406-5852. You can also write or fax to the Board at:
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
General Counsel’s Office
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78757
There are forms for a full pardon, an unconditional pardon, and a pardon based on innocence. Choose the one that is most appropriate for you. Each form has detailed instructions that you should read carefully. Depending on your individual circumstances, there may be many documents which you must obtain and submit along with your application. These documents may include, but are not limited to:
Certified court documents (these may include the indictment or complaint, the judgment and sentence sheet, order of dismissal, clerk statement of fines paid, etc.) for all convictions which you want a pardon for. You can get these documents from the clerk’s office of the court where you were convicted. Offense/arrest records from police or other law enforcement agency for all convictions which you want a pardon for. An official criminal history statement from the Sheriff/Sheriff’s office in your county of residence. In most cases you can simply go to your nearest police station and they would be able to show you how to obtain your criminal history. Letters of recommendation from those (other than family) who are familiar with your character.
If you do not remember all of your convictions or which law enforcement agency was involved in a particular conviction, you can access public record information through the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Crime Records Service website: http://records.txdps.state.tx.us/. If you need help with acquiring your criminal history information, you can also contact the Department of Public Safety directly at 512-424-2000.
If you have convictions in other states, you may need to obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 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.
We suggest that you submit, on a separate sheet of paper, a detailed and genuine personal statement explaining why you need a pardon. In your personal statement, do not simply say want a clean criminal record. Tell the 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 you and your family an adequate standard of living.
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 personal statement, keep in mind that the 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 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.
We also 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.
Remember to make a copy of everything you send for your records. Your completed application, along with all supporting documents and letters of recommendation, should be mailed to:
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
ATTN: General Counsel’s Office
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, TX 78757
After the Board receives your completed application, it will conduct an investigation into your case. Individual members of the Board review each application and cast their votes without consulting with each other. The law does not require the members to meet with each other as a body to make their decisions on pardons and other clemency applications.
That means that there may or may not be a hearing in your case. If a hearing is held in your case, you should attend, look, and act your best. Dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial. If possible, have friends, family members, neighbors, your boss, co-workers, and others in your community attend to show their support. A hearing is a good opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application. Its lets the Board see not only you in person but also the support you have in your community. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Board, the Governor’s office, and their agents at all times.
Whether or not a hearing is held, you cannot get a pardon from the Governor unless a majority of the Board members recommends you for a pardon in writing. If a majority recommends you, then your application will be sent to the Governor, who will have the final say on whether or not you receive a pardon. The Governor does not have to follow the Board’s recommendation.
You will be notified of the Board’s recommendation and the Governor’s final decision. The Board’s recommendation for or against your application will become public record.
The Governor’s decision is final. This means you will not be able to appeal to a court if you are unhappy with the decision. However, you will have an opportunity to reapply.
Getting a full pardon would make you eligible to apply for a judicial expungement of all records pertaining to that particular conviction. However, the pardon itself does not automatically expunge your records. You must apply to a court in the county where you were convicted to do this. You should talk to an attorney knowledgeable about the process if this is what you are interested in.
A pardon is a strong official statement of forgiveness and rehabilitation from the highest executive officer in the State. However, there is no law in Texas that requires employers, landlords, and licensing agencies to ignore your past convictions.
If you are concerned that an employer, landlord, or licensing agency might take your conviction into consideration, you may want to give them a copy of your pardon so that they know you have been “cleansed” of that particular conviction. Most employers, licensing agencies, and landlords will probably ignore your conviction if they know you have been pardoned.
Of course, if your conviction has not only been pardoned but also expunged, you can lawfully deny that you were ever convicted of that particular crime. In order to get an expungement, you will need to submit a petition to the court where you were convicted. Again, talk to an attorney if you are interested in doing this.
|See http://www.recordgone.com/Texas/ for more information and options for record sealing and expungement|
If you are thinking of applying for a particular job that requires a state license (a teacher or nurse, for example), you should check with the appropriate state employer or state licensing board to see if a pardon will even be necessary or helpful for your pursuit of that particular job or license. Again, it is up to the particular state employer or state licensing agency to decide whether they will consider your pardoned conviction. For example, you cannot be certified as a police officer in Texas if you have a felony conviction, even if that conviction has been pardoned.
As indicated in Part B, if you receive a full pardon, it will not only release you from the conditions of your sentence for that particular conviction but will also restore certain citizenship rights which you lost as a result of the conviction. These include the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, the right to hold public office, and the right to be an executor or administrator of an estate.
If you receive a full pardon, you are also eligible to have your gun rights restored. However, the pardon does not automatically restore your gun rights. You must apply to the Board to have them restored in a separate application after you have received the full pardon. The application to restore your gun rights can be found on the Board’s website at http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/forms/forms.html. You should call the above number if you have any other questions about this.
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” 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.
Also, 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.
Furthermore, if you receive a full pardon, the pardoned conviction cannot be used to impeach you (attack your credibility) if you are ever a witness in any future court proceeding, so long as you are not convicted of a felony or a crime of moral turpitude (theft, perjury, etc.) after you receive the pardon.
If you receive a conditional pardon, it is like a full pardon in that it will release you from the conditions of your sentence, except it will not restore any rights you lost as a result of the conviction. Furthermore, there are conditions attached to the pardon (the conditions are different for every person), which if you break will allow the Governor to revoke the pardon.
If you receive a pardon based on innocence, it does not just forgive you of the crime and releases you from the sentence, but it also declares you innocent of the crime (“exonerates” you of the crime) and erases the conviction. You may also be eligible for compensation from the State for the time you were wrongfully imprisoned. There is a short time limit to claim the compensation, however. Talk to an attorney as soon as possible if you think you are eligible.
Furthermore, if you receive a pardon based on innocence, the pardoned conviction cannot be used to impeach you (attack your credibility) if you are a witness in any future court proceeding, regardless of any convictions you might receive after the pardon. Moreover, whereas a full pardon will not release you of your duty to register as a sex offender, a pardon based on innocence will. Of course, if you have other convictions which require you to register and which have not been pardoned, you will probably have to continue registering.
A pardon based on innocence clearly has the most beneficial effects, but it also is the most difficult to obtain. Refer to Part B for the requirements for obtaining this type of pardon.
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 Texas 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 listed these restrictions on you while you were living in Texas. 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.
- Texas on Wikipedia
- Texas 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
- Tex. Const. art. 4, § 11(b)
- Tex. Const. art. 4, § 11(b)
- Tex. Gov’t Code § 508.031
- Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Clemency, http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/exec_clem/exec_clem.html
- Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Clemency, http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/exec_clem/exec_clem.html see also Tex. Admin. Code § 143.21
- Tex. Admin. Code § 143.22
- Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Clemency, http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/exec_clem/exec_clem.html; see also Tex. Admin. Code § 143.2
- Tex. Admin. Code § 143.7
- Tex. Admin. Code § 143.5
- Tex. Admin. Code § 143.10
- Tex. Admin. Code § 143.10
- Tex. Admin. Code § 143.6
- The Sentencing Project, Texas, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Texas.pdf
- Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Report from Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles: Clemency Section
- Tex. Gov’t Code § 508.047
- Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Clemency, http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/exec_clem/exec_clem.html; see also Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 55.01
- Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 55.01 et seq
- Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 55.03
- Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 55.01
- Dixon v. McCullen, 527 F.Supp. 711 (N.D. Tex. 1981); Tex. Op. Atty. Gen. No. MW-270 (1980)
- See Attorney General Opinion No. JC-0396 (July 10, 2001)
- 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33)
- Tex. R. Evid. 609
- Dixon v. McCullen, 527 F.Supp. 711 (N.D. Tex. 1981); Tex. Op. Atty. Gen. No. MW-270 (1980); see also Tex. Admin. Code § 143.21
- Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Clemency, http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/exec_clem/exec_clem.html
- Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. § 103.051, § 103.001, § 103.003, and § 103.104
- Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. § 103.003
|See http://www.recordgone.com/texas/ for more information and options for record sealing and expungement|