Utah Pardon Information
In Utah, the power to grant pardons does not rest with the Governor. Rather, the Utah Constitution gives a body called the Board of Pardons and Parole (which we refer to here as the “Board”) the power to grant pardons, parole, remission of fines and forfeitures, commutations, and restitution orders in all cases except treason and impeachment.
The Legislature can regulate the manner in which pardons (and other types of clemency) are granted. The Constitution requires a majority vote and a full hearing before the Board before any pardon can be granted.
Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we will not discuss parole, reprieves, remission of fines and forfeitures, commutations, or other types of clemency that may be available in Utah 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 only eligible for a pardon if at least five years have passed since your sentence was terminated or expired. The Board can waive this requirement where there is good cause. Also, the Board typically will not consider an application for a pardon if the applicant has not “exhausted judicial remedies” (such as appealing the conviction, or applying for a judicial expungement).
Furthermore, the Board can only grant a pardon for a Utah 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.
Statistically, the Board receives very few applications every year. It receives between three to five applications every year, and between 1997 and 2007 granted about 10. In 2012, 21 applications were received. 13 pardons were granted and 6 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.
The Application Process
There are no application fees to apply for a pardon in Utah. The Board has made its pardon application forms available for you to access on the Internet at http://bop.utah.gov/for-offenders-families.html . You will need to contact the Board directly at 801-261-6464 to have an application mailed or emailed to you. You can also email the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write or fax to the Board at:
Utah Board of Pardons and Parole
448 East Winchester Street, Suite 300
Murray, Utah 84107
Be careful about using an application that you find on the internet supplied by other individuals or entities. The application may not be up to date. We highly suggest that you contact the Board directly in order to obtain the official, most updated form; using an unofficial or outdated form can cause your application to be rejected.
The application should be rather simple and self-explanatory, as it was created for the non-lawyer to use. The form will ask you for basic information such as your name, Social Security Number, address, employment history, marital status, and names of your children (if any). You will also be asked to list all of your arrests, charges, and convictions (excluding traffic violations), plus an explanation for each. Also, for each conviction, you will need to attach a copy of the police report and/or pre-sentence investigation report.
If you do not remember all of your arrests, charges, and convictions, you may need to obtain your Utah criminal history report. You can find out how to do this by contacting the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) at (801) 965-4445 or logging onto its website at http://publicsafety.utah.gov/bci/. The report should list all arrests, charges, and convictions you have ever received in Utah.
If you have convictions in other states, you can 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.
You will be asked to list on a separate piece of paper the “extenuating circumstances” that warrant the Board granting you a pardon. This may be the most important part of your application. We suggest you submit a detailed and genuine personal statement.
In your personal statement, do not simply say you want a clean criminal record. Tell the Board 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. 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 Board will not be retrying you for the offense. Although you may want 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 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 will also need to submit letters of recommendation from various members of your community. These can come from neighbors, employers, co-workers, your pastor, church members, elected officials, judges, prosecutors, etc. You should avoid using friends and family members, in order to avoid the appearance of bias.
Remember to make a copy of everything you send for you records. Your completed application, along with all supporting documents and letters of recommendation, should be mailed to:
Utah Board of Pardons and Parole
448 East 6400 South, #300
Murray, Utah 84107
After the Board receives your application, it may ask the BCI to conduct a criminal background investigation on you. The Board may also obtain your jail or prison records (if any), employment history, restitution report (if any), and practically any other relevant information. You should be upfront and cooperate with the Board and its agents at all times.
The Board will first vote on whether to hold a hearing in your case. The Board may deny your application without a hearing. If the Board votes to hold a hearing in your case, it will notify the victim of your offense (if there is one on record), the chief law enforcement of the arresting agency involved in the offense, the presiding judge of the court where you were convicted, and the county, district, or city attorney where the case was prosecuted. These individuals may attend the hearing to voice their opinion on your application. The Board may also publish a notice in a major local newspaper and invite the public to submit comments.
The hearings before the Board are public hearings and are tape recorded. You must not only attend the hearing, but also look and act your best. Dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial. Have friends, family members, friends, clergy, your neighbors, and others there to support you. The hearing is a good opportunity to put a human face onto your application; it not only lets the Board see you in person, but it also lets the Board see the support you have in your community.
The Board can either deny you a pardon, or it can grant you a conditional or unconditional pardon. A conditional pardon is simply a pardon with conditions. The Board can place any conditions on a pardon as it deems proper. An unconditional pardon, on the other hand, has no conditions attached.
You will be notified in writing of the Board’s decision as soon as practicable after the hearing. If the Board grants you a pardon, it will send a copy of the order to you, as well as to the court where you were sentenced and the BCI so they can include it in their files. The Board will also notify newspapers all across the state about the results of the hearing. The Board’s decision, including the reasons for it, will be become a public record.
The Board’s decision is final. In other words, you cannot appeal to a court if you do not like the decision. If you have any questions about how to fill out the application or the application process in general, don’t be afraid to call the Board at the above number.
A pardon relieves you of legal disabilities and restores any rights which you lost as a result of the conviction. It is an act of grace that releases you of any further punishment for the crime you committed.
However, be cautious about assuming that your gun rights are automatically restored by a pardon. The Board will typically specify in the pardon whether your gun rights are restored. If the pardon order is silent about this, you should ask the Board for clarification or speak to an attorney. The consequences of “unlawful possession of a firearm” can be severe.
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. Thus, 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.
A Utah pardon does not seal, erase, or expunge your conviction from your criminal record.20 The order of pardon will simply be added to your criminal record so that the public knows you have been pardoned of the particular conviction. As in many other states, a pardon in Utah “forgives, but does not forget.” Your conviction will still be viewable by the general public until it is expunged.
In order to expunge your conviction, you will need to apply to court for a judicial expungement. There is a waiting period after you have completed your sentence before you can apply for an expungement; the length of the waiting period (ranging from 3 to 15 years) depends on what your conviction was and whether you have multiple convictions.21 Certain crimes (for example, any sex crime against a minor) are not eligible for an expungement.22 Once you receive an expungement, with certain exceptions you can legally deny that you were ever convicted of the crime.23
If you are interested in obtaining an expungement, you should talk to an attorney knowledgeable about record expungement matters to find out if you are eligible and what the process is. Because the process is usually more formal and adversarial than the process of applying for a pardon, it might be a good idea to retain an attorney to help you with this.
|See http://www.recordgone.com/Utah/ for more information and options for record sealing and expungement|
A conviction that has been pardoned cannot be used to impeach you (attack your credibility) if you are ever a witness in a future court proceeding, so long as you were not convicted of a felony after you received the pardon.24 However, if you receive a pardon based on innocence (for example, DNA clears you of the crime), then the pardon cannot be used to impeach you as a witness under any circumstance.25
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 Utah 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 Utah. 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.
- Utah on Wikipedia
- Utah 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
- Utah Const. art. VIII, § 12
- Utah Code § 77-27-2
- Utah Admin. Code § 671.315
- The Sentencing Project, Utah, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Utah.pdf
- Tatiana Karaizanova, Program Specialist for Board of Pardons & Parole
- Utah Admin. Code § 671.315
- Utah Code § 77-27-5(3)
- Utah Code § 77-27-1 (“‘Pardon’ is an act of grace by an appropriate authority exempting a person from punishment for a crime.”)
- 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33)