Arizona Pardon Information

From Pardon411
Jump to: navigation, search


The Arizona Constitution gives the Governor the power to “grant reprieves, commutation, and pardons” in all cases except for treason and impeachment.[1] However, the Constitution also says that the Legislature can place limitations and restrictions on this power.[1]

The Constitution requires that the Governor report to the Legislature every year, detailing each pardon he granted the previous year, including the name of the person who received the pardon, the crime he was convicted of, the sentenced he received for that crime, the date he was sentenced, the date the Governor granted the pardon and the reasons for granting the pardon.[2]

Under Arizona law, before the Governor can grant a pardon she must first get the recommendation of the Board of Executive Clemency.[3] The Board of Executive Clemency used to be called the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Today, the Board consists of five members who are appointed by the Governor and serve five-year terms.

Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we do not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, parole or other types of clemency that may be available in Arizona here. We also do 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 your situation.

RecordGone See for more information and options for record sealing and expungement


You can apply for a pardon any time after you have been discharged from prison or otherwise completed your sentence. You can apply for a pardon only for an Arizona felony. The Board of Executive Clemency/Governor also does not accept pardon applications for misdemeanors.[4]

Furthermore, the Governor does not have the authority to pardon federal convictions or convictions received in another state.[5] 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.

If you were sentenced to life imprisonment as a result of a serious profit-making drug offense, you are not eligible for a pardon until you have served at least 25 years in prison.[6] Likewise, if you are currently serving a life sentence for a serious offense (e.g., first degree murder), and you have been previously convicted of at least two other separate serious offenses, you are not eligible for a pardon until you have served at least 25 years of your sentence, unless the Governor shortens your sentence.[7]

Various other crimes of a serious nature have similar waiting periods. If you are unsure whether you are eligible, it might be worth a shot to apply. There is no harm in doing so.

However, keep in mind that most pardon applications are denied. For example, in 2003, 33 people applied for a pardon; the Board recommended 19 of those and the Governor only granted six.[5] In 2002, 25 people applied; the Board recommended 12 but the Governor only granted three.[5] In 2012, 52 applications were received. 10 pardons were granted and 16 were denied. [8]

Your chance of getting a pardon largely depends on your individual circumstances. Naturally, the older and less serious your conviction(s) are, and the more compelling your life story is, 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 more lenient than others in handing out pardons.

The Application Process

In order to apply for a pardon, you must submit an application form, which can be obtained from the Board of Executive Clemency by calling (602) 542-5656 or by writing to:
1645 W. Jefferson Street, Suite 101
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

You can also access the form online by going to There are no fees for applying.

In addition to the application form, the Board also requires the following items[4]:

  • Copy of your Absolute Discharge, Restoration of Civil Rights, and/or Conviction Set Aside Court Orders.
  • One copy of the pre-sentence report and court sentencing documents (minute entries) for each cause number.
  • Documentation that all court fees and restitution has been paid. If you owe or previously owed child support, provide proof that you are in current payment or the order has been satisfied.
  • Affidavit of Publication in county of conviction, if applicable.
  • Green card return receipts from the certified mailing to the County Attorney in county of conviction, if applicable.
  • Copy of your most current resume.
  • A minimum of three letters of support. At least two references must come from a person who is not related to you by blood or marriage.
  • Any other documentation you wish to include for the Board to consider (certificates, resumes, evaluations, etc.)
  • Two recent sets of fingerprints.

The letters should tell the Board how the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you are deserving of a pardon. It is better to choose individuals who are not related to you, to avoid the appearance of bias. The letters would have more credibility if they are notarized (signed in front of a notary public). A notary public can be found in most banks. They may charge a small fee, usually depending on whether the person has an account with that bank.

Additionally, you should also submit a personal statement explaining why you would like a pardon. Simply saying you want a clean criminal record again is not enough. Tell the Board how it would benefit you and/or your family—for example, open up more job opportunities for you, help you avoid deportation/separation from your family, help you obtain a professional license, etc.

Also indicate on your personal statement all the positive things that have occurred in your life since you received your last conviction—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 evidence of your rehabilitation.

In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Board/Governor is not retrying you for the offense. Although you may want to explain the facts of the crime from your perspective, avoid trying to make excuses for your crime and argue away your guilt. The Board and Governor are probably more interested in seeing your remorse for the crime, and your understanding of its effects on the victim and society, than anything else.

Make sure you keep a copy of everything for your records. Your entire application, including all supporting letters and documents, should be mailed to the above address.

After the Board receives a completed application from you, it will schedule a hearing and will provide advance notice to you regarding the date and location of the hearing. The Board may also notify the victim of the hearing.[9] You will be allowed to attend this hearing, which will be open to the public. The victim may also be there, if he or she chooses.[9]

At least 10 days before the Board acts upon your application, you will be required to provide advance notice of your application to the county attorney in the county where you received your conviction. This notice must be signed by you (the applicant) and you must provide proof (in the form of an affidavit) that you have served the notice. Also, unless the Governor waives this requirement, a copy of the notice will need to be published for 30 days in a paper in the county where you received your conviction.

You can bring anyone to the hearing to speak out in your support. You should look and act your best at the hearing; if possible, dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial (this means, for men, a suit and tie). The hearing is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it not only lets the Board see you in person but also lets the Board see the amount of support you have in your community. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Board and its agents at all times.

At the hearing, the Board will vote to either recommend or not recommend you for a pardon. The Board will notify you in writing of its decision within 10 working days. If the Board votes to recommend a pardon for you, it will prepare a “letter of recommendation” to send to the Governor, who will then have the last word on whether or not you receive a pardon. The Board’s letter of recommendation may include the reasons each individual Board member voted the way he or she did.

If the Governor denies your pardon, the Board will notify you of the decision in writing within 10 working days after it receives notice of the decision. Unfortunately, most pardon applications are denied even after they have been recommended by the Board.[5]

The Governor’s decision is final. This means you cannot appeal to a court if you are unhappy with the decision.[10] However, if you are denied, you can re-apply in three years.[11]

If you are one of the lucky few whose pardon is granted, by law the Governor must within 10 days publish the decision in a major newspaper in the county where you received your conviction.[12] The length of the process can vary from one individual to the next.

The Effects

A pardon in Arizona is an “act of grace, which absolves the convicted felon of the legal consequences of his crime and conviction.”[13] Therefore, a pardon would restore most if not all of the rights you have lost as a result of your conviction. This typically includes, at a minimum, your rights to vote, to serve on a jury, and to hold public office. However, your right to possess a gun is restored only if the pardon specifically restores this right. Therefore, if regaining your gun rights is important to you, be sure to indicate your desire in your application or at the hearing.

Under Arizona law, if you are convicted of a felony you lose the following rights:

  • The right to vote
  • The right to hold public office
  • The right to serve on a jury
  • The right to possess a gun[14]

If you are a first-time offender (i.e. this was your first felony conviction), you are automatically restored the above rights (with the exception of gun rights) after you have completed your probation or have been absolutely discharged from prison, and after you have paid any fine or restitution.[15] Therefore, if you are only concerned about restoring these particular rights, applying for a pardon might not be necessary because they may have already been restored.

If you have been convicted of two or more felonies, the above rights are not automatically restored. You must either apply for a pardon through the Governor as laid out above, or apply to a court to restore your lost rights (called judicial restoration of civil rights).[16] Most people choose to do it through a court because getting a pardon is generally much more difficult and time consuming.

Judicial restoration of civil rights usually requires you to submit a formal “motion” along with a memorandum (a document laying out the facts/circumstances of your case and law that support your motion) to the judge who sentenced you. The judge then has the discretion to grant or deny your motion. Because the judicial restoration process is typically more formal and adversarial than the pardon process, you should probably retain an attorney to help you with it.

If you are interested in not only restoring your civil rights but also “setting aside” your conviction, there is also a judicial process to do this.[17] However, because the focus of this site is on pardons, we do not discuss these judicial alternatives to the pardon any further here. If you want to find out more about judicial restoration of your civil rights or setting aside your conviction, talk to attorney knowledgeable about those processes.

Remember, unless the pardon specifically says so, it does not necessarily restore your gun rights. If the pardon does not restore your gun rights, you will need to use the judicial restoration of civil rights process mentioned above.[18] Depending on your crime, there is a minimum waiting period of two years following your release from prison or probation before you can restore your gun rights.[18]

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.[19] 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 your 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.

Although a pardon forgives you of the crime you committed and restores your civil rights, it does not erase, seal, or expunge your conviction from your criminal record. In other words, getting a pardon does not make you “innocent” of the crime again.[20]

For that reason, you cannot deny that you were convicted of the crime if asked on an application. [5] Likewise, the pardon can still be used against you for sentencing purposes when you are convicted of any future offenses.[5] However, 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, provided you were not convicted of a felony after you receive the pardon. Also, the federal government cannot rely solely on a conviction that has been pardoned to deport you from the country.

If you are ever concerned that your conviction may be a problem when you apply for a job, housing, a trade or occupational license, you might want to send a copy of the pardon to the employer, landlord, or licensing agency. Many if not most employers, landlords, and licensing agencies will ignore your conviction if they know you have been pardoned. A pardon is, after all, a strong official statement from the highest executive officer of the State forgiving of the crime and essentially declaring you a rehabilitated individual.

Finally, keep in mind that the effects of a pardon can vary from state to state. If you receive a pardon in Arizona 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 though the pardon removed those restrictions while you were still in Arizona. Fortunately, states tend to honor and respect each other’s pardons.

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ariz. Const. art. V, § 5.
  2. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 31-446.
  3. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 31-402.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Pardon Application and Instructions
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 The Sentencing Project, Arizona, Margaret Colgate Love,
  6. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3410.
  7. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-706.
  8. Daisy Kirkpatrick, Administrative Assistant III
  9. 9.0 9.1 Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-4414.
  10. See Wigglesworth v. Maudlin, 195 Ariz. 432, 990 P.2d 26 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1999)(“Given its history, courts traditionally have taken the position that clemency lies outside the adjudicative process and generally escapes review by the courts.”)(citation omitted).
  11. Ariz. Admin. Code R. 5-4-201(G).
  12. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 31-445.
  13. Source: Arizona Board of Executive Clemency,
  14. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-904.
  15. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-912.
  16. Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-905 & 13-906.
  17. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-907.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-905 & 13-906.
  19. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).
  20. See Russell v. Royal Maccabees Life Insurance Co., 193 Ariz. 464, 974 P.2d 443 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1998)(“Most courts have held that a pardon for a criminal offense is not a defense to a disbarment. ‘The reasoning of courts holding a pardon to be no defense to a disbarment has usually been that while a pardon relieves the offender from punishment which the law imposes for the crime, a pardon does not by itself restore the lawyer’s character or blot out the fact that the lawyer committed the offense for which he was convicted.’”)(citations omitted); Op. Atty. Gen. No. 183-042 (1983)(“The language of A.R.S. Section 13-907 itself shows that expungement does not destroy the fact of conviction.”); Op. Atty. Gen. No. 189-082 (1989)(“[A] court order using either the term ‘expunge’ or the term ‘set aside’ does not require the actual obliteration of the fact of conviction from . . . public . . . records.”).