Florida Pardon Information

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The Florida Constitution says that the Governor has the authority to “suspend collection of fines and forfeitures, grant reprieves not exceeding sixty days and, with the approval of two members of the cabinet, grant full or conditional pardons, restore civil rights, commute punishment, and remit fines and forfeitures for offenses.” [1] A pardon is only one type of clemency.

The Governor has the “unfettered discretion” to deny clemency at any time for any reason. [2] However, in order for the Governor to grant a pardon, it must first be approved by at least 2 members of his cabinet. The Governor along with 3 members of his cabinet together make up the so-called Clemency Board.

Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we do not discuss commutations, reprieves, commission of fines and forfeitures, parole, or other types of clemency that may be available in Florida 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 you.


You cannot apply for a pardon until at least 10 years have passed since you have completed your sentence, including any parole, probation, community control, control release, or conditional release.[3] If you have any outstanding monetary penalties or liabilities resulting from a criminal or traffic conviction which total more than $1,000.00, you cannot apply for a pardon.[3] If you still owe any victim restitution, whether from a criminal or civil case, you cannot apply for a pardon.[3]

You can ask for a waiver of any of these rules as long as 2 years have passed since you were first convicted and you do not currently owe any restitution. [4] However, if you were sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence, you cannot ask for a waiver until you have served at least 1/3 of your sentence.[2] Nevertheless, the Governor can waive these requirements as well if there is a “compelling need.”[2]

An example of a compelling need might be you are still in prison but are suffering from a documented terminal illness, do not have much longer to live, and would like to spend your last days with your family. Another example might be you are facing imminent deportation for a minor crime you committed years ago, and if you do not receive a pardon soon you will be separated from your spouse and children.

The waiver form and instructions can be obtained from the Clemency Board’s website at https://fpc.state.fl.us/ExecutiveClemencyForms.htm.

The Clemency Board gives you an alternative option of restoring all of your civil rights (except for your gun rights) without actually getting a pardon. If you choose this option, the 10-year period does not apply. You can apply to restore your rights immediately after you complete your sentence—including paying all fines, court costs, and restitution. If you are interested in only having your civil rights restored without getting a pardon, you should inquire about it with the Board; we do not discuss this alternative here.

You can apply for a pardon on a misdemeanor conviction as well as a felony conviction.[5] However, you cannot apply for a pardon for a federal or out-of-state conviction.[6] 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.

The rule of thumb is if you are unsure whether you qualify for a pardon, you should go ahead and apply. There is no harm in doing so.

Your chance of getting a pardon largely depends on your individual circumstances, including the age of your conviction(s), the seriousness of the conviction(s), your rehabilitation and remorse. To a lesser extent, your chance of getting a pardon can vary from one Governor to the next; some Governors are more lenient than others in handling out pardons. In 2012, 1,497 applications were received. 28 pardons were granted and 40 were denied.[7]

The Application Process

There are no fees to apply for a pardon in Florida. The Clemency Board has conveniently created simple-to-use, self-explanatory application forms (including the waiver forms) which you can access on its website at https://fpc.state.fl.us/ExecutiveClemencyForms.htm.

If you cannot access the Clemency Board’s website or the forms themselves, contact the Clemency Board at 850-488-2952. You can also write to:

Office of Executive Clemency
2601 Blair Stone Road, Building C, Room 244
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2450

There is a single form titled “Clemency Application Form 1501” which is used for all types of clemency (pardon, commutation, etc.). The top of the form will simply ask you to check which type of clemency you would like to apply for (pardon, pardon without firearms, commutation of sentence, etc.). There is an accompanying instruction sheet which you should read before filling out this form.

You will be asked to list all of your convictions on the application form. If you are applying for a pardon, you must also attach along with the application the charging instrument (information or indictment) for each conviction, as well as a certified copy of the judgment and sentence for each conviction.[8] You can get these documents from the clerk’s office of the court where you were convicted. If the court for some reason does not have the document you need, you need to ask the clerk to issue you an original letter stating why the document is not available (for example, “Case too old, record has been destroyed.”).

If you do not remember the details of a conviction or where it occurred, you will need to obtain a criminal report for yourself so that you can identify the court where you received that conviction. For Florida offenses, you can access your criminal record through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at (850) 410-8109.

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.

In the alternative, 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 have the option of submitting character references and letters of support for your application.[2] You should definitely take advantage of this. Have family members, friends, church members, neighbors, your boss, your co-workers, your pastor, or anyone else who knows you well write letters for you. The letters should indicate how the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you should receive a pardon. The writers should include their contact information. If possible, choose individuals who are not related to you, to avoid the appearance of bias.

Additionally, although not required, we highly suggest that you submit, on a separate sheet of paper, a detailed and genuine personal statement explaining why you need a pardon. Simply saying you want a clean criminal record again is not enough. Tell the Clemency Board/Governor how your conviction has negatively affected you and/or your family. For example, and if applicable, 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.

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.

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 or hinder those plans.

In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Clemency 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 excessive excuses for your crime and arguing away your guilt. The Clemency 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.

Your completed application form, along with all supporting documents and letters, should be sent to the Clemency Board’s office at the above address. Keep copies of everything you send for your records.

Once the Clemency Board receives your application, it will notify any victims, the State Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor, and the Office of the Attorney General.[9] The Clemency Board may also refer your application over to the Florida Parole Commission for an investigation. You should fully cooperate with all document or interview requests by the Florida Parole Commission, including criminal and medical background checks. You should be upfront and cooperative at all times.

In deciding whether to grant or deny your application, the Clemency Board/Governor will consider these and other factors:

  • The nature of your offense
  • Whether you have a history of mental instability, including drug or alcohol abuse
  • Your entire criminal history, including traffic offenses
  • Your employment history
  • Whether you are behind on outstanding debts and child support payments
  • Letters in support of and against your application.

After the investigation, the Clemency Board will meet to consider your application. The Clemency Board typically meets in March, June, September, and December, but it may also meet at other times during the year.[10] You will be notified of the hearing.

Although you are not required to attend the hearing, it would be a stupid mistake to not attend. The hearing is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Clemency Board/Governor see you in person as well as the amount of support you have in your community.

You should 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 (this means, for men, a suit and tie). Have friends, family members, co-workers, church members, and others in your community attend the hearing to show their support.

If you plan to speak at the hearing (or intend to bring someone who will speak on your behalf) you must let the Board know at least 10 days before the hearing.[11] Keep in mind that each person who speaks at the hearing will only have a maximum of 5 minutes; each side (for or against your pardon) will only have a total of 10 minutes to speak.[12]

You will be notified of the outcome sometime after the hearing, but not necessarily on the same day. Again, the Governor can only grant you a pardon if 2 other members of the Clemency Board agree to grant you a pardon. However, the Governor can deny you a pardon unilaterally—that is, even if all the other members of the Clemency Board want to grant you a pardon.

If you are denied, you can re-apply 2 years later, unless you apply for and are granted a waiver allowing you to re-apply sooner.[13] Otherwise, the Governor’s/Clemency Board’s decision is final. This means you cannot appeal to a court if you are unhappy with the decision.[14]

The Effects

A pardon does not seal, erase, or expunge your conviction from your criminal record.[15] Getting a pardon does not mean you are suddenly “innocent” of the crime; it simply means you have been forgiven of the crime. As in many other states, a pardon in Florida “forgives but does not forget.” However, your criminal record will reflect that you have been granted a pardon.

If you are ever concerned that your conviction might be a problem when you apply for a job, housing, a trade or occupational license, you might want to send the employer, landlord, or licensing agency a copy of your pardon. By law, a state employer cannot deny you a job solely because of a prior conviction, unless the conviction was a felony or a first-degree misdemeanor and is directly related to the job.[16]This rule does not apply to any law enforcement or correctional agency jobs.[16]

Likewise, a state licensing agency cannot deny you a license, permit, or certificate to engage in a particular trade or profession solely because of a prior conviction, unless the conviction was a felony or a first-degree misdemeanor and is directly related to the specific trade, occupation, or profession.[16] This rule also does not apply to any law enforcement or correctional agency jobs.[17]

At any rate, most employers (state and private) and licensing agencies, and perhaps most landlords, will probably ignore your conviction if they know you have received a pardon. A pardon is, after all, a strong official statement from the highest executive officer of the State forgiving you of the crime and essentially declaring you a good person again.

There may be a judicial process for you to actually expunge or seal conviction records by applying to a court, depending on the nature of your conviction. Because expungement/sealing is a judicial process which is typically more formal and adversarial than the pardon process, it is probably a good idea to seek an attorney’s help.

RecordGone See http://www.recordgone.com/Florida/ for more information and options for record sealing and expungement

Florida law says that if you receive a full pardon you are “entitled to the restoration of all the rights of citizenship” which you enjoyed before receiving the conviction.[18] This includes your right to own and possess a gun.[19] However, the Clemency/Governor can choose to give you a pardon that restores all of your rights except for your gun rights.[4] In fact, the Clemency Board/Governor can place any other restrictions or conditions on your pardon as it deems appropriate.[5] If you violate any of these conditions, your pardon can be revoked.

Again, if you are simply interested in having your civil rights restored, a pardon might not be necessary. The law says your civil rights can also be restored if you have either served your maximum sentence term or have been granted a final release from the Florida Parole Commission.[20] However, in most cases you still must make a formal application to the Board, the same way you would if you were to apply for a pardon.

The advantage of a pardon is that it may restore your gun rights along with all your other rights; simply having your rights restored without getting a pardon will not restore your gun rights.[21] Simply having your rights restored without getting a pardon also does not release you from having to continue registering as a sex offender.[22]

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.[23]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 this 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 Florida 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 removed those restrictions on you while you were living in Florida. 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.

External Links


  1. Fla. Const. art. VI, § 4. See also Fla. Stat. ch. 940.01
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4, https://fpc.state.fl.us/Policies/ExecClemency/ROEC04052007.pdf
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4, https://fpc.state.fl.us/Policies/ExecClemency/ROEC04052007.pdf, at Rule 5.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4, https://fpc.state.fl.us/Policies/ExecClemency/ROEC04052007.pdf, at Rule 8.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4, https://fpc.state.fl.us/Policies/ExecClemency/ROEC04052007.pdf, at Rule 4.
  6. Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4, https://fpc.state.fl.us/Policies/ExecClemency/ROEC04052007.pdf, at Rule 9C.
  7. Jane C. Tillman, Director of Communications
  8. Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4, https://fpc.state.fl.us/Policies/ExecClemency/ROEC04052007.pdf, at Rule 6IB.
  9. Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4, https://fpc.state.fl.us/Policies/ExecClemency/ROEC04052007.pdf, at Rule 6II.
  10. Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4, https://fpc.state.fl.us/Policies/ExecClemency/ROEC04052007.pdf, at Rule 12A.
  11. Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4, https://fpc.state.fl.us/Policies/ExecClemency/ROEC04052007.pdf, at Rule 12B.
  12. Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4, https://fpc.state.fl.us/Policies/ExecClemency/ROEC04052007.pdf, at Rule 12C.
  13. Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4, https://fpc.state.fl.us/Policies/ExecClemency/ROEC04052007.pdf, at Rule 14.
  14. See Advisory Opinion to Attorney General Stop Early Release Prisoners, 642 So.2d 724 (Fla. 1994)(‚"[P]ardon and clemency decisions are largely unreviewable by the courts of Florida, meaning that in the vast majority of cases the Governor and Cabinet can take any action they deem fit to commute or pardon, subject to veto by no one.‚")(citation omitted); see also Wainwright v. Turner, 389 So.2d 1181 (Fla. 1980)(‚"[T]he pardon power . . . historically and constitutionally is a matter of executive grace, to be exercised on occasions and in a manner determined by the executive, free of legislative or judicial control.‚").
  15. Florida Parole Commission, Office of Executive Clemency, https://fpc.state.fl.us/FAQClemency.htm; see also Roberto v. State, 853 So.2d 582 (Fla. Ct. App. 2003); Randall v. Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement, 791 So.2d 1238 (Fla. Ct. App. 2001); Sandlin v. Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission, 518 So.2d 1292 (Fla. Ct. App. 1987)(‚"A pardon may relieve a person from the legal disabilities attendant upon a conviction, but it does not erase the fact of the conviction.‚"); State v. Snyder, 187 So. 381 (Fla. 1939)(‚"The pardon does not blot out the fact of having committed the crime for which disbarment is imposed and was no part of the punishment for it. It merely restores civil rights that were forfeited for having committed and been convicted of the crime. . . . If [appellant] can later show that he is fit and worthy to be restored to the roll of practicing attorneys that is another question but it takes more than a pardon to do this.‚").
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Fla. Stat. § 112.011.
  17. Fla. Stat. § 112.011.
  18. Fla. Stat. § 940.05; see also Fla. Stat. § 944.292 (‚"Upon conviction of a felony . . . the civil rights of the person convicted shall be suspended in Florida until such rights are restored by a full pardon, conditional pardon, or restoration of civil rights granted pursuant to s. 8, Art. IV of the State Constitution.‚").
  19. Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4IA.
  20. Fla. Stat. § 940.05.
  21. Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4IG.
  22. Rules of Executive Clemency, Rule 4IG.
  23. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).
RecordGone See http://www.recordgone.com/Florida/ for more information and options for record sealing and expungement