Hawaii Pardon Information
The pardon power in Hawaii is vested in the Governor. The Hawaii Constitution says that the “governor may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, after conviction, for all offenses.” The Legislature can create laws specifying the manner and procedures for applying for a pardon.
The Governor can refer a pardon application to the Director of Public Safety and the Hawaii Paroling Authority to assist her in gathering necessary information and make a recommendation (for or against) the pardon. However, the Governor is not bound by their recommendations. As a matter of policy and practice, the Governor always asks the Paroling Authority and Attorney General for advice and recommendation on pardon applications.
Because the focus of this site is in pardons, we will not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, parole, or other types of clemency that may be available in Hawaii. We will also not discuss judicial alternatives such as record sealing, record expungement, 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 personal situation.
The Governor can only grant you a pardon for a Hawaii 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.
There does not appear to be any other restrictions on who can apply for a pardon in Hawaii. Presumably, any person with any type of Hawaii conviction can apply. 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. The presumption, of course, is that you must be able to demonstrate that you have lived a productive and law-abiding life ever since you completed your sentence for the conviction, and that you have a compelling reason for needing a pardon.
Unfortunately, the Governor receives a lot of pardon applications ever year but grants fewer than 50% of them. For example, in fiscal year 2005, the Governor received 180 pardon applications and denied all but 32 of those. In 2012, 54 applications were received. 35 pardons were granted and 19 applications were denied.
Your chance of getting a pardon will depend largely on your individual circumstances, including the nature and age of your conviction(s), your reason(s) for needing a pardon, your personal and family situation, etc. Your chances of getting a pardon may also vary from one Governor to the next; some Governors are more lenient than others in handling out pardons.
If there are other options in Hawaii that may achieve what you want, you should look into these options before pursuing a pardon. An attorney may be able to assess your situation and recommend record expungement or another option that may be more appropriate for your needs.
If you are in prison and would like to be released early, the appropriate type of clemency to apply for is a “commutation” rather than a pardon. A commutation is basically a reduction of your prison term. There is no formal application process to apply for a commutation. To apply, you must simply submit a written request to:
State of Hawaii
Hawaii State Capitol
Honolulu, HI 96813
Your written request for commutation should include the following at a minimum:
- Your prison number
- Your current address
- The offense which you are seeking a commutation for
- The date you were convicted
- Any relevant factors you would like the Governor to consider
Alternatively, if you have access to the Internet, you can use the commutation form that has created been created for you. It can be found here: http://hawaii.gov/psd/attached-agencies/hpa. If you want more information about getting a commutation, you can contact the Hawaii Paroling Authority at 808-587-1293.
Although we focus this site and chapter on pardons, many of the points we mention here might be of use to you if you are a prison inmate seeking a commutation. For example, if you are applying for a commutation, we suggest you write the personal statement explained in the next section.
The Application Process
There are no fees to apply for a pardon in Hawaii. As of this writing, the Legislature has not created any detailed rules or procedures with respect to pardon applications. Therefore, as we write this, applying for a pardon is still quite an informal process in Hawaii.
You can find a pardon application form on the website of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, at http://hawaii.gov/psd/attached-agencies/hpa. If you cannot access the Department of Public Safety’s website or the application form itself, you can call the Hawaii Paroling Authority directly at 808-587-1293. You can also write to:
Hawaii Paroling Authority
Attention: Paroles and Pardons Administrator
1177 Alakea Street, Ground Floor
Honolulu, HI 96813
The application form is rather simple and self-explanatory. It asks for basic information such as your name, date of birth, place of birth, social security number, names of parents and siblings, education history, marital status, information about your children, and employment history, among other things.
You will be asked to list information about every Hawaii conviction you would like a pardon for. You will need to know the name of the crime, the date you were convicted, the date you were sentenced, the court where you were convicted for that crime, and the disposition (outcome) of the case.
If you do not have sufficient information about any particular conviction, you should contact the clerk’s office of the court where you were convicted. If you do not remember the details or whereabouts of a particular conviction, you can contact the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center (which is the criminal history record repository for Hawaii) to obtain your criminal record; this way, you can identify the county and court where you received the conviction.
If you need to identify convictions you received in other states, and you do not remember the details or whereabouts of those, you should contact the FBI to obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal report. You can call 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 arrests/convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.
There will be a section on the application that asks you to list the reasons why you would like a pardon. You need to give this section a lot of care and thought. To complete this section, we suggest that you submit, on a separate sheet of paper, a detailed and genuine “personal statement” explaining your need for a pardon. The Governor does not want to read that you simply want to “forget about your past” or “clean up your criminal record.” Rather, you need to document compelling reasons.
An example of a compelling reason might be you have been denied housing or jobs because of your conviction, and this has prevented you from providing a decent standard of living for yourself and/or your family. Another example might be you have been prevented from obtaining certain trade or occupational licenses, obtaining a gun permit, or entering certain professions because of your conviction, and this in effect has prevented you from adequately providing for yourself and/or your family. Still yet another example might be you are facing deportation for a minor offense you committed years ago and you need a pardon in order to avoid being separated from your spouse and children. Whatever your compelling reasons are, submit any proof you may have (e.g., letters from employers, landlords, etc.) to substantiate your claims.
You should also use this opportunity to demonstrate how you have turned your life around for the better. Tell the Governor all of the positive things that have occurred in your life, including educational achievements, new or steady employment, marriage and children, community involvement, charitable services or donations, law-abiding behavior, etc. Send copies of your college transcript, high school diploma or GED, marriage certificate, military certificate, children’s birth certificates, awards and recognitions, and any other proof of your rehabilitation and positive character. Remember, the Governor receives a lot of applications but grants very few. You must make your application compelling.
In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Governor 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. Whatever you feel about the crime, you had 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.
In addition to your application, you will be required to submit at least 2 “character affidavits” from people who know you. The character affidavit forms are included at the end of the application form for you to use, and these must be sent along with your application. You should have 2 credible individuals who know you well (preferably over a long period of time and non-related) prepare these forms for you. A teacher, employer, or church leader is probably more credible than your 16-year-old sister or buddy from high school. Although you are only required to submit 2 character affidavits, it may not hurt if you can submit a few more.
The character affidavits must be notarized, which means they must be signed in front of a notary public. You can find a notary public in most banks. They typically charge a small fee, but might not charge anything if the person has an account with that particular bank. You should probably offer to pay for the notary public fee for the individuals who do character affidavits for you (just be careful to not give off the appearance that you are “buying” their support).
Finally, your application itself must also be notarized. After you have done that, make a copy of everything for your records, and then mail everything to:
Hawaii Paroling Authority
Attention: Paroles and Pardons Administrator
1177 Alakea Street, Ground Floor
Honolulu, HI 96813
After the Hawaii Paroling Authority receives your application, it will conduct a formal investigation. This may include a personal, face-to-face interview with you by a parole officer. The individuals who write character affidavits for you may also be contacted to verify the information in their affidavits. You should be upfront and cooperative with the decision makers and their agents at all times during the application process.
After the Paroling Authority has made a recommendation (for or against your receiving a pardon), your application will be sent over to the Attorney General’s office where there will be a second round of investigations, after which they will prepare a confidential summary and make their own recommendation. After the AG has had a chance to review your application, your application will finally go to the Governor, who has the final say on whether or not you receive a pardon.
The entire process, from the moment it is filed to the time it reaches the Governor’s desk, takes about 8 months. However, depending on the Governor’s schedule, you might not know the final results until many more months after that.
If the Governor grants you a pardon, the pardon will state that you have been rehabilitated (or have been found to be innocent, in those rare cases where you there was a wrongful conviction).1The pardon will also state that the pardon relieves you of any legal disability and prohibition that have been imposed on you because of the conviction. Once you receive a pardon, you can legally deny that you were ever convicted of that crime if asked.
However, as of this writing, the law is not clear on whether the pardon actually removes your conviction from your criminal record, thus preventing the public from having access to it. This is something you may want to clarify with the Governor’s office when you receive the pardon. In the alternative, you can talk to an attorney knowledgeable about record expungements to see what your options are. Depending on your particular situation, you may be able to expunge your conviction by applying to a court (either in lieu of or after receiving 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, to be extra safe you might want to send the employer, landlord, or licensing agency a copy of the pardon. The 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 law-abiding citizen again. But again, once you receive a pardon, you can legally deny that you were ever convicted of that crime if asked.
Whether or not you receive a pardon, keep in mind that Hawaii law prohibits most private and public employers from considering your prior convictions in their employment/termination decisions, unless the conviction is less than 10 years old and bears a rational relationship to duties and responsibilities of that particular position. Nevertheless, most employers and licensing agencies, and perhaps most landlords, will probably ignore your conviction if they know you have received a pardon.
What is certain is that a pardon will restore your rights to vote and to run for and hold public office, although these rights may have already been restored at the time you completed your sentence for the offense.  In addition, a pardon would allow you to serve on a jury again, if that right has not already been restored. A pardon would also make you eligible for various licenses again (personal, commercial, or professional), such as a liquor license.
With respect to your gun rights, a pardon will restore your gun rights in Hawaii only if it expressly says so. 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 your desire clear on your application.
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.
If you were given a pardon on the grounds of innocence (for example, the Governor found you did not commit the crime because of conclusive DNA evidence), then that conviction cannot be used against you to enhance your sentence for any future convictions under Hawaii’s repeat offender law. If, on the other hand, you are given (as most people are) a pardon on the grounds that you have been merely rehabilitated, then the conviction can still be used against you for future sentencing purposes. However, a conviction that has been pardoned, whether based on innocence or rehabilitation, cannot be used to impeach you (attack your credibility) if you are ever a witness in any future Hawaii court proceeding.
If you have been required to be listed on Hawaii’s sex offender registry because of the conviction, a pardon for that conviction would allow you to remove your information from the registry. Of course, if you have other convictions which require you to register and which have not been pardoned, then your information will remain on the registry.
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 Hawaii 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 Hawaii. 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.
- Hawaii on Wikipedia
- Hawaii 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
- Haw. Const. art. V, § 5.
- Haw. Rev. Stat. § 353-72.
- The Sentencing Project, Hawaii, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Hawaii.pdf
- There is a US Supreme Court case saying that states can only pardon convictions occurring in their own states. Find case‚Ä¶
- Haw. Rev. Stat. § 612-4.
- Haw. Rev. Stat. § 281-45.
- 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).
- See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 706-666.
- Haw. Rev. Stat. § 626-1:609.
- Haw. Rev. Stat. § 846E-3.