Louisiana Pardon Information

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The Louisiana Constitution says that the Governor “may grant reprieves to persons convicted of offenses against the state and, upon favorable recommendation of the Board of Pardons, may commute sentences, pardon those convicted of offenses against the state, and remit fines and forfeitures imposed for such offenses.”[1]

In other words, before the Governor can grant you or anyone else a pardon, there must first be a favorable recommendation by the Board. The Board is made up of five individuals who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.[2]

Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we will not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, parole, or other types of clemency that may be available in Louisiana here. We will also not discuss judicial alternatives such as record expungement, record sealing, setting aside or dismissal of convictions. If you think any of these alternative options may be more appropriate for you, you should talk to an attorney.


If you were convicted of one of the following offenses, AND you had not been convicted of any felonies prior to that (i.e., a first-time offender), you are entitled to an automatic pardon once you complete your sentence, without the need for any action by the Board of Pardons or the Governor[3]:

  • A non-violent crime
  • Aggravated battery
  • Second-degree battery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Mingling harmful substances
  • Aggravated criminal damage to property
  • Purse snatching
  • Extortion
  • Illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities

If you are a first-time offender who committed one of those offenses, the Department of Corrections should have given you a certificate at the time you completed your sentence which indicates that you have been given an automatic pardon.[4] This is called a “first-offender pardon.” It is guaranteed by the Louisiana Constitution and does not depend on whether or not you have paid all court costs.[5] If you did not receive any such certificate, contact the Department of Corrections, Division and Probation and Parole.

If you are not a first-time offender who committed an offense listed above, you must apply for a pardon with the Governor. You must go through the Board first to get the recommendation, of course.

The Governor can only grant pardons for Louisiana State convictions.[3] 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.

You cannot apply for a pardon if you have not paid all court costs which were imposed on you as part of your sentence.[6] Even if you are a first-time offender, you cannot apply for a pardon if you have not paid all of your court costs in connection with your conviction.[7]

If you have been sentenced to life in prison, you are not eligible to apply for a pardon until at least fifteen years have passed since you were sentenced.[8] This rule does not apply if you have new evidence in your case which would have changed the guilty verdict had the evidence been available to you at the time of your trial.[8]

Finally, keep in mind that the Board denies a majority (about 75%) of the pardon applications it receives.[5] Even where the Board does not deny a pardon application, the Governor denies most applications.[5] SInce 2008, 450 pardon applications were received. 37 pardons were granted and 36 applications were denied.[9]

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 also depends on who is sitting in the Governor’s office at the time your application is reviewed; some Governors are more lenient than others in handling out pardons.

The Application Process

There are no fees to apply for a pardon in Louisiana. There is a simple and self-explanatory application form which the Board of Pardons has created for you to use. You MUST use the Board’s form. The form can be found on the Board’s website at http://www.doc.la.gov/view.php?cat=. If you cannot access the Board’s website or the form itself, call the Board at 225-342-5421 and have one mailed or emailed to you. You can also write to:

Louisiana Board of Pardons
P.O. Box 94304
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9304

Make sure you have the official, most up-to-date form. Using an outdated or non-official form can cause your application to be rejected.

The application form will ask for general information about you and your offense. The acronym “DOC” stands for “Department of Corrections” number.

If you do not remember the details or whereabouts of a particular conviction, you should contact the law enforcement agency and/or court where you were convicted. If you have convictions in other states, you should contact the law enforcement agency/court in the other state. Alternatively, you can contact the FBI to obtain a nationwide criminal report for yourself, by calling (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.

The application form will also ask whether you want your gun rights restored along with the pardon. If restoring your guns rights is important to you, make you sure indicate this on your application.

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 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 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. 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 or hinder those plans.

There is a section for you to explain the events that occurred in your conviction. Be detailed and sincere about your involvement. However, in completing this section, keep in mind that the Board/Governor is not re-trying you for the offense. Although you may want to explain the events in the case from your perspective, avoid making excessive excuses for your crime and arguing away your guilt. Whatever you feel about the crime, you had 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.

Depending on your current status (incarcerated, a parolee, a probationer, etc.), you may need to attach additional supporting documents along with your application form. If you are unsure what documents you need to attach (if anything), call the number above. The application form and all supporting documents must be mailed to the above address. Make a copy of everything you send for your records.

Once the Board receives your application, it will conduct an investigation. As part of its investigation, the Board will look into the facts of the particular offense you are trying to pardon, your entire criminal history record, your social history, your prison record, your physical, mental, and psychiatric condition, and anything else that may be relevant.[10] You should be upfront and cooperative with the Board at all times.

If the Board deems you eligible for a pardon, a public hearing will be held on your pardon application.[11] You will be given an opportunity to submit letters of recommendation after you have been notified that you will receive a hearing (in other words, do not submit these letters until you have been notified that you will receive a hearing).

The letters of recommendation should come from family, friends, church leaders, church members, employers, co-workers, and others in your community who know you well and can attest to your good character or reputation. Is possible, you should submit letters from those who are not related to you, to avoid the appearance of bias. The writer should indicate how he or she knows you and why he or she thinks you should be granted a pardon. The letters will be public records once they are submitted.[12] Again, do not submit these letters until you have been notified that you will receive a hearing.

At least 30 days before the hearing, the Board will notify you, the District Attorney, the Sheriff in the parish where you were convicted, the Superintendent of Police, the victim or victim’s spouse or next-of-kin, and any other interested person about the hearing. All of these individuals will have an opportunity to be present and testify at the hearing for or against your application. [13]

Also, after you receive notice that you have been granted a hearing, you will need to publish an advertisement in the official journal/newspaper for the parish where you committed the offense.[12]This is to alert the public that you are applying for a pardon. The ad must simply say something like this:

“I [your name], [Department of Corrections number], [state], have applied for clemency for my conviction for [name of crime], which occurred on [month, date, year], in [parish/county],[state]. If you have any comments or wish to communicate with the Board of Pardons please call 225-342-5421.”

The above ad must be published for at least three days within a 30-day period. You will need to provide proof to the Board that you have published the advertisement. You are responsible for the cost of the ad.

You must attend the hearing or give advance notice to the Board that you cannot attend; otherwise, your application will be automatically denied. [14] Up to three people (including yourself) can speak out in support of your application at the hearing, and up to three people (including the victim/victim’s family) can speak out in opposition to your application. [12] You should bring credible, objective people to your hearing, such as a church leader, an employer or teacher who know you well, rather than your fifteen-year-old sister.

Needless to say, 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. The hearing is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human fact onto your application; it lets the Board not only see you in person but also see the amount of support you have in your community.

After the hearing, the Board will decide whether to make a favorable recommendation to the Governor. If the Board denies your application, then you are done. Without the Board’s favorable recommendation, your application is dead.

On the other hand, if the Board makes a favorable recommendation, your application will be sent to the Governor who has the final say on whether or not you receive a pardon. You will be notified of the result either way.

The decisions of the Board and the Governor are final.[15] This means you cannot appeal to a court if you do not like the decision.

The Effects

A Governor’s pardon restores your basic citizenship rights, such as your rights to vote, to serve on a jury, and to hold public office in Louisiana, if they have not already been restored. This is so even if you lost these rights as a result of a federal conviction (although, again, the Governor cannot pardon the federal conviction itself; only the President can pardon federal offenses).[16] However, if you were required to register as a sex offender because of your conviction, a pardon will not release you of your duty to continue registering as a sex offender.[17]

If you receive a first-time offender/automatic pardon (see part B), the benefits will be a little more limited than if you were to receive a full pardon from the Governor. For example, if you receive a Governor’s pardon, the conviction that has been pardoned cannot be used against you in any future criminal case (for example, to enhance your sentence for a future conviction), whereas with a first-time offender/automatic pardon, the pardon can be used against you in future prosecutions.[5] Also, a Governor’s pardon will remove any bars to occupational licensing that may have been imposed on you because of the conviction; the first-time offender/automatic pardon does not do this.

If you lost your gun rights in Louisiana because of a conviction, it should automatically be restored after ten years have passed since you completed your sentence for that conviction, provided you are not convicted of any other felony during that ten-year period.[5] If you want your gun rights restored sooner than that, you will need to apply for a Governor’s full pardon (a first-time offender/automatic pardon will not restore your gun rights prior to the ten year period).[5]

You may also be able to restore your gun rights by alternatively applying with the Sheriff of the parish where you reside for a gun permit after you have completed your sentence; if the Sheriff thinks it is appropriate to issue you a gun permit despite the 10-year bar, he can do so.[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” 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 you 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.

You cannot be denied a license or permit to practice in a trade, occupation, or profession in Louisiana solely because of a felony conviction.[20] However, you can be denied the license or permit if your felony conviction is directly related to the job, trade, occupation, or profession you are pursuing.[21] Some agencies are exempt from this rule; any law enforcement agency, for example, can deny you a job simply because of your felony conviction.[21] But then again, if you have been granted a full pardon from the Governor, the conviction cannot be considered by licensing authorities at all.

A pardon does not erase or “expunge” your conviction from your criminal history record. As in most other states, a pardon in Louisiana “forgives but does not forget.” There is a judicial process in Louisiana for “expunging” arrests and charges which resulted in an acquittal, dismissal, or a deferred sentence.[22](In Louisiana, “expungement” simply means preventing the public from accessing the particular record; it does not mean the record is physically destroyed. Law enforcement will always have access to the record.)[22] If you are interested in getting a judicial expungement, you should speak to attorney knowledgeable about the process.

Finally, keep in mind that the effects of a pardon can vary from state to state. For example, if you receive a pardon in Louisiana and then move to another state, that other state might take away your gun rights again even if the pardon lifted this restriction from you while you were living in Louisiana. Thus, you should always check with the laws of the state you move to rather than just assume that the pardon (and its benefits) moves with you across state lines. Fortunately, states tend and honor each other’s pardons.

External Links


  1. La. Const. art. IV, § 5(E).
  2. La. Rev. Stat. § 15:573(A).
  3. 3.0 3.1 La. Const. art. IV, § 5(E); see also La. Rev. Stat. § 15:572.
  4. La. Rev. Stat. § 15:572(D).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 The Sentencing Project, Louisiana, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Louisiana.pdf
  6. La. Rev. Stat. § 15:572.
  7. La. Rev. Stat. § 15:572(B)(3).
  8. 8.0 8.1 La. Rev. Stat. § 15:572.4(D).
  9. http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2012/05/hundreds_of_louisiana_prisoner.html
  10. La. Rev. Stat. § 15:572.5
  11. La. Rev. Stat. § 15:572.4(B)(1).
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Rules of Board of Pardons, Rule 4, http://www.doc.la.gov/view.php?cat=13&id=83
  13. La. Rev. Stat. § 15:572.4(B)(2)-(3).
  14. Id., at Rule 6(F).
  15. La. Rev. Stat. § 15:572.6.
  16. See Malone v. Shyne, 937 So.2d 343 (La. 2006)(“[W]e find that the governor of the state of Louisiana does indeed have constitutional authority to issue a pardon that restores collateral civil rights forfeited as a consequence of state law, even if the party was convicted of a federal felony . . . .[However], only the president of the United States has authority to issue a pardon that would relieve a federal felon of the punishment for his offense, and restore his ‘status of innocence.’”)
  17. La. Rev. Stat. § 15:572(B)(2).
  18. La. Rev. Stat. § 14:95.1(C)(2).
  19. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).
  20. La. Rev. Stat. § 37:2950.
  21. 21.0 21.1 La. Rev. Stat. § 37:2950.
  22. 22.0 22.1 La. Rev. Stat. § 44:9.