Maine Pardon Information

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The Maine Constitution says that the Governor has the “power to remit after conviction all forfeitures and penalties, and to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, except in cases of impeachment.” [1] The pardon need not be absolute; the Governor can put any restrictions, limitations, or conditions on it as he deems proper.[2] The Constitution gives the Legislature the power to determine the manner in which one can apply for a pardon.[2]

The Legislature has created a Parole Board which is authorized, when requested by the Governor, to hold hearings, conduct investigations, and advise the Governor and make recommendations to him on pardon applications.[3]There are five members on the Board; the members are appointed by the Governor and each serve a four-year term.[4]

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 Maine here. We will also do 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.


You cannot apply for a pardon until at least five years have passed since you completed your entire sentence (including any probation, parole, supervised release, etc.).[5] However, the Governor can make exceptions to this rule. For example, if you are currently incarcerated (i.e., in inmate in prison), you can try to apply for a pardon, and if granted there will usually be conditions attached which if you violate would cause you to be brought back into prison.[6]

You are also not eligible for a pardon if one of the following applies to you[7]:

  • Have been convicted of an OUI (Operating under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor), which is the same thing as a DUI.
  • If your purpose in applying is solely to restore your gun rights.
  • If your purpose in applying is to get your name removed from the state’s sex offender registry.
  • If you are only applying for a pardon for one criminal conviction but have additional serious criminal convictions that are not included in your application.
  • If your purpose is to enter Canada.

The rule of thumb is if you are unsure whether you qualify for a pardon, you should go ahead and apply. There is not harm in doing so.

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 handling out pardons.

Just to give you an idea, between January 1, 2003 and August 1, 2004, the Governor received 262 pardon applications; 89 of those applications were granted a hearing, and only 11 were ultimately granted a pardon.[5] In 2010, 193 pardon applications were received. 51 pardons were granted and 142 applications were denied.[8]

The Application Process

There are not costs to apply for a pardon in Maine.

All pardon applications are first submitted to the Department of Corrections, Division of Adult Community Corrections. The Department of Corrections has created a simple, self-explanatory application form which you can obtain from its website at If you cannot access the Division of Adult Community Correction’s website or the application form itself, you can call 207-287-4340 and have one mailed or emailed to you. You can also write to:

Department of Corrections
Division of Adult Community Corrections
111 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333

It is important that you have the most up-to-date form, and that you fill in the form completely and accurately. Be cautious about using forms you find online; they may not be the most up-to-date and can cause your application to be rejected if you use them. If you have any questions about the application process, do not hesitate to call the number above.

You will need information about every conviction you have ever received in Maine and elsewhere—this includes the arresting agency (police department or agency that arrested you), the court docket number, the county where you were convicted, and the sentence you received. You must obtain a certified copy of the charging document (information, indictment, or complaint), the judgment and commitment sheet, and the court docket sheet for each conviction you want a pardon for. You can obtain most if not all of these documents from the clerk’s office of the court where you were convicted. After you have gathered these documents, you must send them along with your application form.

If you do not remember the details or whereabouts of a particular conviction, you should contact the Maine State Bureau of Identification at (207) 624-7240 to find out how you can obtain a criminal report for yourself. The report should list most if not all arrests and convictions you have ever received in Maine.

If you have convictions in other states, you can obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide report from the FBI by calling its headquarters in Washington, D.C., at (202) 324-3000 or logging onto its website at 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.

As indicated above, pardons are granted very sparingly in Maine. You will need to identify on the application form “exceptional circumstances” to justify the Governor giving you a pardon. Because of the importance of this aspect of your application, 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.

In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Parole Board/Governor is not retrying you for the offense. Although you may feel the need 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 Parole 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.

Also, although not required, if possible you should have friends, family members, a past or present employer, your minister, church members, co-workers, and others in your community write letters of recommendation for you. These letters should indicate to what extent the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you should be granted a pardon. The letters should also indicate the writer’s contact information for verification purposes. If possible, you should choose individuals who are not related to you, in order to avoid the appearance of bias.

Your application form needs to be notarized, which means it must be signed in front of a notary public. You can find a notary public in most banks. The notary public may charge a small fee, usually depending on whether you have an account with that bank.

Make sure you keep a copy of everything you send for your records. After your application form is complete, send it along with all required documents to:

Department of Corrections
Division of Adult Community Corrections
111 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333

Keep a copy of everything you send for your records. All information you submit to the Parole Board is confidential.[5]

Once it receives your application materials, the Secretary of State’s office will obtain your full driving record and then send your entire file to the Department of Corrections, who will do a criminal background check on you. After this is done, the Department of Corrections will send your file over to the Parole Board, who will examine your application materials and will either grant or deny you a hearing on your pardon application.

If the Board grants you a hearing, it will ask you to appear at the hearing. A more thorough investigation into your life will be conducted at this point, which may include a personal interview on you, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors and practically anyone else in your community, especially those who write letters of recommendation for you. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Board, the Governor’s office, and their agents at all times.

If the Board grants you a hearing, it will also require you to publish a notice of the hearing in a newspaper once a week for four consecutive weeks prior to the hearing date. The Board will give you more information about the specific requirements of the notice at that time. You are responsible for the cost of the publication. You will also be required to give the Secretary of State’s office a copy of the publication as proof.

The Board will also give notice of your application to the Attorney General and the District Attorney where you were tried at least four weeks prior to the hearing.[9] Those individuals will have an opportunity to attend the hearing and oppose your application.

The hearing is a public hearing, which means any member of the public can attend. The Board will question you during the hearing—including questions about your life, the crime or crimes you have committed, and why you are seeking a pardon. If possible have a few people there to possibly speak out in your support. The Board will most likely giving the victim and government representatives a chance to speak out against your application.

You must look and act your best at the hearing; dress in a way you would if you were going to court for a trial. The hearing would be an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face 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 deliberate on your application. It will then make a recommendation to the Governor, who has the final say on whether or not you receive a pardon. The Governor may reject or affirm the Board’s recommendation, or she may seek more information. In either case, you will be notified of the Governor’s decision.

The whole process, from beginning to end, typically lasts for six months to a year, but in some cases may be longer than a year. If the Board denies you a hearing or the Governor denies you a pardon, their decisions are final; this means you cannot appeal the decision to a court. However, you may re-apply in a year following the denial.

The Effects

A pardon is simply an official statement that you have been forgiven of the particular crime. As in many other states, a pardon in Maine “forgives but does not forget.” In other words, a pardon does not erase or “expunge” your conviction from your criminal history record.

However, the pardon will turn your conviction data into a “non-conviction” which simply means that it cannot be accessed by the general public; law enforcement will still have access to it.[10] However, if ten years have passed since you completed your sentence for the crime which has now been pardoned, you can apply to the State Bureau of Investigation to have all references to that crime deleted from the FBI’s record.[11]

The thing that makes Maine unique is that you do not lose any of your basic citizenship rights (such as your rights to vote, to serve on a jury, and to hold public office) in Maine after you are convicted of a felony; in fact, you retain these rights even while you are incarcerated. [5]

However, you cannot possess a gun in Maine if you have been convicted of a felony. [12] You can apply to have your gun rights restored if at least five years have passed since you completed (were discharged) from your sentence for that felony.[12] Unless the pardon explicitly says your gun rights are restored, do not assume that they are. If getting your gun rights restored is important to you, make you sure you make this known to the Parole Board and the Governor during the application process.

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.[13] 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.

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 required to register as a sex offender because of a particular conviction, a Governor’s pardon for that particular conviction will release you of your duty to continue registering as a sex offender.[14] Of course, if you have other offenses which have not been pardoned and which require you to register, then you have to continue registering.

Once you have been granted a pardon, a state licensing board or agency cannot consider that particular conviction in deciding whether to grant you a trade, occupational, or professional license (e.g., a teaching or nursing license).[15] If you are ever concerned that your pardon may be a problem when you apply for employment, housing, or license, you might want to send the employer, landlord, or licensing agency a copy of your 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 rehabilitated individual. Thus, most employers, landlords, and licensing agencies will probably ignore your conviction if they know you have received a pardon, even if the law does not require them to do so.

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 Maine 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 Maine. 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 to honor each other’s pardons.

External Links


  1. Me. Const. art. V, pt. 1, § 11; see also Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 15, § 2163.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Me. Const. art. V, pt. 1, § 11.
  3. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 34-A, § 5210.
  4. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 34-A, § 5203.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 The Sentencing Project, Maine, Margaret Colgate Love,
  6. See, Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 15, § 2163 et seq..
  7. Department of the Secretary of State, Division of Corporations, UCC & Commissions,
  9. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 15, § 2161.
  10. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 16, § 613.
  11. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 15, § 2167.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 15, § 393.
  13. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).
  14. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 34-A, § 11225-A.
  15. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 5, § 5301.