Michigan Pardon Information

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The Michigan Constitution gives the Governor the “power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons after convictions for all offenses, except cases of impeachement.”[1] The Governor can impose any conditions and limitations on a pardon as he deems proper.[1] However, the Governor’s pardoning power is subject to procedures and regulations that the Legislature may enact from time to time.[1]

The Legislature has created a body called the Michigan Parole Board, which is responsible for receiving all pardon applications and making recommendations to the Governor.[2] Although the Parole Board makes the recommendations, the Governor is not bound by those recommendations. The Parole Board is made up of ten members who are appointed by the Director of the Department of Corrections; each member serves a four-year term.[3]

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

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


There is no waiting period before you are eligible to apply for a pardon in Michigan.[4] Thus, you can apply any time after you have been convicted, even if you are still incarcerated.[5] Furthermore, you can apply for a pardon for both felony and misdemeanor convictions. The rule of thumb is if you are unsure whether or not you are eligible to apply, you should go ahead and apply as there is no harm in doing so.

However, the Governor can only grant you a pardon for a Michigan 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.

Pardons are rarely granted in Michigan. Just to give you an idea, between 1969 and 2007, the Governors of Michigan have only granted a total of 33 pardons.[6] In 2012, 124 pardon applications were received. No pardons were granted.[7] Your chance of getting a pardon largely depends on your individual circumstances.

Naturally, the older and less serious your conviction(s), and the more compelling your life story, 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 simply more lenient than others in handing out pardons.

The Application Process

There are no fees to apply for a pardon in Michigan. The Michigan Parole Board has created a simple, self-explanatory pardon application form for you to use. You must use the Parole Board’s form.[2] The form can be obtained from the Department of Correction’s website, at http://www.michigan.gov/corrections/0,1607,7-119-1435---,00.html. If you cannot access the website or the form itself, call the Parole Board at 517-335-1426 or write to:

Michigan Department of Corrections
Office of the Parole Board
Pardons and Commutations Coordinator
P.O. Box 30003
Lansing, MI 48909

On the form, you will be asked basic information such as your name, date of birth, social security number, immigration status, and Michigan prison number (if applicable). You will also need to provide information about every conviction you wish to get a pardon for, including the name of the offense, the type of offense (felony or misdemeanor), the date you were convicted, the court, the judge, the sentence you received, and the date you completed your sentence. You can get most of this information from the clerk of the court where you were convicted.

The Parole Board will also want you to list all arrests you have received since you completed your sentence(s), even if the arrest did not result in a conviction. The Parole Board will want to know what you were arrested for, the date and location, the charge, and the sentence. If you do not have sufficient information about an arrest or conviction, you should contact the law enforcement agency involved in the case or the court where you were charged/convicted.

You can also obtain your Michigan State criminal history report by contacting the Department of State Police, CJIC Identification Section, by calling (517) 332-2521 or logging onto www.michigan.gov/msp. This report should list all arrests and convictions you have ever received in Michigan.

However, if you arrests and/or convictions in multiple states, you may need to 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 www.fbi.gov. The FBI’s website also has a list of local FBI offices you can call. Alternatively, 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.

You will be asked to submit a brief statement explaining why you are requesting a pardon. This may be the most important section of your application. Tell the Parole Board/Governor how the 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 in 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 will not be 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. However 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, we suggest that you submit a few letters of recommendation from credible people (such as your boss) who know you well and can say good things about 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.

Finally, you will need to sign your completed pardon application form in front of a notary public. You can find a notary public in most banks. They may charge a small fee, usually depending on whether you have an account with that bank.

Make a copy of everything you send for your records. Mail the original application and one copy of the application and all supporting documents to:

Michigan Department of Corrections
Office of the Parole Board
Pardons and Commutations Coordinator
Post Office Box 30003
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Within 60 days after receiving your application, the Parole Board will determine if your application has any merit.[8] If the Parole Board determines that your application has no merit, it will still submit your application directly to the Governor—with an indication of “no merit” without any further investigation.

If the Parole Board determines that your application has merit, it will conduct an investigation and will notify the sentencing judge and prosecuting attorney in the county of your conviction. Those individuals will then have 30 days to file any written objections to your application.[8]

The Parole Board will also conduct a public hearing on your application, which will be held in Lansing. The Attorney General’s office will be there to represent the public. Notice of the hearing will also be given to the sentencing judge, the prosecuting attorney, and any victim who has requested notice.[8] Because the hearing will be public, those individuals may all attend; the victim will be given an opportunity to be heard at the hearing or in writing.[8]

You (the applicant) may also testify and present any relevant evidence and witness testimony at the hearing.[9] If possible, you should bring friends, family, church members, teachers, employers and/or co-workers to the hearing to show their support for you; if allowed, they may also be able to testify. You may also bring an attorney to represent you at the hearing.[9]

Needless to say, you should act and look your best at the hearing. 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 a good opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Parole Board not only see you in person but also see the amount of support you have in your community. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Parole Board, the Governor’s office, and their agents at all times.

After the hearing, the Parole Board will send your entire application, including all supporting documents and letters, a transcript of the hearing, and its recommendation to the Governor. The Governor then has the final say on your application. The Governor’s office will notify you of the final decision.

The whole process, from beginning to end, takes several months to complete.

The Effects

Once you are granted a Governor’s pardon in Michigan, the law must treat you as though you never committed the crime.[10] However, this does not necessarily mean your conviction is automatically erased or “expunged” from your criminal history record.

You may want to do a criminal background check on yourself a few months after you receive the pardon, and, if your conviction still shows up, you may have to apply for an expungement with a court.[11] You should talk to a record expungement attorney if this is something you need to do. (Depending on the particular crime and your criminal history, you may be able to expunge a conviction even without getting a pardon.)

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

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 may want to send a copy of the pardon to the employer, landlord, or licensing agency. Most employers, landlords, and licensing agencies will probably ignore your conviction if they know you have received a pardon; the pardon is, after all, a strong official statement from the highest executive officer in the State forgiving you of the offense and essentially declaring you a rehabilitated individual. Of course, the surest way to keep the conviction from being used against you by the public is to obtain an expungement.

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 have not been convicted of a felony after you receive the pardon.[12] However, if you receive the pardon on the basis of innocence (e.g., DNA evidence conclusively proves that someone else committed the offense), then in no circumstance can the conviction be used against you.[12]

In Michigan, your voting rights are only suspended during the time you are confined in jail or prison.[13] This includes being confined for a misdemeanor.[6] However, your voting rights should automatically be restored after you are released from jail or prison. In other, unless you are confined, a pardon is not necessary to vote.

In Michigan, you are permanently disqualified from serving on a jury if you have been convicted of a felony.[14] However, your right to be a juror is restored if you have been granted a pardon for that felony.[6]

In Michigan, if you lost your gun rights because of a conviction, they are automatically restored three or five years (depending on the crime) following your completion of the sentence for that particular conviction (this includes completion of all prison terms, parole, probation, and/or fines).[6] Thus, in most cases it is not necessary to obtain a pardon in order to restore your gun rights; nevertheless, a pardon would restore your gun rights, unless the pardon specifically says your gun rights are not restored.[15]

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.[16] 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.

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 Michigan 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 Michigan. 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.

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Mich. Const. art. 5, § 14.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mich. Comp. Laws § 791.243.
  3. Mich. Comp. Laws § 791.231a.
  4. See Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 791.243 and 791.243; Mich. Admin. Code § 791.7760.
  5. See Kent Pros v. Sheriff (Oh Reh), 428 Mich. 314, 315 (Mich. 1987).
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 The Sentencing Project, Michigan, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Michigan.pdf
  7. Corrections Information Email
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Mich. Comp. Laws § 791.244.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Mich. Admin. Code § 791.7760.
  10. People v. Vanheck, 651 N.W.2d 174, 178-79 (Mich. App. 2002)(A Michigan pardon “‘reaches both the punishment prescribed for the offense and the guilt of the offender. It releases the punishment and blots out of existence the guilt, so that in the eye of the law the offender is innocent as if he had never committed the offense.’”)(quoting People v. Stickle, 121 N.W. 497 (1909)(further citations omitted).
  11. Mich. Comp. Laws § 780.621.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Mich. Rules Evid., R. 609.
  13. Mich. Comp. Laws § 168.785b.
  14. Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.1307a.
  15. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224f; see also People v. Dupree, No. 281408, at 7 (Mich. Ct. App. May 28, 2009).
  16. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).