Minnesota Pardon Information

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Under the Minnesota Constitution, there is a Board of Pardons which has the “power to grant reprieves and pardons after conviction for an offense against the state except in cases of impeachment.”[1] The Board may also commute the sentence of any person convicted of a Minnesota State offense.[2]

The Board is made up of the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.[1] The Board can grant an absolute or conditional pardon.[2] If the Board grants you a conditional pardon, it must specify the terms and conditions of the pardon.[2] In order to receive a pardon, the Board must unanimously vote to grant you the pardon.[3]

Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we will not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines or forfeitures, amnesty, parole, or other types of clemency that may be available in Minnesota 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.

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


You can only apply for a pardon for a Minnesota State conviction.[1] 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 a pardon for an out-of-state conviction, you should find the appropriate page on this site dealing with pardons in that particular state.

There are two types of pardons in Minnesota: a regular “pardon” and a “pardon extraordinary.” The application process is essentially the same for both types of pardons. If you are still serving your sentence (for example, you are still in prison, on probation or parole) you can apply for a “pardon” at any time.

On the other hand, if you have completed your sentence, you will need to apply for a “pardon extraordinary” instead. There is a waiting period after you have completed your sentence before you are eligible for a pardon extraordinary. If you were convicted of a “crime of violence,” you must wait for ten years after you have been discharged from your sentence before you may apply; in addition, you must not have been convicted of any other crime during that ten-year period.[3]

  • A “crime of violence” means a felony conviction of any of the following[4]:
  • Murder in the first or second degree.
  • Manslaughter in the first or second degree.
  • Aiding suicide or attempted suicide.
  • Assault in the first, second, third, or fourth degree.
  • Crimes committed for the benefit of a gang.
  • Use of drugs to injure or facilitate a crime.
  • Simple or aggravated robbery.
  • Kidnapping.
  • False imprisonment.
  • Criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, third, or fourth degree.
  • Malicious punishment of a child.
  • Neglect or endangerment of a child.
  • Commission of crime while wearing or possessing a bullet-resistant vest.
  • Theft of a firearm.
  • Theft involving the intentional taking or driving of a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner or authorized agent of the owner.Theft involving the taking of property from a burning, abandoned, or vacant building, or from an area of destruction caused by civil disaster, riot, bombing, or the proximity of battle.
  • Theft involving the theft of a controlled substance, explosive, or incendiary device.
  • Arson in the first or second degree.
  • Burglary in the first, second, or third degree.
  • Drive-by shooting.
  • Unlawfully owning, possessing, or operating a machine gun or short-barreled shotgun.
  • Riot.
  • Terroristic threats.
  • Harassment and stalking.
  • Shooting at a public transit vehicle or facility.
  • Any felony involving drugs or controlled substances.
  • An attempt to commit any of the above.

If you were not convicted of any of the offenses above, then you are eligible to apply for a pardon extraordinary five years after you were discharged from your sentence.[3] During that five-year period, you must not have been convicted of any other crime.[3]

The Board of Pardons can waive the waiting periods above by a unanimous vote.[3] However, it is not enough to simply satisfy the waiting periods. The Board must also find that you are a person of “good character and reference.[3]

If you are a prisoner who violated your probation or parole and have been sent back to prison, you are not eligible to apply for a pardon until either the Minnesota Department of Corrections has considered your case or you have served at least twelve months from the date you were returned to prison.[5]

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 on the Board at the time your application is reviewed. In 2015, 39 pardon extraordinary applications were received. Eighteen pardons were granted unconditionally, one pardon was granted conditionally, and twenty pardon applications were denied.[6]

The Application Process

There are no application fees to apply for a pardon in Minnesota.

The pardon application is available online. Go to http://www.doc.state.mn.us/PAGES/index.php/board-pardons/application-forms/ to download the appropriate pardon form for your situation. Follow all instructions on the form and if you have any questions you can reach the Board of Pardons at 651-361-7200.

The application form is quite simple and self-explanatory, as it was created for the non-lawyer to use. You might be able to find a sample pardon application form from private individuals or entities somewhere on the internet if you dig deep enough. However, we highly suggest that you contact the Board to receive the official, most updated form. Using an outdated or unofficial form may cause your application to be rejected.

Your application will need to be signed under oath (which means in front of a notary public) and it must state concisely the grounds upon which you are seeking a pardon.[7] The Board will require the following minimum information from you:

  • Name under which you were indicted.
  • Every alias you have been known by.
  • The names of your offense(s) and the date and terms of your sentence(s) for each offense.
  • Name of the trial judge and county attorney involved in your case.
  • A succinct statement (by you, the applicant) of the evidence that was presented at trial; this statement must be endorsed by the judge or county attorney involved in the case that the statement is substantially correct; if you can’t get the statement from the judge or county attorney, the reason for not furnishing it must be stated.
  • Your age, birth place, and residence during the five years immediately before your conviction.
  • A statement of all other arrests, indictments, and convictions that you have (if any).

If you do not have sufficient information about all of your arrests, indictments, and convictions, you can contact the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, at (651) 793-7000, to obtain your Minnesota criminal report, which should list all arrests, charges, and convictions you have received in Minnesota. You can also log onto its website at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/bca/contact/Pages/default.aspx.

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 arrests/convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.

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 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 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 Board 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 Board 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.

As part of the pardon application, you are required to include three letters of recommendation. The letters should be from people who know you well and are able to write about your good character. These letters are an important part of the application because they provide an important insight into your deservingness of a pardon.

If you have any questions about the application process, do not hesitate to call the Board at the above number. Your completed application should be sent to the above address. Keep a copy of everything you send for your records.

The Secretary of the Board will prescreen your application. If the Secretary determines that your application does not deserve further review, your application will not be placed on the Board’s calendar and you will be notified of the reasons.[8] The Secretary will also notify the Board of the reasons why your application was rejected. This can happen if you have not satisfied the waiting period applicable to your case, if you have not exhausted all of your judicial remedies (e.g. you have not appealed the conviction), and a variety of other reasons.

If the Secretary places your application on the Board’s calendar, he or she will make a recommendation to the Board to grant your application, reject your application, or review it closely.[8] Of course, the Board is not bound by the Secretary’s recommendation.

By law, the Board must meet at least twice a year.[9] The Board typically meets once in the spring and once in the fall. To have your pardon application considered in the fall, you must submit all materials by June 1st, and to have your pardon application considered in the spring, you must have submit all materials by December 1st. [10] All of the Board’s meetings (which include the hearing on your application) must be open to the public.[9] You will be notified of your hearing date and location. You will be required to give the Board a list of witnesses who will appear at your hearing, including their addresses and a brief statement of the testimony/evidence they intend to present.[11]

You should plan to be at the hearing, even if the Board tells you that you do not have to. Look and act appropriately at your hearing; dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for 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 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 Board and its agents at all times.

The Board is required to give the victim of the crime an opportunity to submit an oral or written statement regarding whether or not you should be granted pardon.[11] The Board must also give any law enforcement agency an opportunity to submit their recommendations regarding your pardon application.[11] Although the Board is not bound by the recommendations of these individuals and agencies, it must take their recommendations into consideration.[11]

The Secretary of the Board will notify the judge and prosecuting attorney who were involved in your conviction (or their successors) of your application and the hearing date.[12] The Secretary will also publish a notice of your application in a local newspaper in the county where the crime occurred.

You will be notified of the Board’s decision after the hearing. If the Board denies your application, you can ask the Board to reconsider your case, and at least two members of the Board must consent to reconsider.[13] The Board will only reconsider your application if there are new and substantiated facts which were not considered at the first hearing.[13]

The Effects

Once you are granted a pardon, it has the effect of setting aside your conviction.[3] The Board will file a copy of the pardon with the court where you were convicted.[3] The court will then issue an order setting aside your conviction, which will then be sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.[3]

The pardon will not erase or “expunge” your conviction from your criminal history record, but the fact that you have been granted a pardon and that your conviction has been set aside will become part of your record. Keep in mind that whether or not you receive a pardon for a particular conviction, the conviction is only part of the public record for fifteen years following your discharge from your sentence.[14] If you want your conviction expunged sooner, you should talk to an attorney knowledgeable about record expungements to see what your options are.

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

Once granted a pardon, you are never again required to disclose to anyone that you have been convicted of that offense, with two exceptions.[3] You must disclose the conviction in a judicial proceeding (court proceeding) or if you are trying to be licensed to become a peace officer.[3] A conviction that has been pardoned can still be used to enhance your sentence for any future crimes you commit.[15]

In Minnesota, when you have been discharged from your sentence, most of your civil rights are automatically restored, as if the conviction never took place.[16] This includes your rights to vote, to serve on a jury, and to hold office.[17] Thus, you do not need a pardon to have these rights restored in most cases.

However, your gun rights are not automatically restored if you been convicted of one of the “crimes of violence” listed above in Part B of this chapter.[16] If you fall into this category, you will need to submit a formal petition to a court to have your gun rights restored.[16] Even a pardon will not restore your gun rights if you fall into this category. Because of the formal and adversarial nature of court proceedings, you may want to retain the help of an attorney for this.

If, on the other hand, you were not convicted of a crime of violence, a pardon should make you eligible to obtain a gun permit again, unless the pardon specifically says your gun rights are not restored.[18] Remember, the Board of Pardons can place any reasonable conditions, limitations, or restrictions on a pardon as it deems just.

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.[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 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 Minnesota 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 Minnesota. 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 Minn. Const. art. V, § 7.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Minn. Stat. § 638.01.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Minn. Stat. § 638.02.
  4. These crimes are listed in Minn. Stat. § 624.712.
  5. Minn. R. 6600.1000.
  6. http://www.doc.state.mn.us/PAGES/files/6614/5770/7770/2015_Board_of_Pardons_Report_to_Legislature.pdf
  7. Minn. Stat. § 638.05.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Minn. R. 6600.0700.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Minn. Stat. § 638.04.
  10. http://www.doc.state.mn.us/PAGES/index.php/board-pardons/application-process/
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Minn. R.6600.0300.
  12. Minn. Stat. § 638.06.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Minn. R. 6600.1100.
  14. Minn. Stat. § 13.87.
  15. Matter Disciplinary Hearing, 527 N.W. 2d 569 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995); Minnesota v. Cobb, 403 N.W.2d 329 (Minn. Ct. App. 1987).
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Minn. Stat. § 609.165.
  17. Minn. Stat. § 609.165; The Sentencing Project, Minnesota, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Minnesota.pdf
  18. See Minn. Stat. §§ 624.712 and 624.714; Minn. Stat. § 609.165.
  19. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).