Nebraska Pardon Information
Under the Nebraska Constitution, the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State have the power, sitting as a board, to grant pardons, reprieves commutations, respites, and remission of fines and forfeitures. Together, they make up what is called the Board of Pardons.
Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we do not discuss reprieves, commutations, respites, remission of fines and forfeitures, parole, or other types of clemency that may be available in Nebraska here. We will also not discuss judicial alternatives such as record expungement, record sealing, setting aside or dismissal or convictions. You should talk to an attorney if you think any of these alternative options may be more appropriate for you.
The Board of Pardons cannot grant a pardon in cases of treason or impeachment. You can apply for a felony or misdemeanor conviction. However, there is typically a waiting period. The Board will typically not consider your pardon application until you have been discharged from your sentence (including paying all fines) for at least ten years if the case is a felony or three years if the case is a misdemeanor. This is an informal rule that may be waived by the Board, but only on rare occasions.
The Board can only grant a pardon on a Nebraska 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.
The Board cannot grant a pardon for city ordinance violations, such as a traffic ticket for instance. The mayor of a city has the authority grant you a pardon for a violence of a city ordinance. If you would like to do this, you should contact the mayor’s office of the particular city to find out what your options are and what the process is.
Finally, it appears about 40-60% of pardon applications are granted every year. For example, in 2004, the Board heard 145 applications and granted 69 of those. In 2003, it heard 120 cases and granted 69 of those. In 2012, 80 applications were received. 72 pardons were granted and 4 applications were denied.
Your chance of getting a pardon largely depends on your individual circumstances. Naturally, the older and less serious your conviction, and the more compelling your life story, the higher your chance of getting a pardon.
The Application Process
There are no application fees to apply for a pardon in Nebraska. The Board of Pardons has conveniently provided a pardon application form on its website at http://www.pardons.state.ne.us/pardons.html. You must use the Board’s application form or your application may be rejected. If you cannot access the Board’s website or the application form itself, you can contact the Board directly at 402-479-5726 and have one mailed or emailed to you. You can also write to:
Nebraska Board of Pardons
P.O. Box 94754
Lincoln, NE 68509-4754
There are detailed instructions listed on the form which you should read carefully. The form should be quite simple and self-explanatory, as it was created for the non-lawyer to use. If you have any questions, contact the Board at the above number.
You are required to submit along with your application form at least three letters/references from individuals who can verify your good character. These letters must come from members in your community where you reside. Good, credible people may include your pastor, a teacher, a church member, a past or present employer, a coworker, a judge, etc. You should avoid using a friend or family member in order to avoid the appearance of bias.
You are also required to submit a current dated letter from the clerk of the court where you were sentenced stating that you have paid all fines, costs, and restitutions. A current dated receipt showing the payment can be used in lieu of the letter. The proof of payment must be submitted along with your application form.
If you were not sentenced to a state correctional facility for your conviction (whether a felony or misdemeanor), you must also submit court documents which indicate your offense, the date you were sentenced, and what your sentence or penalty was. You can obtain this information from the clerk’s office of the court where you were convicted.
The application form will ask for other simple, self-explanatory questions, such as your name, date of birth, employment history, and conviction information. You will be asked to list information about all Nebraska crimes which you are seeking a pardon for—what the offense was, the county where you were convicted, the date you committed the offense, the date you were arrested, the date you were sentenced, and the sentence you received. If you do not have information about a particular offense, you should contact the law enforcement agency and/or the court where you were convicted for that particular crime.
If you do not remember all Nebraska convictions you have ever received, you can obtain your Nebraska criminal history report from the Nebraska State Patrol, Criminal Identification Division, by calling (402) 471-4545 or logging onto its website at www.nsp.state.ne.us/. Your report should list all arrests, charges, and convictions you have ever received in Nebraska.
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. Submit any proof you may have (such as denial letters) to support your claims.
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 you.
In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Board will 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. However you feel about the crime, you have already been found guilty. The Board will probably be more interested in seeing your remorse for the crime, and your understanding of its effects on the victim and society, than anything else.
Make sure you keep a copy of everything you send for your records. Your completed, signed, and dated application, along with all supporting documents and letters, must be mailed to:
Board of Pardons
P.O. Box 94754
Lincoln, NE 68509-4754
Once the Board receives your application, it will conduct an investigation. The Board may ask the Parole Board to assist it in the investigation. You should be upfront and cooperate with the Board and its agents at all times.
If the Board accepts your application and determines that it warrants a hearing, the Board will schedule a public hearing on your case. Because this is a public hearing, any member of the public can attend. Hearings are typically held in March, June, September, and December. It is very rare for the Board to grant a pardon without holding a hearing.
You are expected to be at the hearing. Although you can request for a “hearing in absentia” (which means a hearing without your presence), it is rarely granted and we think it would be a bad idea. By being at the hearing, you put a human face on your application, and would be able to answer any questions or clarify any issues the Board may have. By being at the hearing, you are also able to respond to any allegations made by those who oppose your application.
The victim will be notified of the hearing and may very well be there. If possible, have friends, family members, co-workers, your pastor, church members, or others in your community attend the hearing with you to show support for your application. The hearing is an excellent opportunity to not only let the Board see you in person but also let it see the amount of support you have in your community.
Needless to say, you must look and act your best at the hearing. If possible, dress in the same way you would if you were to go to court for a trial. This means, for men, a suit and tie.
As indicated above, at the hearing the Board will hear testimony from those supporting and opposing your application. The Board has the power to issue subpoenas and compel any witnesses to attend the hearing or produce any documents, books, and other relevant material.
At the hearing, typically you (the applicant) get to present your testimony, witnesses, and other information to support your application. After you are finished, those who oppose your application will have an opportunity to present their testimonies, witnesses, and other information to oppose your application.
Keep in mind that although the Board may consider the nature and circumstances surrounding your offense, the Board will not be retrying” you for the offense. The Board is more interested in finding mitigating factors and evidence of your rehabilitation.
In order to receive a pardon, a majority of the Board members must vote to grant you a pardon. If the Board rejects your application, you may reapply in two years, unless the Board allows you to reapply sooner. The record of the hearing will be preserved and can be inspected by the public.
A pardon in Nebraska restores most if not all of your citizenship rights which were lost as a result of the conviction. These include, but are not limited to:
- The right to vote.
- The right to serve on a jury.
- The right to hold public office.
- The right to bear arms.
- The right to be admitted to a professional school (law, medicine, etc.)
- The right to take the Civil Service Exam.
- The right to serve in the military.
- The right to obtain a passport.
- The right to hold certain licenses (e.g. a liquor license).
An important note about gun rights: your gun rights are only restored if the Board specifically authorizes the Governor to restore them for you. Because the consequences of “unlawful possession of a firearm” can be severe, do not assume that a pardon automatically restores your gun rights. When in doubt, ask the Board.
If you have been required to register as a sex offender because of a conviction, a full pardon granted for that particular conviction would release of you this duty. Of course, if you have other convictions which require you to register and which have not been pardoned, you probably must continue registering. Like unlawful possession of a firearm, a conviction for not registering can be severe; to be on safe side you should clarify what your rights are with your sex offender case worker or the Board itself before you stop registering.
A pardon in Nebraska will not erase or “expunge” your conviction from your criminal history record. Nebraska unfortunately does not expunge criminal records. According to the Board, all law enforcement contacts, arrests, and convictions stay on a person’s criminal history record forever. There is a procedure to “set aside” your conviction through the court; however, it does not expunge your conviction either, and would not restore your citizenship rights to the same extent a pardon would.
Nevertheless, once you receive a pardon, your record will indicate that you have been granted a pardon for the particular offense. If you are ever concerned that your conviction may be a problem when you apply for a job, housing, or a trade or occupation license, you may want to send the employer, landlord, or licensing agency a copy of your pardon so they know that you have been pardoned. The pardon is, after all, a strong official statement forgiving you of the offense and essentially declaring you a rehabilitated individual. Most employers, landlords, and licensing agencies will probably ignore your conviction if they know you have received a pardon.
If you were pardoned on the grounds of innocence (meaning the Board found you innocent of the conviction you received based on DNA evidence or the like), that conviction cannot be used against you under Nebraska’s “Habitual Offender Statute” to enhance your sentence for a future felony conviction. If you were pardoned for some other reason (the Board simply found you been rehabilitated), then the pardoned conviction can still be used to enhance your sentence for a second felony conviction.
Also, 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. Of course, you will have the burden of providing proof that you have received the pardon if you ever find yourself in this situation.
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. 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.
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 Nebraska 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 Nebraska. 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.
- Nebraska on Wikipedia
- 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
- Neb. Const. art. IV, § 13.
- Neb. Rev. Stat. § 83-1,126.
- The Sentencing Project, Nebraska, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Nebraska.pdf
- See Neb. Rev. Stat. §§§ 15-315, 16-316, and 17-117.
- Sonya Fauver, Board of Pardons
- Nebraska Pardons Board Policy and Procedure Guidelines § 004.02, http://www.pardons.state.ne.us/app_guidelines.html
- Nebraska Pardons Board Policy and Procedure Guidelines § 004.02, http://www.pardons.state.ne.us/app_guidelines.html, at § 004.03B.
- Nebraska Pardons Board Policy and Procedure Guidelines § 004.02, http://www.pardons.state.ne.us/app_guidelines.html, at § 004.03C.
- Nebraska Pardons Board Policy and Procedure Guidelines § 004.02, http://www.pardons.state.ne.us/app_guidelines.html, at § 004.03.
- Neb. Rev. Stat. § 83-1,132.
- Nebraska Pardons Board Policy and Procedure Guidelines § 004.04, http://www.pardons.state.ne.us/app_guidelines.html
- Neb. Rev. Stat. § 83-1,130(1).
- Nebraska State Board of Pardons, Frequently Asked Questions, http://www.pardons.state.ne.us/faq.html
- Neb. Rev. Stat. § 83-1,130(2).
- See Neb. Admin. Code ch. 19, § 003.06E; Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-4003; see also Attorney General Opinion, No. 02025, Don Stenberg (September 03, 2002).
- Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-2264; Nebraska State Board of Pardons, Frequently Asked Questions, http://www.pardons.state.ne.us/faq.html
- Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-2221.
- Neb. Rev. Stat. § 27-609.
- 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).