New Hampshire Pardon Information
As in most other states, the New Hampshire Constitution gives the Governor the power to pardon all offenses except in cases of impeachment. There is a body called the Executive Council which advises the Governor on all matters pertaining to the exercise of his duties. Traditionally, the Governor will not grant a pardon unless a majority of the members of the Executive Council vote to grant the pardon. The Executive Council is made up of five members who are elected every two years from five counties across the state.
Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we will not discuss reprieves, respites, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, parole, or other types of clemency that may be available in New Hampshire here. We will also not discuss judicial alternatives such as record expungement, record sealing, setting aside or dismissal of convictions. If you talk to an attorney if you think any of these alternative options may be more appropriate for you.
|See https://www.recordclearing.org/states/new-hampshire/ for more info on options for record sealing and expungement|
The Governor may not grant a pardon for an offense where the person has not yet been convicted of that particular offense (recall President Gerald Ford’s pardon of ex-President Richard Nixon in 1974). In other words, the Governor can’t grant you a pardon while you are still being tried for that offense and have not even been found guilty.
The Governor can only grant a pardon for a New Hampshire 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.
There does not appear to be any waiting period before you can apply for a pardon. Of course, in order for the Governor to grant you a pardon, you must have lived an exemplary, law-abiding lifestyle since your last conviction and/or must have a very compelling need for a pardon.
An example of a compelling need might be you have been prevented from pursuing certain jobs, housing, a trade or occupational license, which in turn has prevented you from making an adequate income to support yourself and/or your family. Another example of a compelling need might be you are facing imminent deportation and, without getting a pardon, you would be separated from your spouse and/or children.
If you are still serving your sentence as an inmate in prison, then your reasons for applying for a pardon better be particularly compelling. An example might be you have strong evidence (e.g., DNA) that proves you are innocent of the crime, or you are suffering a documented terminate illness, do not have much longer to live, and would like to spend your last days with your family.
Typically, if you are still in prison and would like to get out early or avoid the death penalty, the type of clemency you should request for is a “commutation” (a reduction of your sentence), rather than pardon. However, for purposes of New Hampshire, the process of applying for a commutation is essentially the same as a pardon; you use the same application form described below.
Finally, keep in mind that the vast majority of pardon applications are denied. To give you a picture of your chances, in the nine years between 1996 and 2005 the Governor only granted two pardons. In 2012, not many applications were received and no pardons were granted. 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. 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 application fees to apply for a pardon in New Hampshire.
Unfortunately, as of this writing, the official pardon application form is not available for you to access on the Internet. In order to obtain one, you must call the Attorney General’s office at 603-271-3658 to have one sent to you. You can also write or fax to:
Office of the Attorney General
State of New Hampshire
33 Capitol Street
Concord, NH 03301-6397
You can see a preview of what the pardon application form looks like on the website of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation here: http://www.cjpf.org/clemency/NewHampshire.html. This form must be used as a preview only. If you do not obtain an official form directly from the Attorney General’s office, your application may be rejected.
The application form is pretty simple and self-explanatory, as it was created for the non-lawyer to use. It will ask for basic information such as your name, address, date of birth, marital status, employment history, educational background, among other things.
The application form will also ask you to list all convictions you have ever received, including misdemeanors and traffic offenses. You will need to know the date, place, and disposition (outcome) of each offense. For most offenses, you can obtain more detailed information about them by contacting the law enforcement agency that was involved in the case and/or the court where you were charged or convicted.
If you do not remember all of your convictions, you can obtain your New Hampshire criminal history report by contacting the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Division of State Police, at (603) 271-2538. You can also log onto its website at www.nh.gov/safety/nhsp/cr.html. The report should list all arrests, charges, and convictions you have ever received in New Hampshire.
If you have convictions in other states, you can obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal history report for yourself 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. 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 convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.
Perhaps the most important part of the application form will be the part that asks you to explain the reason why you are seeking a pardon. We highly suggest that you submit, on a separate sheet of paper, a detailed and genuine personal statement explaining why you need a pardon.
In your personal statement, do not simply state that you want a clean criminal record. Tell the 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. 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 Governor is not retrying you for the offense. Although you may want 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 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.
Make sure you keep a copy of everything you send for your records. Your completed application, along with all supporting documents and letters of recommendation, should be sent to:
Office of the Attorney General
State of New Hampshire
33 Capitol Street
Concord, NH 03301-6397
Once the AG’s office receives your application materials, it will obtain your criminal background report from the New Hampshire State Police. (Therefore, do not try to hide anything; hiding information that is later revealed will only harm your application.) The AG’s office will also contact the prosecutor and sentencing judge who was involved in the case to obtain further information about the case as well as their opinions/recommendations on your application.
If you are or were incarcerated, the AG’s office will also obtain a report from the Superintendent of the facility where you are/where incarcerated. Additionally, the AG’s office will contact the victim and obtain their opinions/recommendations as well.
Once the AG’s office has done those things, it will hand your entire application over to the Governor’s office for the Governor to review with his Executive Council. They will then decide whether to grant you a hearing on your application. If a hearing is held, you should not only attend but also look at act your best; dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial (this means, for men, a suit and tie).
If possible, you should also have friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers and others in your community attend the hearing to show their support. The hearing is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Governor/Executive Council not only see you in person but also see the amount of support you have in your community. The Governor/Executive Council can summon witnesses to the hearing to testify, and the hearing will likely to be open to the public. You should be upfront and cooperative with the AG’s office, the Governor’s office, and their agents at all times.
Once everything is complete, you will be notified of the Governor’s decision. The decision is typically final, which means you cannot appeal to a court if you are unhappy with the decision. However, you will typically have the option of reapplying in a few years after the denial.
Keep in mind that, except for your criminal background history report and prison/jail records, all information in your pardon application will be open to the public.
A New Hampshire pardon is an executive act of grace that serves primarily to forgive you of the crime you committed and to eliminate further punishments/consequences of the conviction. However, it does not erase, seal, or expunge your conviction from your criminal record. As in many other states, a pardon in New Hampshire “forgives but does not forget.” Nevertheless, the pardon will become part of your criminal history record.
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 so they know that you have been pardoned. A pardon is, after all, a very strong official statement from the highest executive officer of the state forgiving you of the crime and essentially declaring you a rehabilitated individual. Most employers, licensing agencies, and landlords will probably ignore your conviction if they know you have been pardoned for that particular conviction.
There is a judicial process in New Hampshire whereby you can apply to a court to have your conviction expunged (the process is called a “Petition for Annulment”). Certain crimes are not eligible. You should talk to an attorney knowledgeable about this process to find out whether you qualify and what the process would be. Getting an annulment would prevent the general public from having access to your records, and employers would not be able to question you about the conviction.
A pardon will restore your basic citizenship rights, such as your rights to vote, to serve on a jury, and to hold public office. However, keep in mind that these rights were either never take away or may have already been restored at the time you completed your sentence for the crime. You should have received something called a “Certificate of Discharge” at the time you completed your sentence which indicates which rights were restored for you.
A pardon could also have the effect of restoring your gun rights, if you lost them as a result of the conviction. However, unless the pardon expressly says so, you should not assume that it restores your gun rights. If regaining your gun rights is important to you, be sure to make your desire known 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. 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 granted a pardon for a conviction based on a finding of rehabilitation, the particular conviction cannot be used to impeach you (attack your credibility) if you are ever a witness in any future court proceeding, provided you are not convicted of any other felonies after receiving the pardon. However, if you were granted a pardon based on a finding that you were innocent of the crime (for example, DNA evidence conclusively proves that someone else did the crime), then the conviction cannot be used to impeach you in any future court proceeding under any circumstances.
The Governor can place any conditions, limitations or restrictions on a pardon/commutation as he deems proper. If you were granted a “conditional pardon” or “conditional commutation” that releases you from prison early, a violation of any of the conditions of the pardon/commutation can cause your pardon/commutation to be revoked; consequently, you can be re-arrested and thrown back in prison.
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 New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire. 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.
- New Hampshire on Wikipedia
- New Hampshire 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
- N.H. Const. p.2, art. 52.
- The Sentencing Project, New Hampshire, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/NewHampshire.pdf
- N.H. Const. p.2, art. 60.
- N.H. Rev. Stat. § 4:21.
- N.H. Rev. Stat. § 4:22.
- N.H. Rev. Stat. § 4:28.
- See Doe v. State, 328 A.2d 784, 114 N.H. 714 (N.H. 1974)(“[A pardon] is an act of executive grace completely eliminating all consequences of the conviction, but it does not remove the record of the conviction.”).
- See N.H. Rev. Stat. § 106-K:1(V).
- N.H. Rev. Stat. § 651:5.
- 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).
- N.H. Rules Evid. 609.
- N.H. Rev. Stat. § 4:25.