Oklahoma Pardon Information

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The Constitution of Oklahoma gives the Governor the power to grant pardons to any person who has been convicted of an offense.[1] However, the Governor may not grant a pardon unilaterally; a majority of the members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board must recommend the pardon.[1]

The Board is made up of five members who are appointed by the Governor, the Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and the Presiding Judge of the Oklahoma Court of Appeals.[1] The Board is responsible for receiving, investigating, and making a recommendation to the Governor on all pardon/clemency applications.[1]

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 Oklahoma here. We will also not discuss judicial alternatives such as record expungement, record sealing, setting aside or dismissal of convictions. You should talk to an attorney if you think any of these alternative options may be more appropriate for you.


In order to be eligible for a pardon, you must have completed all of your sentences (including any probation or parole), or have completed at least five years under supervision.[2] If you are currently in jail or prison, you are not eligible. (However, if you are incarcerated, you may be eligible for a commutation, which is basically a reduction of your sentence; we do not discuss that type of clemency here.)

You can only receive a pardon for an Oklahoma State conviction.[3] 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.

You cannot apply for a pardon on a misdemeanor unless you can demonstrate that (a) you are not eligible for an expungement, and (b) your misdemeanor conviction is preventing you from gaining a particular benefit, such as a state license.[4] Basically, these are two prerequisites you must satisfy before you are eligible to apply for a pardon.

You cannot apply for a pardon if there are other criminal charges pending against you. Also, you cannot apply for a pardon if you have already applied for a pardon within the past year.

Fortunately, unlike many other states, pardons are granted quite frequently in Oklahoma. Between 1997 and 2007, about 80% of pardon applications were granted.[4] In 2011, 143 pardon applications were received. 89 pardons were granted and 54 applications were denied.[5] This, of course, does not mean you should be complacent and not put full effort into your application.

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 Oklahoma.

The Pardon and Parole Board has conveniently made its pardon application form available for you to access on the Internet at http://www.ppb.state.ok.us/. If you cannot access the Board’s website or the form itself, you can call the Board directly at 405-602-5863. You can also write to:

General Counsel Attn: Pardons First National Center 120 N. Robinson Ave., Suite 900W Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73102-7436

The application form should be pretty simple and self-explanatory, as it was created for the non-lawyer to use. The form will ask for basic information such as your name, address, date of birth, immigration status, marital status, education history, employment history, residence history, financial status, and any aliases you have ever used, among other things.

You will be asked information about all arrests which you have ever received, including those which you are not seeking a pardon for. The Board wants to know the date you were arrested, the charge (if any), the relevant facts, the law enforcement authority involved, the location, and the disposition (outcome) of the incident. If you are missing information about any particular arrest, you should contact the law enforcement agency that was involved; the agency may provide you with a detailed police report about the incident.

If you do not remember the law enforcement agency involved in a particular incident, you may need to obtain your criminal history report. You can do this by contacting the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Criminal History Reporting Unit, at (405) 848-6724. You can also log onto its website at http://www.ok.gov/osbi/. Your criminal report should list all arrests, charges, and convictions you have ever received in Oklahoma.

If you have been arrested in other states, you may need to obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal report from the FBI. You can do this by calling its 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 arrests/convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.

There is an important section on the application form that asks you to state in full your reasons for seeking a pardon. This is perhaps the most important part of your application. We suggest you submit, on a separate sheet of paper, a detailed and genuine personal statement explaining why you need a pardon.

In your person statement, don’t simply state that you want a clean criminal record again. 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 you and your family an adequate standard of living. Submit any proof you may have (such as denial letters) that 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 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 you.

In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the 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 have already been found guilty. The 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.

You will be required to submit the following items along with your application form:

A certified copy of the Judgment and Sentence (bearing the county seal) for each conviction. This can be obtained from the clerk’s office of the court where you were convicted. The court clerk’s office will usually charge a small fee for this service. A current credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report every year. Contact Experion, TransUnion, or Equifax to find out how you can obtain your free credit report. Proof of employment. A letter from your company’s human resources department will likely suffice. If you are unemployed, indicate that on the application. Proof of your residence. A current receipt of rent or mortgage payments would be appropriate proof. If you are not making any payments, state that in the application. A certified statement (which must bear a seal) from the court clerk stating that all of your fines, restitution, and other court-imposed costs have been paid. Again, the court clerk’s office will usually charge a small fee for this service. At least three character affidavits (signed before a notary public). If you use more than three, you must designate three to be the “primary references.” A family member (blood or marriage) cannot be a primary reference. The Board has provided sample affidavit forms you can use, although you are not required to use those forms. Letters of recommendation can be used instead of character affidavits. The letters must contain the writer’s full name, address, and telephone number, and must indicate that the writer knows about the offense you are seeking a pardon for; the letters must also be notarized.

In addition to those required items, you may submit any other documents that may help your application, such as prospective employment letters, college transcripts, awards and recognitions, marriage certificate, etc. As indicated above, we highly suggest that you do this. Don’t let the Board/Governor just take you at your word. Every assertion you make should be substantiated with proof.

Finally, your application 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. They may charge a small fee, usually depending on whether you have an account with that bank.

Your completed application, along with all supporting documents and letters of recommendation, should be mailed to:

General Counsel Attn: Pardons First National Center 120 N. Robinson Ave., Suite 900W Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73102-7436

Once the Board receives your application, it will conduct an investigation. As part of its investigation, the Board will do a criminal background check on you. The Board may also look into your mental and medical background. A Pardon and Parole Officer may also interview you and those around you. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Board and its agents at all times.

After the investigation is complete, the Board will meet to vote on whether to recommend you for a pardon. The Board meets once a month. However, pardon hearings are typically not open to the public, and you will likely not be asked to attend.[4] Prosecutors and the victim will be notified of your application, and, if there is a public hearing, will be allowed to attend and speak out against your application.[4]

If a hearing is held, not only must you attend, you must act and look 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). You should also have friends, family members, your employer, co-workers, church members and others in you community be there to show their support for you and possibly even speak out for you. The hearing is an excellent opportunity 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.

In order for your application to be sent to the Governor, a majority of the Board members must vote to recommend you for a pardon. If you don’t receive a favorable majority vote from the Board, your application is over; otherwise, it will be sent to the Governor within 30 days.[6] The Governor then has 90 days to grant or deny you a pardon.[6] If the Governor does not act on your application within that 90-day period, your application will be considered denied.[7]

You will be notified in writing of the Board’s recommendation and the Governor’s decision. The decisions of the Board and Governor are final; this means you cannot appeal to a court if you are not happy with the decision. The Board and Governor are not required to provide any reasons for their denial. If you are denied, you can reapply one year after you were denied. The whole process usually takes about six months to complete, but in some cases can take longer.

The Effects

A pardon is basically an executive recognition that you have turned your life around and are now a law-abiding, productive citizen.[7] A pardon forgives you of the offense you committed.[8] As in many other states, however, a pardon “forgives but does not forget.” A pardon by itself will not seal, erase, or expunge your conviction from your criminal record.[9] Getting a pardon does not mean you are suddenly “innocent” of the offense. Your conviction will still be viewable by the general public. However, the pardon will also become part of your criminal record.[10]

Nevertheless, you may be able to expunge records of your conviction through a court. The Board/Governor does not deal with expungements. If you committed your offense while you were under eighteen and you have received a full pardon for that offense, you can apply to a court to have the conviction expunged.[11]

You can also apply for an expungement of an adult felony conviction if: (a) you have received a pardon for that conviction; (b) the offense was a non-violent felony; (c) you have not been convicted of any other felony or misdemeanors; (d) there are no felony or misdemeanor charges pending against you; and (e) ten years have passed since you committed the offense.

There may be other grounds for you to apply for an expungement. You should talk to an attorney knowledgeable about record expungements to see if you are eligible and what the process is.[11] We will not discuss them here.

Even if you receive a pardon, as indicated above you are still technically “convicted” of the offense; therefore, you are required to answer “yes” on any employment application that asks whether you have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. However, you can add that you have been pardoned of that particular offense. An expungement, on the other hand, would allow you to deny that you were ever convicted of that offense.[12] Again, talk to an attorney if you are interested in obtaining an expungement.

A pardon will not prevent prosecutors from using your conviction in a future felony prosecution. Likewise, your pardoned conviction can be considered by a judge in sentencing you for any future felony conviction. However, a conviction that has been pardoned generally cannot be used to impeach you (attack your credibility) if you are ever a witness in a future court proceeding, provided you were not convicted of any other felonies after you receive the pardon.[13]

Besides being forgiven of the offense and receiving an official recognition that you are now a rehabilitated, productive citizen, here are some other benefits of a pardon:

A pardon will restore your voting rights (if they were lost at all and have not already been restored). A pardon will restore your right to hold a public office. Otherwise, you will have to wait for fifteen years after you complete your sentence before you can hold public office again. If you have been pardoned of all felony convictions and all alcohol-related misdemeanor convictions (including federal and out-of-state convictions), you will be eligible to hold a liquor license again. Keep in mind that as long as you are prohibited from obtaining a liquor license, your spouse, partner, partner’s spouse, employees, corporate officers and directors cannot legally obtain a liquor license either. If you receive a full and complete pardon, have only been convicted of a non-violent felony, and do not have any other felonies that have not been pardoned, you will be eligible to possess a gun again.[14] If you were convicted of a violent felony, a pardon will not restore your gun rights, however. A pardon will restore your right to serve on a jury (if that right has not already been restored).[15]

Unfortunately, as of this writing, there is no law in Oklahoma that prohibits state licensing agencies from considering your conviction in making their decisions, even if you have received a pardon for that conviction.[4] Whether or not a particular agency will consider the conviction will depend on the particular agency or profession. It appears most agencies respect a pardon and will not consider a conviction that has been pardoned.

Nevertheless, if you are ever concerned that your conviction might be a problem when you apply for employment, housing, a business or occupational license, you might want to send a copy of the pardon to the employer, landlord, or licensing agency to remind them that you have received a pardon for that particular conviction. A pardon is, after all, a very strong official statement of forgiveness and rehabilitation.[4]

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. Thus, 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 Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma. 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 1.3 Okla. Const. art. VI, § 10
  2. Pardon and Parole Board, Frequently Asked Questions, http://www.ppb.state.ok.us/; Pardon Application Instructions, p. 4
  3. The Sentencing Project, Oklahoma, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Oklahoma.pdf; Pardon Application, Instructions, p. 4
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 The Sentencing Project, Oklahoma, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Oklahoma.pdf
  5. Tracy L. George, Acting Executive Director - 2011 Annual Statistics
  6. 6.0 6.1 Okla. Stat. tit. 57, § 332.19
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Sentencing Project, Oklahoma, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Oklahoma.pdf
  8. See Matter of Page, 1993 OK 165, 866 P.2d 1207 (Okla. 1993)(“A pardon has been defined as ‘an act of grace, proceeding from the powers intrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual upon whom it is bestowed from the punishment which the law inflicts for the commission of the crim.’. . . . The effect of the pardon is ‘a remission of guilt’ and relief from the consequences of a particular crime.”)(citations omitted).
  9. Pardon and Parole Board, Frequently Asked Questions, http://www.ppb.state.ok.us/
  10. Okla. Stat. tit. 74, § 150.12; see also Okla. Stat. tit. 74, § 150.9
  11. 11.0 11.1 Okla. Stat. tit. 22, § 18
  12. Okla. Stat. tit. 22, § 19(D)
  13. Okla. Stat. tit. 12, §§ 609 and 2609
  14. Okla. Stat. tit. 22, § 1283
  15. Okla. Stat. tit. 38, § 28
  16. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33)