Rhode Island Pardon Information

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The Constitution of Rhode Island gives the Governor the power to pardon all offenses except in cases of impeachment.[1] However, the process in Rhode Island is different in that before the Governor can grant any pardon, he must first get approval from the state Legislature.[1] The Governor can place any terms and conditions on a pardon as he deems proper.[2]

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 Rhode Island 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.


There are no minimum eligibility requirements to apply for a pardon in Rhode Island. A person can apply at any time after being convicted, presumably even while they are still serving their sentence and confined in prison.

Of course, you must provide a very compelling reason for why the Governor should grant you a pardon. Pardons are granted very sparingly in Rhode Island. As of 2006, the Governor’s office has not granted a pardon to anyone in more than a decade.[3]

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 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

Unlike in many other states, you apply for a pardon directly with the Governor. There is no middleman (such as a Board of Pardons or Board of Parole) that looks at your application before it is sent to the Governor.

There are no application fees to apply for a pardon in Rhode Island. As of this writing, there is not a formal application form or process to apply for a pardon. Applying for a pardon is simply a matter of drafting a written formal petition and sending it to:

Governor [Name of Current Governor]
Office of the Governor
State House, Room 115
Providence, RI 02903-1196

If you have any questions, you can call the Governor’s office directly at 401-222-2080. You can also send an email to: [email protected]. Each Governor may have his or her own rules and procedures on what you need to do to apply for a pardon.[4] You should always check with the office of the current Governor to whom your application will be addressed.

At minimum, your petition should include the following information:

  • A copy of your current BCI report (official criminal history report) from every state in which you have lived. You can obtain your criminal history report for each state by contacting that state’s criminal history record repository. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.
  • If you are currently incarcerated, a full description of the offense which you are incarcerated for, as well as prison records/reports of your conduct in prison.
  • Official court documents that indicate the outcome of the case, what sentence you received, and how much of that sentence you have completed thus far. You can obtain this information from the clerk’s office of the court where you were convicted.
  • Any other information that you think may be relevant and helpful to your application.

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 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) 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 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 Governor 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 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.

We also 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.

Keep a copy of everything you send for your records. Your application, along with all supporting documents and letters of recommendation, should be sent to the Governor’s office at the above address.

After the Governor receives your application, she will review it and may have her agents conduct further investigation into your personal situation, including your criminal background, your prison records, and even your medical and psychological records. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Governor and her agents at all times. There may or may not be a hearing or personal interview with the Governor.

If a hearing or interview is held, you must not only attend but also look and act your best. Dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial. You should also, if permitted, have friends, family members, and others in your community attend the hearing/interview to show their support. The hearing/interview would be an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Governor not only see you in person but also see the support you have in your community.

There is no deadline by which the Governor must approve or deny your application. If the Governor grants you a pardon, she can place any conditions on the pardon he she deems just.[2] Again, before the Governor can grant anyone a pardon, she must first go to the Legislature to get its consent. If your application is denied, your only recourse is to reapply.

The Effects

A Governor’s pardon will restore your right to hold public office and remove any occupational or licensing barriers you have because of the conviction.[3]

You only lose your right to vote in Rhode Island if you have been convicted of a felony and only while you are incarcerated in a correctional facility; once you are released, your voting rights is automatically be restored.[5] Likewise, your right to serve on a jury is lost only if you are convicted of a felony; this right is automatically restored once you complete your sentence (including any parole or probation).[6] In other words, if these are the only rights you are concerned about, a pardon is probably not be necessary.

A pardon will also restore your right to own and possess a gun, if they were ever lost at all.[3] However, keep in mind that in most cases your gun rights are automatically restored two years after the date you were convicted of a felony.[7]

If you receive a conditional pardon and are released from prison early as a result, a violation of any of the conditions of the pardon can cause you to be rearrested and thrown back in prison. Likewise, a violation of a conditional pardon can cause your pardon to be revoked.

If you have been convicted of two or more felonies in any state arising from separate incidents, both of which you served a prison term for, after which you are convicted of another (a third) felony in Rhode Island, you will be deemed a “habitual criminal” under Rhode Island law.[8] This means that the sentence for your third conviction can be substantially higher than what you would get if you were not a habitual criminal.[8] However, a conviction that has been pardoned cannot be counted in determining whether or not you are a habitual criminal.[8]

Likewise, 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.[9]

A pardon in Rhode Island does not necessarily seal, erase, or expunge your conviction from your criminal record. Your criminal record will merely say that you have been pardoned of the particular crime. 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 the employer, landlord, or licensing agency a copy of your pardon. A pardon is, after all, a strong official statement of forgiveness and rehabilitation. Most employers, licensing agencies, and landlords will probably ignore your conviction if they know you have been pardoned for it.

There is a process for you to apply to a court to have your conviction records expunged (which, in Rhode Island, really means sealing of the conviction so that it cannot be accessed by the general public).[10] In order to do that, you will need to file something called a “motion” with the court.[11] You should talk to a record expungement attorney to find out if you are eligible and what the process to apply would be. Because the procedure is usually more formal and adversarial than applying for a pardon, you should probably retain an attorney to help you with this.

A judicial expungement will, similar to a pardon, release you of all penalties and disabilities you received as a result of the conviction.[12] However, the “expunged” conviction can still be used against you for sentencing purposes in any future crimes you commit.[12]

An expungement will also allow you to deny in any licensing or employment application, or in any appearance as a witness, that you were ever convicted of that particular crime.[12] There are exceptions to this; for example, if you are applying to become a teacher, a lawyer, or a law enforcement officer, you will need to disclose the conviction that has been expunged.[12] Expungements are granted much more frequently than pardons in Rhode Island.[3] Thus, it is definitely something worth looking into.

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” unless the pardon specifically says you cannot possess a gun.[13] 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.

Also, 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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island. 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 R.I. Const. art. 9, § 13
  2. 2.0 2.1 R.I. Gen. Laws § 13-10-2
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Sentencing Project, Rhode Island, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Rhode%20Island.pdf
  4. R.I. Gen. Laws § 13-10-1
  5. R.I. Const. art. 2, § 1
  6. R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-9-1.1(c)
  7. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-5
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19-21
  9. R.I. Rules Evid. 609
  10. R.I. Gen Laws § 12-1.3-1 et seq
  11. R.I. Gen Laws § 12-1.3-2
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 R.I. Gen Laws § 12-1.3-4
  13. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33)