Policy Analysis | June 2016

Pardons in SLC Member States

Roger Moore

In the parlance of the criminal justice system, a pardon is an order that forgives an individual for a particular crime. Though a conviction remains a matter of public record after a pardon is granted, the individual is not subject to any more penalties for the crime committed. State law pardons typically are granted by the governor of the state in question though, in some cases, a governing body, appointed by the governor or Legislature, may hear pardon requests instead of or in conjunction with the governor.

SLC State-by-State Pardoning Policies

Alabama

Unlike the majority of U.S. states, the governor is not exclusively authorized to grant pardons. The Board of Pardons and Paroles, which consists of three members appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, grants full or restricted pardons. The Board can consider pardon applications for federal or out-of-state convictions if the applicant is a resident of Alabama at the time the Board considers the application.

Arkansas

While the governor has the final say on all pardon applications, except those involving treason or impeachment, Arkansas law dictates that all applications must first be submitted to the Arkansas Parole Board for investigation prior to being submitted to the governor. The Board consists of seven members, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, who serve seven-year terms. In cases involving treason, the governor has the authority to grant a pardon, but only with the advice and consent of the Senate. The governor must report to the General Assembly during every regular session to describe the circumstances of each pardoned case as well as the reasons for issuing the pardon.

Florida

Full or conditional pardons are granted exclusively by the Clemency Board, which includes the governor, chief financial officer, attorney general, and commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, all of whom are statewide elected officials. In order to receive a pardon, the governor and at least two of the other three members of the Board must agree to the pardon.

Georgia

Pardons in Georgia are granted for felony convictions by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Board consists of five members, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, who serve seven-year terms. Unlike many other states, the governor does not have any direct involvement in the pardon application process.

Kentucky

Clemency, including pardons, rests in the hands of the governor, who can impose any conditions, restrictions or limitations as he/she deems appropriate. The Legislature created the Kentucky Parole Board which, upon request of the governor, investigates pardon applications and makes recommendations. The Board is made up nine full-time members, all of whom are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Louisiana

Pardons are granted by the governor, but only after favorable recommendations by the Board of Pardons, which is composed of five individuals appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Each member of the Board serves a term concurrent with the appointing governor.

Mississippi

The governor is charged with granting pardons. The Parole Board is responsible for receiving, investigating and making recommendations on all pardon applications, upon the request of the governor. All five members of the Board are appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate.

Missouri

Pardons are granted by the governor, who may impose conditions, restrictions and limitations as he/she deems appropriate for all cases except those involving treason and impeachment. However, the Board of Probation and Parole, created by the General Assembly, first investigates all pardon applications and provides recommendations to the governor.

North Carolina

The governor has the power to grant pardons, except in cases of impeachment. He/she can impose conditions, limitations or restrictions deemed appropriate. The Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission can assist the governor, at his/her request, in executing pardoning powers. The Commission is composed of four members, each of whom is appointed by the governor.

Oklahoma

The governor grants pardons; however, they cannot be granted unilaterally. At least three of the five members on the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board must first provide a favorable recommendation before the governor can take any action. Three members of the Board are appointed by the governor, one by the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and one by the presiding judge of the Criminal Court of Appeals.

South Carolina

Unlike the majority of U.S. states, all pardons are granted by the seven-member Board of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services, not by the governor. The Board comprises seven members appointed by the governor to six-year terms. At least two-thirds of the Board members must agree to a pardon.

Tennessee

Pardons are granted by the governor, except in cases of impeachment, who can impose conditions, limitations and restrictions as he/she deems appropriate. First, however, the Board of Probation and Parole must receive, review and make non-binding recommendations for pardon applications. The Board is composed of seven-members, appointed by the governor to serve six-year terms.

Texas

The governor has the power to grant pardons, except in cases involving treason and impeachment. However, the governor must first receive a favorable recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which was established by the Legislature. The Board is composed of seven members, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. At least four of the seven members on the Board must approve a pardon before the governor can take action.

Virginia

Pardons are granted by the governor. However, the governor must report to the General Assembly during every regular session to describe the circumstances of every pardoned case as well as the reasons for issuing a pardon. The Parole Board, upon the governor’s request, can investigate and make recommendations on pardon applications. The Board comprises five members who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly.

West Virginia

Pardons are granted by the governor, who may impose conditions as he/she deems appropriate. However, the governor must report to the Legislature during every regular session to describe the circumstances of every pardoned case as well as the reasons for pardoning. The Board of Parole can, upon the governor’s request, receive, investigate and make recommendations to the governor on all pardoning application. Generally speaking, the governor will not consider a pardon application if it has not first been recommended by the board.