What is a Felony Pardon?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 07 February 2020
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A felony pardon is a legal action that can be taken after a person has been convicted of a felony and usually occurs after that person has served some or all of his or her punishment. This action does not absolve a person of a crime, and he or she is still considered guilty of the crime; however, it is an official and legal act of forgiveness. The person typically has any rights that were lost due to his or her conviction restored, such as the right to possess a firearm. In the US, a felony pardon can typically be obtained from a state governor or from the president at a federal level.

The process by which a felony pardon can be obtained varies among countries and even different states or provinces within some countries. In the US, for example, a felony pardon must typically be sought from the governor of the state in which a crime was committed and tried. Each state, therefore, has different statutes and policies regarding how a pardon can be obtained and what the pardon grants to a person. Federal crimes in the US can be pardoned by the president, and this is typically done in situations to preserve fairness or forgive relatively minor federal crimes that occurred a long time ago.


A felony pardon is typically only granted after a certain period of time, usually to those who have already served their sentence or have been released early on parole. Different states and countries can require different lengths of time to pass after the person has been released, before he or she can request a pardon, and five to ten years is fairly common. In this time a person must typically not be convicted of any more crimes and may also need to demonstrate a willingness to “give back” to his or her community.

Once this is done, the person can then seek a felony pardon from the appropriate governmental body. If a pardon is granted, then law enforcement agencies are informed of the pardon and it becomes part of public record. The person who receives a felony pardon will then regain rights that were revoked due to his or her felony conviction. This can include the right to vote, the right to possess a firearm, and the ability to serve on a trial jury. Someone who receives a felony pardon can also indicate that he or she has been pardoned when notifying potential employers of any felonies of which he or she has been convicted.


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