Felons know how challenging it can be as they move forward in life with a felony on their record.
It seems like the conviction penalties follow them no matter what they do and affects all aspects of their life from finding a job, to obtaining housing, continuing their education, or obtaining a loan.
For felons who believe they deserve forgiveness for the offense, a pardon may offer hope.
This blog post will cover the process of applying for a pardon in Arkansas.
- What is a Pardon?
- Federal vs. State Pardon
- Application Process in Arkansas
- Effects of a Pardon
- Supporting the Felon after the Pardon Decision
What is a Pardon?
A pardon is a form of clemency forgiving a particular crime without actually clearing a felony record.
Felons who have a criminal conviction for which they believe the sentence was too harsh or not deserved given the circumstances can apply for a pardon.
Felons who feel they have paid their debt to society and are entitled to having any further possible punishments for their crime withdrawn may wish to consider petitioning the government for a pardon.
While a pardon does not erase the conviction, their criminal record will show that they have been legally forgiven for the crime and the restrictions imposed on a felon no longer apply.
This will allow them to have their right to vote and hold public office restored. They will also be allowed to own a firearm, if this right is requested.
Nevertheless, their felony conviction will still be part of the public record and able to be viewed. Their felony conviction must still be reported in any situation inquiring about prior criminal history.
Federal vs. State Pardon
A pardon may be a federal or a state pardon depending on whether it is a federal or state offense.
For a federal pardon, a petition will go to the President of the United States.
For a state crime in Arkansas, while the Governor has the final decision, the application will go to the Arkansas Parole Board for its approval first. For a crime committed in another state, the application must be file in that state.
According to state law, anyone with a felony conviction can apply for a pardon.
In the application, the question is asked if felons want to have their gun rights restored. For this, the felony must be at least eight years old and not have involved a weapon.
The entire process can take at least a year to complete. If the pardon is denied, felons can re-apply in four years. For those serving a life sentence without parole, they can re-apply in six years.
In addition to the application, at least three letters of recommendation from individuals who can vouch for a felon’s character must be sent.
These letters can be from an employer, judge, coworker, pastor, or teacher. They may not come from a family member or friend.
Complete information about all crimes for which felons are seeking a pardon must be listed with date of the crime, date of arrest, date of sentencing, and the sentence must be included.
For those with a criminal record in other states, felons can either contact the FBI for their records or the criminal history repository for any state in which they have previous convictions or arrests.
A personal statement is required, in which felons must state the reason for seeking a pardon, and how the pardon will help them accomplish that.
They will need to provide evidence why it would be in the public’s best interest as well as their own to receive a pardon.
Any hardship they may be suffering as a result of their conviction is also important.
For example, felons may indicate how not receiving a pardon may prevent them from applying for a specific job, trade, or license, thus preventing them from being able to support their family.
They may need documentation, such as a letter from appropriate government or licensing authorities. They must have a clean criminal record after the time of the initial conviction.
Their personal background is extremely important. The nature, seriousness, and length of time since their conviction along with their overall criminal record will be considered.
The information needs to demonstrate their accomplishments, including educational achievement, stable employment, marriage and children, community involvement, charitable service, and law-abiding behavior.
Proof should be submitted, such as a GED certificate, marriage license, professional license, or awards.
Before submitting an application, it is important to consult an attorney for legal advice regarding the pardon application process.
Even though felons may be pardoned, the original offense can still be used against them if they commit another crime, and they will still be considered a repeat offender.
After completing the application, it is submitted to the Parole Board for its investigation and recommendation.
The investigation conducted by the Parole Board is a criminal background check. This consists of examination or prison records, credit, financial, mental, and psychological history.
During its investigation, the Parole Board can subpoena witnesses to testify regarding any relevant evidence.
A hearing may or may not be held with the applicant’s mandatory attendance. Those in support of the applicant may attend as a display of their support.
Following any hearing, the Board will vote on the application. At least 30 days before its decision, the Board must issue a public notice of its recommendation. If the application is approved, it will be sent to the Governor for a decision, which is final.
The Governor has 240 days to approve or reject the pardon request and typically follows the recommendation from the Parole Board.
Effects of a Pardon
If felons are successful in achieving a pardon, some things in their life will change.
If a pardon is granted, the conviction will remain on their record, but the decision will restore the right to:
- Serve on a jury
- Hold public office
- Bear arms (if requested in the pardon application)
- Be admitted to a professional school
- Take the Civil Service Examination
- Have a passport
- Hold certain licenses, such as a liquor license
Obtaining a pardon will make it easier to find a job, get a loan, or buy a house. A pardon will make a significant difference in re-establishing their standing in the community.
Also, they will have the satisfaction of knowing they were successful at having the penalties for a felony removed from their record.
Supporting the Felon after the Pardon Decision
For families of felons who have achieved a pardon in Arkansas, reinforce their efforts and the difficulty they faced in applying for and persisting with the lengthy pardon process.
If they can work hard enough to accomplish that, they can achieve so much more.
For families of felons who have been turned down for a pardon, continue to be there and be supportive.
Do not allow your loved one to get discouraged or give up.
They have lived with their criminal record and the consequences this long, and they can continue their quest for a better life even without a pardon. They do have the option of re-applying in four years.
Continue to encourage them to live life the right way and not return to their criminal behavior. Don’t let them become one who returns to prison.
So what do you think about this blog post about how to apply for a pardon in Arkansas? Have you or someone you applied for a pardon in Arkansas? What was that like and were they successful? Please tell us in the comments below.