How To Write Pardon Letters to Clear Your Criminal Record

Gather Letters of Recommendation and Other Materials Needed to Obtain a Pardon

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Pardon letters are the initial request from a convicted offender to the government that found him or her guilty of a crime. This initial request asks for the government to reverse their decision and pardon the offender of the crime. Pardons are rarely granted by any government, federal, state or city so this can be a trying process.

To increase your chances of obtaining a pardon, follow these steps for how to write a pardon letter.

  1. Check your state or federal government. Before you write a pardon letter you need to know the guidelines. If you are requesting a pardon for a federal offense then you should contact the US Department of Justice and the Office of the Pardon Attorney. There are specific guidelines for requesting a federal pardon. State governments will also have guidelines to follow so check with the state Attorney General for more information before writing a letter.
  2. Make sure you meet the guidelines. Remember that every jurisdiction is different and the type of crime may also have different guidelines. In some areas you must wait five years after serving a sentence to request a pardon, other states it may be less time. Some even have a preferred form for requesting a pardon that is required to accompany your letter. Before beginning to write the letter asking for a pardon, know the guidelines and make sure you meet them.
  3. Gather your documentation. Often you will be required to submit a copy of the charging document, the indictment, judgment and sentence for the crime you have been convicted of. You may also need documentation of the reasons you are requesting a pardon and if you are making a case based upon mental instability you will need to provide medical records to document your claim.
  4. Ask for recommendation letters. You should also submit letters of recommendation from your employer, family, friends or other contacts who can support your reasoning for requesting a pardon. A recommendation letter will also give you some insight into how others view your accomplishments and may be helpful to you when writing your formal letter. Again what letters are appropriate may be determined by what charge you are requesting clemency for.
  5. Write your letter.You should clearly state what charges you are requesting be pardoned and why. Be upfront and honest about your request. If you have been rehabilitated and have found employment or if you have paid back the debt related to a theft or child support indictment then you should include these circumstances in your reasoning. You are asking that your criminal record be cleared of a charge you were found guilty of committing so you must provide remorse and restitution in your request for a pardon if at all possible.
  6. Provide rehabilitation history. Offer details in your letter of request about how you have changed your life. Include rehabilitation programs you have completed, employment history and any other applicable information that might help the pardon office respond to your request.
  7. Request and prepare for a pardon hearing. The pardon office isn't likely to grant your request from a single letter. The end of your letter should be the request for a hearing to present your case. Provide all the documentation you would provide at a hearing so the pardon office can determine the best course of action for your case.

Writing a letter to request a pardon will take work and introspection. You need to present a reasonable case for why you think the pardon office should offer you clemency. Be respectful and present a logical case and you may just get a positive response.


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