Mississippi Pardon Information

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Authority

The Mississippi Constitution gives the Governor the “power to grant reprieves and pardons” in addition to other types of clemency.[1] The Legislature has created body called the Parole Board which is exclusively responsible for receiving, investigating, and making recommendations on all clemency/pardon applications, upon the request of the Governor.[2] The Board is made up of five full-time members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.[2]

Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we will not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, parole or other types of clemency that may be available in Mississippi here. We will also not discuss judicial alternatives such as record expungement, record sealing, setting aside or dismissal of convictions. If you think any of these alternative remedies may be more appropriate for you, you should taslk to an attorney.

RecordGone See http://www.recordclearing.org/states/mississippi/ for more info on options for record sealing and expungement

Eligibility

You are only eligible to for apply for a pardon if you have already been convicted of the offense.[3] Furthermore, the Governor’s office will generally not consider your pardon application until at least seven years have passed since you completed your sentence.[4] This waiting period, however, is not an explicit requirement of Mississippi law but rather an informal policy that can change from one Governor to the next.

Also, the Governor can only grant you a pardon for a Mississippi State conviction.[4] If you want a pardon for a federal conviction, you must do that through the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Pardon Attorney (see our page on this site on federal pardons). If you want to pardon for an out-of-state conviction, you should find the appropriate page on this site dealing with pardons in that particular state.

You can get a pardon for a felony or misdemeanor conviction. However, if you are applying for a felony conviction, you cannot receive a pardon until you have published a notice of your application (and the reasons why you are deserving of a pardon) in a newspaper for thirty days.[1] We explain this requirement in more detail below.

The Governors of Mississippi typically grant only 10 to 20 pardons during the end of each term in office.[5] From 2004-2012, 198 pardons were granted.[6] 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 of getting a pardon 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

There are no fees to apply for a pardon in Mississippi. At the time of this writing, neither the Governor’s office nor the Parole Board has made a pardon or clemency application available on the internet. Therefore, to get the application process started, you should contact the Governor’s office at 601-359-3150 or write to:

Office of the Governor
Attn: Legal Division
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, MS 39205-0139

You can also call the Parole Board at 601-354-7716 or write to them at:

Mississippi Parole Board
201 West Capitol Street, Suite 800
Jackson, MS 39201

If you dig deep enough on the internet, you might be able to find a sample clemency or pardon application. However, we highly advice you to contact the above offices to get the most updated and official form. Using a non-official or outdated form can cause your application to be rejected.

The application form should be quite simple and self-explanatory, as it was created for the non-lawyer to use. You will be asked basic information such as your name, Social Security number, date of birth, and Department of Corrections number, among other things.

You will also be asked to list all of your arrests, charges, and convictions. If you do not have sufficient information about a particular arrest, charge, or conviction, you can get this information from the law enforcement agency involved in the case and/or the court where you were charged or convicted.

If you do not remember every arrest, charge, and conviction you have received, you should go to your nearest police station and ask how you can obtain a criminal history report for yourself. The report should list all arrests, charges, convictions you have ever received in Mississippi.

If you have convictions in other states, you can obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal report for yourself from the FBI. You can find out how to do this by calling the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., a (202) 324-3000, or logging onto its website at http://www.fbi.gov. The FBI’s website also has a list of local FBI offices you can call.

Alternatively, you can contact the criminal history record repository (which keeps a record of all criminal activity in a state) in each state where you have arrests/convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.

You will be asked to list on a separate sheet of paper the circumstances supporting your application. Getting a pardon is an extraordinary remedy; therefore you should be prepared to provide very good reasons why the Governor should grant you a pardon. This is perhaps the most important part of your application.

Tell the Parole Board/Governor how your conviction has negatively affected you and 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 your family and you an adequate standard of living. Attach proof (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 or hinder those plans.

In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Parole Board/Governor will not be 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 Parole Board/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.

Also, although not required, we 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.

Make sure you keep a copy of everything you send for your records. Your completed application, including all supporting documents and letters of recommendation, will need to be submitted to the Governor’s office at:

Office of the Governor
Attn: Legal Division
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, MS 39205-0139

Every administration has its own way of doing things, but generally, once the Governor’s office receives your completed application, it will review it first to see if your application has any merit on its face. If so, your application will be sent over to the Parole Board for an investigation and recommendation.

As part of its investigation, the Parole Board will do a background check on your criminal history, employment history, and possibly even your social, mental, and medical histories. The Parole Board may also have agents interview you personally or hold a hearing on your application. You should be upfront and cooperate with the Parole Board, the Governor’s office, and their agents at all times.

If a hearing is held on your application, you should be there. Dress and act appropriately—the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial (which means, for men, a suit and tie). Have friends, family members, neighbors, church members, your boss, co-workers, and others in your community be there to support you and maybe even speak out for you if allowed. The victim and a State may also be there to oppose your application.[7] The victim will also have an opportunity to submit a written opinion on your application.[8]

The hearing is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application. It lets the Parole Board not only see you in person but also see the amount of support you have in your community.

After the investigation and hearing (if any) stages are complete, the Parole Board will make a recommendation to the Governor on your application. The Governor, of course, has the final say on whether or not you receive a pardon. You will be notified of the Governor’s final decision.

The Governor’s decision is final. This means you cannot appeal to a court if you are unhappy with the decision. However, you will be given an opportunity to apply again following a waiting period after you have been denied.


The Effects

A pardon does not necessarily erase or “expunge” your conviction from your criminal history record. Rather, the fact that you have been granted a pardon for that particular conviction will become part of your record.[9]

If you are ever concerned that your conviction may be a problem when you apply for a job, housing, or a trade or occupational license, you might want to send a copy of the pardon to the employer, landlord, or licensing agency so they know you have been pardoned for that conviction. A pardon, after all, is a strong official statement from the highest executive officer of the State forgiving you of the crime you committed and essentially declaring you a rehabilitated individual.

If you are a first-time misdemeanor offender, or you have charges that did not result in a conviction or that were dismissed, there are ways to “expunge” those from your record so that the general public cannot view them.[10] You should talk to an attorney if you are interested in expungement. The process typically involves a formal petition or “motion” to a court.

Once you have been pardoned, the particular conviction cannot be used to impeach you (attack your credibility) if you are ever a witness in a future criminal proceeding, so long as you are not convicted of a felony after you receive the pardon.[11]

Most if not all of your basic citizenship rights which you lost as a result of your conviction will be restored once you are granted a pardon.[4] This includes your rights to vote, to hold public office, and to serve on a jury.

However, keep in mind that you only lose your voting rights in the first place if you have been convicted of murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretenses, perjury, forgery, embezzlement, or bigamy.[12] There is also a way to restore your voting rights through a two-thirds vote by the Legislature (Bill of Suffrage). You should consult with an attorney if this is what you are interested in.

In Mississippi, you lose your right to hold public office if you have been convicted of bribery, burglary, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretenses, perjury, forgery, embezzlement, or bigamy.[13] However, a full pardon restores your right to hold public office.[13]

If you are currently registering as a sex offender, a pardon will release you of the duty to continue registering.[14] However, because the consequences for not registering can be severe, you should not assume that getting a pardon automatically means you no longer have to register. You should contact your case worker or an attorney for more information about this before you stop registering.

Under Mississippi law, you lose your right to possess a gun if you have been convicted of a felony, whether it is a state or federal felony, and regardless of which state it is from.[15] However, the law explicitly says that if the conviction has been pardoned, then it cannot be used against you for unlawful possession of a firearm.[15] In other words, the pardon restores your right to possess a gun.

Likewise, 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” under federal law, unless the pardon specifically says you cannot possess a gun.[16]

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.

A Mississippi pardon would also remove most if not all legal disabilities which you may have with respect to entering certain professions or obtaining certain licenses. For example, you are again eligible to practice law and dentistry, and hold a barber’s license, after you receive a full pardon.[17]

However, keep in mind that although a pardon restores most if not all of your basic citizenship rights, there are ways to restore some or all of those rights without actually getting a pardon. As we indicated, for example, there is a way to get your voting rights restored through the Legislature as an alternative to the pardon. You should consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable of these alternative ways of restoring your citizenship rights if interested (or if your pardon application is rejected). These alternative methods may typically easier to obtain that a pardon.

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 Mississippi 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 Mississippi. 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

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Miss. Const. art. 5, § 124.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Miss. Code § 47-7-5.
  3. Miss. Const. art. 5, § 124.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The Sentencing Project, Mississippi, Margaret Colgate Love, March 7, 2008, http://www.sentencingproject.org/PublicationDetails.aspx?PublicationID=486
  5. The Sentencing Project, Mississippi, Margaret Colgate Love, March 7, 2008, http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Mississippi.pdf
  6. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/28/us/many-pardon-applicants-stressed-connection-to-mississippi-governor.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  7. Miss. Code § 99-45-1.
  8. Miss. Code § 99-43-43.
  9. See Miss. Code § 9-7-139.
  10. The Sentencing Project, Mississippi, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Mississippi.pdf; See Miss. Code §§ 99-19-71 and 99-15-59.
  11. Miss. R. Evid. 609(c).
  12. Miss. Const. art. 12, § 241.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Miss. Code § 99-19-35.
  14. Miss. Code § 44-33-47; see also Miss. Code § 45-33-47(4).
  15. 15.0 15.1 Miss. Code § 97-37-5.
  16. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).
  17. Miss. Code § 99-19-35; Miss. Code § 73-5-25.