Remove a Felony with a Pardon from the Governor of Michigan

A pardon blots out of existence the conviction so that in the eyes of the law, the offender is as innocent as if he had never committed the offense.

Michigan’s governor may pardon a conviction under his or her “executive clemency” powers. The power of the governor to grant a pardon is derived from the Michigan constitution. Section 14 of Article V of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, provides:

The governor shall have power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons after convictions for all offenses, except cases of impeachment, upon such conditions and limitations as he may direct, subject to procedures and regulations prescribed by law. He shall inform the legislature annually of each reprieve, commutation and pardon granted, stating reasons therefore.

This section of the Constitution permits Michigan’s governor to grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons. A reprieve doesn’t void a conviction, but it stops a court from imposing a sentence. A commutation is a reduction in sentence. A pardon makes a conviction appear as if it never happened.

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What is the process to get a felony pardoned?

The process of requesting a pardon or clemency starts with filing a petition with the Parole Board of the Michigan Department of Corrections. Particular forms and applications must be used; however, an experienced defense lawyer would know how to draft and include a custom petition in support of the request for a pardon or clemency. A custom petition is basically a combination of a biography and a personal sales brochure. The attorney advocates for the pardon or clemency by creating and filing a formal, written memorandum that accurately, credibly, and persuasively tells the petitioner’s story and explains why the relief requested should be granted.

Although the Parole Board will review a pardon application for merit, its function is only to make a recommendation to the Governor. The parole board does not make any “decision.” The final decision on whether to grant an application for parole is made exclusively by the governor. When a decision is reached, the applicant will receive a written decision from the governor’s staff.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys

The steps in the pardon process are:

  • After receipt of the application for a pardon, the Parole Board has 60 days to begin an investigation.
  • Within 10 days, the Parole Board must provide the sentencing judge and the prosecutor written notice of the filing of the application or initiation, together with copies of the application, any supporting materials, and a brief summary of the case.
  • The judge and the prosecutor have 30 days to file any response to the application.
  • The Parole Board must complete its investigation within 270 days.
  • If the Parole Board finds that the application for pardon has merit, it must conduct a public hearing within 90 days. The public hearing must be held before a formal recommendation is transmitted to the governor.
  • Not fewer than 30 days before conducting the public hearing, the Parole Board provide written notice of the public hearing by mail to the attorney general, the sentencing trial judge, and the prosecuting attorney, or their successors in office, and each victim who requests notice
  • Witnesses can be called at the public hearing and a victim must be given an opportunity to address the Parole Board or submit written testimony.
  • If the Parole Board recommends a pardon, by majority vote, it will submit its recommendation in writing to the governor.

Why is it important to get the petition done right the first time?

It is critical to make sure the petition and application are done correctly, without errors, is fully documented, and includes all information supporting the request for relief. If an inexperienced lawyer or self-represented person files an inadequate petition for a pardon that gets rejected, a new petition cannot be filed for two years under most circumstances. Aside from having to wait two years, the bigger problem is that any subsequent petition will not only have to convince the governor that a pardon is justified, but it will also have to overcome the deficiencies in the previous petition. Because attempting to get a second or subsequent request for a pardon is so difficult, the stakes are high when it comes to getting it done right the first time.

What is the effect of a pardon?

A pardon is different than an expungement. An expungement, or setting aside a conviction, results in a conviction being removed from public records. The conviction remains on nonpublic records that are accessible to some governmental agencies and law enforcement. A pardon, on the other hand, completely wipes away any record of a conviction, as if it never happened. Any civil rights lost as a result of a felony conviction, like the right to vote, sit as a juror, and possess firearms, are fully restored following a pardon.

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What is the best way to request a pardon from the governor?

The best way to proceed is with the assistance and expertise of an experienced attorney. The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has decades of experience advocating for clients and winning, even against all the odds. No lawyer can guarantee any result and most applications for pardons are denied. The best thing that a lawyer can do is file the most persuasive petition possible and take measures to increase the odds of a favorable decision by the parole board and the governor. If you would like a free consultation, call us at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will promptly contact you.


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we are not afraid to win!

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