Explaining the Maryland Pardon Process

The recent controversy in Mississippi over Governor Barbour's pardons has led many people to ask about the pardon process in Maryland. Like the governors of 40 other states, Maryland's governor has the power under the state constitution to pardon persons convicted of crimes and to commute the sentence of persons currently serving a prison sentence.

If you have been convicted of a crime, you are generally not eligible to have your records expunged. The only way to clear your record is to obtain a pardon from the governor. While pardons are rare, there is a process that can be followed to request this relief.

Gubernatorial Pardons

The Constitution of Maryland gives the Governor the authority to issue pardons. Article II, Section 20 says:

He shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons, except in cases of impeachment, and in cases, in which he is prohibited by other Articles of this Constitution; ... and before granting a ... pardon, he shall give notice, in one or more newspapers, of the application made for it, and of the day on, or after which, his decision will be given...

The only requirement under the Constitution is that the Governor give notice. However, all governors have established certain procedures to be followed for a pardon request to be followed for a pardon request to be considered. Currently, pardon requests are first processed by the Maryland Parole Commission.

How to request a pardon in Maryland

While our firm does not handle pardons, the Maryland Parole Commission processes and reviews all pardon applications. They are reviewed and forwarded to the Governor, who typically has his office of legal counsel review each application. The Governor then decides whether to grant a pardon. Whether to grant a pardon request is within the Governor's sole discretion. Only convictions under state law can be pardoned by the Governor. Federal convictions can only be pardoned by the President.

A copy of the current pardon application can be viewed here. The current requirements for a pardon application to be considered are:

  • Persons convicted of misdemeanors have must have been crime free for five years.
  • Felons must have been crime free for ten years.
  • Persons convicted of a crime of violence or certain controlled dangerous substances offenses, must have been crime free for 20 years, or, in some cases, 15 years.

The complete guidelines for evaluating pardon applications can be found on the Maryland Parole Commission's website.

Conditional pardons and partial pardons

Instead of a full pardon, the Governor may also grant a conditional pardon or a partial pardon. Conditional pardons require the person receiving the pardon to comply with certain conditions in order to get the benefits of the pardon.

A partial pardon does not act as a complete pardon, but simply restores some of the rights that a convicted felon typically loses, such as the right to vote or the right to possess firearms.