The Tennessee Pardon Process

Published: 08th August 2009
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Due to the difficulties associated with qualifying for expungement in Tennessee, for many convicted of a crime the only other option is to apply for executive clemency, more commonly known as a pardon.

In Tennessee, the pardon process is lengthy and difficult. The pardon is a moral decision - you must truly show to the governor that you are worthy of a pardon and that have you have a really good reason for requesting one. Good reasons, for example, can include wanting to go to school to further one's education or needing to get a professional certification. With a pardon, your criminal past is forgiven, not forgotten. A pardon in Tennessee does not erase the conviction from your record, but it shows that you have been forgiven by the state for whatever occurred. A pardon can go a long way toward alleviating the concerns an individual, educational institution or employer may legitimately have about the conviction on your criminal record.

Carefully crafting to pardon application is of utmost importance: two-thirds of pardon applications are rejected outright by the Board of Probation and Parole, who is responsible for offering pardon recommendations to the governor. If the Board feels your application has sufficient merit, a hearing will be scheduled for you where you can make the case that you are worthy of pardon consideration.

There are a few minimum, bare requirements for applying for a pardon in Tennessee: you must have five (5) personal recommendations, you must have fully completed your sentence, and you must have stayed out of trouble since completing your sentence. These are, in fact, the bare minimums. Your chances are helped by the quality and quantity of your recommendations as well as your resume, so to speak, of self-betterment and community involvement. The more you can show the Board that you "deserve" the pardon, the more likely you will be successful.

Like many things of the law, it is best to have a criminal attorney who is familiar with the pardon / clemency process assist you. The low recommendation rate alone speaks to the difficulty and complexity of obtaining a pardon in Tennessee. Your best presentation is required if you are to have a chance at impressing the Board of Probation and Parole. You must put your best foot forward when asking for a governor's pardon, similar to the way you would go about a job interview. It is precisely the same when petitioning for a pardon; therefore, it is important to make sure you make your best first impression. It is vital that the Board think you worthy of forgiveness the first time they see you, and the only way to ensure that is extensive preparation.


Nathan Moore is a Tennessee criminal lawyer whose practice is based in Nashville, Tennessee. His services include criminal defense, appeals, expungements and applications for clemency. If you are interested in applying for a pardon, feel free to contact him at (615) 346-2213 or you can discover more about obtaining a pardon on his firm website.

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