An Overview of Florida’s Clemency Process: Everything You Need to Know About Pardoning Your Criminal Conviction

June 29, 2021 Criminal Defense, Seal or Expunge Criminal Record


After getting convicted of a criminal offense, it may feel as if you’re left with little to no options. Holding a criminal conviction on your record can negatively impact your life, such as making it difficult to find a career or place to live. Despite these difficulties, the state of Florida offers relief through the process of clemency.

If a person is granted clemency through the Governor, it allows them to escape the mark of a conviction on their record. There is also the possibility of receiving the restitution of rights, such as the ability to vote and own a firearm. If you are a convicted person seeking clemency, it is advisable to speak with an experienced Florida defense attorney who can help explain the legal process.

What is Clemency?

Under Florida’s Constitution, the Governor holds the executive power of clemency.

The Florida Commission on Offender Review defines clemency as “the constitutionally authorized process that provides the means through which convicted felons may be considered for relief from punishment and seek restoration of their civil rights.” Clemency is viewed as an act of mercy, since the process can result in absolving a person from any part, or all the legally imposed punishment.

Clemency is granted when the Governor, with the approval of two members of the Cabinet, grants full or conditional pardons. Alongside granting clemency, the Governor also has the sole authorization to deny clemency.

Who Qualifies for Clemency?

To qualify for clemency in Florida, the offender must have completed their sentence, including any terms of supervision. The individual cannot have any pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants for their arrest. In addition, they are required to have paid all victim restitution, and meet and of the timeframes established by the Board of Executive Clemency.

Clemency eligibility is also dependent on the specific type of clemency the convicted person is seeking. As the clemency process can be confusing and nuanced, it is best to discuss your options with a Florida criminal defense attorney.

Who is on the Clemency Board?

The Board of Executive Clemency is made up of the Florida Governor and three selected board members. The Board establishes the Rules of Executive Clemency, as well as making the final determination on clemency application.

What are the Different Types of Clemency?

There are several different types of clemency in Florida, which are listed below. Each type of clemency is for a specific purpose, so not every person will be eligible for every type. It is important to note that juveniles who were not adjudicated guilty in an adult court are not eligible for clemency.

If you or someone you know believes you may be eligible for clemency, it is in your best interest to consult with a legal professional. If you are still facing criminal prosecution, contact an experienced defense attorney who can help fight the charges prior to a conviction.

A Full Pardon

This type of clemency releases an individual from any punishment or guilt associated with any Florida conviction. This is an all-encompassing type of clemency because it restores the applicant’s rights of citizenship in totality and includes the right to own, possess, or use firearms.

A Pardon Without Firearm Authority

This type of clemency also releases a person from the guilt and punishment associated with their criminal conviction. It is one step behind a “Full Pardon” because it restores the applicant’s rights of citizenship in totality but does not include the right to own, possess, or use firearms.

A Pardon for a Misdemeanor

This type of clemency forgives the applicant from the punishment and guilt associated with a misdemeanor conviction.

A Commutation of Sentence

This type of clemency adjusts an applicant’s penalty to a less severe sentence. However, it does not restore any rights of citizenship and does not include the rights to own, possess, or use firearms.

A Remission of Fines and Forfeitures

This type of clemency reduces, suspends, or removes the fines and forfeitures associated with the applicant’s criminal conviction.

The Specific Authority to Own, Possess, or Use Firearms

This type of clemency restores the applicant’s right to own, possess, or use firearms that they lost because of their criminal conviction. This type of clemency possesses many caveats because of federal firearms laws. For example. The Clemency Board will not consider requests for the authority to own, possess, or use firearms from applicants convicted in federal or out of state courts. Additionally, the Clemency Board must comply with the feral laws, so a Presidential Pardon or a Relief of Disability must be issued in cases involving federal convictions. Furthermore, A Pardon or Restoration of Civil Rights with zero firearm restrictions must be issued by the state where the conviction occurred. To read more about this topic, please refer to our blog post: Restoration of Gun Rights in Florida.

The Restoration of Civil Rights in Florida

This type of clemency restores the applicant’s rights of citizenship in Florida that they had prior to their conviction. However, this does not include the right to own, possess, or use firearms. Additionally, this type of clemency does not relieve the applicant from registration or notification requirements imposed by prior sexual offenses (or other requirements included as terms of the sentence for sex offenders).

How Do I Apply for Clemency in Florida?

Any individual seeking clemency, including the restoration of rights, must complete an application submitted to the Office of Executive Clemency. These application forms are available on the Clemency page of the Florida Commission on Offender Review website and can be made available by the Coordinator if requested. All applications for clemency must be filed with the coordinator on the forms provided, and they must include the required court documents.

How Does the Florida Clemency Process Work?      

When an applicant submits their clemency application to the Office of Executive Clemency, it is screened to see if the applicant meets the eligibility requirements. If the applicant is found to be eligible, the application is forwarded to the Office of Clemency Investigations, so the applicant’s cases can be investigated for further eligibility. If that process results in a finding that the applicant is ineligible, the Office of Executive Clemency will advise the applicant of the disqualifying issues and give guidance. If the investigative process does not disqualify the candidate, the application materials are forwarded to the Clemency Board for a decision. If the Clemency Board grants the application, the certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights will be mailed to the applicant. This entire process, including the application submittal, is free of charge and provided by the State of Florida.

Does Clemency Expunge or Seal My Criminal Record?

Unfortunately, clemency does not expunge, remove, or clear any criminal convictions from the record. Expunging and sealing can be achieved, however, by a different process. 

How Can We Help?

Though Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm do not assist in the clemency process, we can intervene prior to sentencing and represent you or a loved one in a criminal matter to ensure that your rights are zealously fought for. Call (850) 6811-7777 or send an online message today to discuss your rights during an open and free consultation with our legal team.

*The content provided on this page is for information purposes. This area of criminal defense is not practiced by the attorneys at Pumphrey Law. Please click here to locate an attorney in your area.*

This article was written by Karissa Key

Page updated on September 20, 2023

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