Nevada "Pardons" Laws
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys

Pardons are the only way to restore gun rights to a person who's been convicted of a crime in Nevada.

People who've been convicted of a crime in Nevada may be eligible to receive a pardon to restore their civil rights including the right to have a gun.  Pardons are very difficult to get.  But a skilled Nevada criminal defense attorney knows how to craft a compelling pardon application that may prove successful with the Pardons Board.

This article provides an overview of Nevada pardons including what they can do and how to apply for them.  Scroll down for more.

What is a pardon in Las Vegas, Nevada?

A pardon is a government-issued "forgiveness" of a person's past crime in Nevada.  It doesn't erase the conviction from the person's record (only a Nevada record seal can do that).  But a pardon can restore the person's civil rights including gun rights that had been suspended due to the conviction.

In short, pardons "forgive but do not forget."

What are the benefits of having a pardon in Las Vegas, Nevada?

Benefits of having a Nevada pardon for a past criminal conviction(s) include the following:

  • Unless otherwise specified, pardons remove all legal disabilities resulting from the criminal conviction (such as a bar to qualify for certain licenses or jobs)
  • Pardons are the only way for someone who's been convicted of a Nevada crime to get his/her gun rights restored
  • A conviction that's been pardoned cannot then be used to impeach the person (attack his/her credibility) if he/she ever serves as a witness at a later court proceeding.
  • Prospective employers are more likely to overlook a job applicant's past conviction(s) if he/she's been pardoned.  (Job applicants are encouraged to send a copy of their pardon letters with their application.)
  • A pardon may prevent a non-citizen from being removed from the U.S. based only on the conviction that's been pardoned.
  • Unless otherwise specified, pardons immediately restore the person's right to vote and serve on a jury in a civil case.  It also restores the right to hold office after four (4) years, and the right to serve on a jury in a criminal case after six (6) years.  The circumstances under which these civil rights will not be restored to a pardoned applicant are when the person has previously been convicted in Nevada of either:

    (a) a category A felony in Nevada.

    (b) a category B felony in Nevada involving the use of force or violence that resulted in substantial bodily harm in Nevada to the victim.

    (c) two or more felonies in Nevada unless they all arose out of the same act, transaction or occurrence
  • The only way these people may try to get their civil rights reinstated is by petitioning the court which convicted them and asking for an order granting the restoration of civil rights.

Note that a Nevada pardon does not do any of the following:

  • Overturn, seal or expunge a judgment of conviction.
  • Relieve the person from any requirement to register as a sex offender.
  • Remove legal disabilities resulting from any convictions not named in the pardon.
  • Guarantee that a certain employer or licensing board will grant the pardoned person a job or license.  A licensing board can still disqualify an applicant for bad moral character related to a conviction even if he/she gets pardoned for that conviction.
Is a pardon the only way that someone who's been convicted of a felony can get his/her gun rights restored in Las Vegas, Nevada?

Yes.  People who have been convicted of a felony in Nevada are prohibited from owning or possessing a gun unless they get a pardon restoring that right.  Note that people applying for a pardon have to check the box on the pardon application indicating that they want to get their gun rights back.  Otherwise, the Pardon Board won't restore any gun rights.

Note that if a person has their gun rights restored under a pardon, federal authorities can't use the pardoned conviction to prosecute him/her for "unlawful possession of a firearm" under federal law.  But also note that some states have stricter gun laws than federal law does, and these states may still be able to use the conviction to prosecute the person for firearm violations.

Are all pardons the same in Las Vegas, Nevada?

No.  Some are "full, unconditional pardons."  These restore all the person's citizenship rights and lift any legal disabilities that resulted from the conviction.  But some pardons limit which rights are restored and which legal disabilities are suspended.  The Nevada Board of Pardons ultimately decides which kind of pardon a person may receive.

Do people have to apply for a pardon in order to get one in Las Vegas, Nevada?

Yes.  The government doesn't issue pardons without a formal application.

Who decides whether to grant someone a pardon in Las Vegas, Nevada?

The Nevada Board of Pardon Commissioners hears and decides all pardon matters.  The Board is comprised of the Nevada governor, the Nevada Supreme Court justices, and the Nevada Attorney General.

How often does the Pardons Board meet to decide pardon applications in Nevada?

The Nevada Pardons Board meets at least two times a year to rule on pardon applications.  These meetings take place on the second Tuesday of September and March unless otherwise designated by the Board.

Who is eligible for pardons in Las Vegas, Nevada?

People who have been convicted of a crime in Nevada are eligible for a pardon only if they are no longer serving their sentence.  People still on parole are not eligible.  Furthermore, the Pardons Board typically rejects pardon applications unless a "significant period of time has passed" since the person's case was closed.  And the applicant needs to be completely rehabilitated.

What kinds of crimes can be pardoned in Las Vegas, Nevada?

The Pardons Board usually grants pardons only for felonies in Nevada or domestic violence misdemeanors in Nevada.

Can the Nevada Pardons Board grant pardons for out-of-state or federal convictions?

No.  To apply for an out-of-state pardon, contact that state's Pardon Commission.  To apply for a federal pardon, go to the United States Department of Justice Office of the Pardon Attorney for instructions and applications.  It's recommended applicants retain counsel to do the application.

How difficult is it to be granted a pardon in Las Vegas, Nevada?

The Nevada Pardons Board grants very few pardons.  In 2004 they granted only 4% of the applications they received.  Therefore it's important to have an experienced attorney help complete the pardon application to increase the chances of the Board granting the pardon.

How can people increase their chances of being granted a pardon in Las Vegas, Nevada?

There's no foolproof formula for being granted a pardon in Nevada.  The Pardon Board considers each application on a case-by-case basis.  Predictably, people with older and minor convictions are more likely to get a pardon than those with newer and serious convictions.

When deciding whether to grant a pardon the Pardon Board considers several factors including:

  • how much time elapsed since the applicant completed the sentencing requirements
  • whether the applicant fulfilled all sentencing requirements, including fines and costs
  • whether the applicant had positive life changes since the conviction
  • if the applicant has a compelling need for the Pardon
  • how the crime impacted the victim, if any

It always looks good to the Pardon Board when the applicant has shown stability, improvement and service in his/her life since the conviction.  Applicants should outline all the positive things that have happened to them such as:

  • getting a degree
  • holding a job
  • having a family
  • doing community service and charity work
  • avoiding arrests

Applicants should show remorse for their past crimes, rather than explain why they committed them or claim to have been falsely convicted.  Applicants are encouraged to include letters of recommendation from employers or clergymen attesting to their good character.

How much does it cost to apply for a pardon in Las Vegas, Nevada?

Nothing.  Applicants just need to pay for a notary to sign off on the application and postage to send the application to the Pardons Board.

How does someone apply for a pardon in Las Vegas, Nevada?

Applicants should contact the Pardons Board at (775) 687-5049 or to request that a form be mailed or emailed to them. Prospective applicants can also write to:

Board of Pardons Commissioners
1445 Old Hot Springs Rd. #108B
Carson City, NV 89711

The application asks for some basic information including the person's name, contact information, date of birth, and Social Security number.  It also asks for detailed information about the person's past convictions and sentences. The applicant also has to specify whether they're requesting that their gun rights be restored and why.

One of the most important sections of the application is where the applicant lists "extraordinary circumstances" in their life which would warrant a pardon.  Applicants should use a separate sheet of paper to give a specific and heartfelt account of why they need a pardon.  Good reasons may include:

  • the conviction has caused the applicant to be denied housing
  • the conviction has caused the applicant to be denied employment
  • the conviction has caused the applicant to fail to provide for his/her family

The applicant may also submit proof (such as rejection and denial letters) to back up their assertions.

Applicants also have to sign the waiver and release form included in the application.  This allows the Pardons Board to look into information about the person's job history, criminal history, education, credit history, bank and tax records, medical records, and other information.  The Board requires three copies of the form which have to be signed and dated by a notary public.

When can a person apply for a pardon in Las Vegas, Nevada?

People seeking a pardon in Nevada must submit the application no less than sixty (60) days before the Pardon Board's semiannual meeting.  These meetings usually occur on the second Tuesday of September and March unless otherwise stated by the Board.

What if a person applying for a pardon doesn't remember all their conviction information in Las Vegas, Nevada?

People can contact the Nevada Department of Public Safety, Records & Identification Bureau at (775) 687-1600 for arrest, charge and conviction information in Nevada.

Can someone who's been denied a pardon reapply for a pardon in Las Vegas, Nevada?

No, not unless:

  • The person shows a substantial change of circumstance; and
  • The application was previously approved by the Executive Secretary of the Board.
What happens when the Pardons Board reviews a pardon application in Las Vegas, Nevada?

If the application makes the first "cut," the Board will conduct a complete background check on the applicant.  They may even contact the D.A. and any victims from the crime for further information.  This is why applicants are encouraged to be truthful in their applications . . . the Board will turn down any applicants who hide anything relevant or important.

After the background check the Board may hold a hearing.  Applicants are not required to attend are still recommended to attend and to dress in business attire. The Board requests recommendations from the D.A., district judge, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections and, if applicable, the chair of the board of the county commissioners.  These people may also testify.

During the hearing the Board may take testimony under oath and may consider any certified depositions or affidavits.  Anyone wishing to testify at the hearing who was not listed in the application needs to notify the board at least ten (10) days in advance of the hearing.

If the Board grants the pardon, an official document will be given to the applicant showing that he/she has been granted a pardon and the dates when certain rights are restored.  The pardon document may also include various details, limitations or restrictions such as whether the pardon restores the person's gun rights.

Does everyone who's been convicted of a crime need a pardon to get their rights restored in Las Vegas, Nevada?

No.  In the majority of cases a person who's completed a sentence for a felony conviction automatically gets their rights to vote and to serve on a jury (in a civil case) restored.  Then the right to hold public office is restored four (4) years after the sentence ends, and the right to serve on a jury in a criminal case is restored six (6) years after the sentence ends.

So although pardons are nice to have, in many cases they are not necessary to get civil rights restored in Nevada.

Can a pardon relieve someone from having to register as a sex offender in Las Vegas, Nevada?

No.  Even a full, unconditional pardon can't release someone from his/her duty to continue registering as a sex offender.  These people should consult with an attorney about the possibility of petitioning the court to get off the Nevada Sex Registry.  For information about Nevada sex registration laws, go to our article on Nevada sex registration laws.

Do all states recognize Nevada pardons?

States usually honor each other's pardons, but not always.  For example a person who's had gun rights restored in Nevada from a pardon might still be prohibited from having guns in another state.  Therefore people should seek legal counsel from other states to see whether their pardons have the same effect.

What if a pardoned person loses his/her pardon documents in Las Vegas, Nevada?

The person may file a written request with the appropriate Nevada court.  Upon verification that the person's been pardoned, the court will issue an order restoring the person's civil rights.  This service is free, but it's recommended he/she retain legal counsel to do the paperwork.

Can non-US citizens apply for a pardon in Las Vegas, Nevada?

Yes.  People facing deportation from a conviction should describe in their application how being deported would have a negative effect on their family and themselves.  Learn more about criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada at our article on criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

Can a Nevada pardon relieve a non-citizen from being deported?

Perhaps.  In the majority of cases, a person can't be deported based solely on a conviction that's been pardoned.

What are certificates of good conduct in Las Vegas, Nevada?

A Certificate of Good Conduct in Nevada is almost identical to pardons except that it can be used for out-of-state convictions but cannot restore the right to have firearms.  People can apply for a Certificate of Good Conduct in Nevada as long as they lived instate for 5 years.  Read about how to apply for a Certificate of Good Conduct in Nevada.

Note that people are allowed to apply for Certificates of Good Conduct regardless of whether they've already applied for or received a pardon.  Also note that Nevada isn't currently issuing any Certificates of Good Conduct, but this policy may change soon.

What are record seals in Las Vegas, Nevada?

People may be eligible to have their Nevada criminal record sealed so that their conviction(s) and past arrests no longer come up on background checks.  A record seal doesn't restore rights but it may improve job prospects.  Read about how to get Nevada criminal records sealed.  Note that people may apply to get their records sealed irrespective of whether they've been pardoned.

Convicted?  Consider a pardon . . . .

If you've been convicted of a crime in Nevada, you may want to consider applying for a pardon to get your rights restored and to lift any legal disabilities.  Contact Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation on pardons as well as Nevada record seals.

To learn how to apply for a Governor's Pardon in California, go to our informational article on how to apply for a Governor's Pardon in California

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