25 Q & As about how to get a Nevada "pardon"


Pardons restore the civil rights and gun rights of people who have been convicted of crimes in Nevada. Pardons do not seal past convictions, but they do "forgive" and may help the person's future job prospects.

The Nevada Pardons Board decides which applicants get pardoned. The Board is more likely to grant pardons when:

  • several years have passed since the criminal case closed;
  • the past crime was not very serious;
  • the applicant has taken responsibility and shows remorse; and
  • the applicant is a positive influence in the community

Pardons are the only way to restore firearms rights in Nevada. And a pardon may keep a non-citizen from getting deported.

In this article our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys answer 25 frequently-asked-questions about pardons in Nevada, including what they can do and how to apply for one. Click on a topic to jump to that section:

Pardon

1. What is a pardon in Nevada?

A pardon is a government-issued "forgiveness" of a person's past crime(s) in Nevada. Pardons do not erase the conviction(s) from the person's record (only a record seal can do that). But pardons 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."

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.1

2. Why should I try to get a Nevada pardon?

There are many benefits of having past criminal conviction(s) pardoned in Nevada:

2.1. Better employment prospects

Prospective employers are more likely to overlook a job applicant's past conviction(s) if he/she has been pardoned. Job applicants may send a copy of their pardon letters with their job application.

And unless otherwise specified, pardons remove all legal disabilities resulting from the criminal conviction. But note that licensing boards can still disqualify an applicant for bad moral character related to a conviction even if he/she gets pardoned for that conviction.

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Pardons are the only way to restore gun rights in Nevada.

2.2. Possible restoration of gun rights

Pardons are the only way for people who have been convicted of a felony to get their firearm rights restored.

2.3. Possible restoration of civil rights

Unless otherwise specified, pardons immediately restore the person's right to vote and serve on a jury in a civil case. Pardons also restore 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.

Note that a pardon will not restore any of these rights if the person has previously been convicted in Nevada of either:

The only way these people may try to get their civil rights reinstated is by petitioning the court which convicted them.

Also note that pardons do not remove any legal disabilities resulting from convictions not named in the pardon. Pardons do not relieve people from requirements to register as a sex offender. And pardons do not seal, expunge, or overturn past convictions.

2.4. Pardoned offenses cannot be used for impeachment

A conviction that has 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.

2.5. Lowers chances of deportation

Non-citizens convicted of a deportable offense are less likely to be thrown out of the country if they get pardoned for that offense.2

3. Can a pardon restore my gun rights in Nevada?

Possibly. 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.

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Not all Nevada pardons restore gun rights.

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 will not restore any gun rights.

Note that if a person has their gun rights restored under a pardon, federal authorities cannot 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 past conviction to prosecute the person for firearm violations.3

4. Am I eligible for a Nevada pardon?

The Pardon Board considers each applicant on a case-by-basis. The state typically grants pardons to people who have demonstrated good conduct for a substantial period of time since their cases have closed. 

In general, the Pardons Board will disqualify people who:

  • are still serving their sentence;
  • are still on parole;
  • are still required to register as a sex offender;
  • are under criminal investigation;
  • have unresolved criminal charges;
  • have a criminal case on appeal; and/or
  • are not completely rehabilitated

But the Pardons Board may make an exception if the application can show "extraordinary circumstances or case factors that mitigate disqualifying criteria."

Note that the Pardons Board typically rejects pardon applications unless a "significant period of time has passed" since the person's case was closed. See the next question for more details.4

5. When can I apply for a Nevada pardon?

In general, the Pardons Board requires that people wait specified time periods before submitting a pardon application. The waiting period depends on the class of conviction:

Nevada conviction to be pardoned Waiting period before submitting Nevada Pardon application

misdemeanor battery domestic violence

five (5) years from the date the applicant is released from actual custody or from the date when he/she is no longer under a suspended sentence, whichever occurs later

category E felony

six (6) years from the date of the release of the applicant from probation, parole or prison confinement

category D felony

eight (8) years from the date of the release of the applicant from probation, OR

nine (9) years from the date of the release of the applicant from parole or prison confinement

category C felony

eight (8) years from the date of the release of the applicant from probation, OR

nine (9) years from the date of the release of the applicant from parole or prison confinement

category B felony

eight (8) years from the date of the release of the applicant from probation, OR

ten (10) years from the date of the release of the applicant from parole or prison confinement

category A felony

twelve (12) years from the date of the release of the applicant from probation, parole or prison confinement

Note that if a person convicted of a felony or battery domestic violence later gets convicted of a misdemeanor, the waiting period to apply for a pardon may not begin until after the misdemeanor case is closed. This rule does not apply to misdemeanor traffic tickets

Also note that the Pardon Board's Executive Secretary may with the consent of a board member waive the minimum time requirement. But the applicant should spell out in the pardon application compelling reasons why the Board should overlook the time requirement.5

6. Can all Nevada crimes be pardoned?

The Nevada Pardons Board usually grants pardons only for felonies and domestic violence.6

Pardon 20weights
The Nevada Pardons Board looks for true remorse and rehabilitation.

7. What are the chances I will get a Nevada pardon?

There is 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:

  • the time that 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 (character, reputation, conduct);
  • the applicant's criminal history;
  • the nature and severity of the crime(s) at issue;
  • whether the applicant has shown remorse and takes full responsibility;
  • how the applicant has adjusted to the community;
  • the impact of the crime on the victim, if any; and
  • compelling needs for the pardon (such as employment reasons)

It always looks good to the Pardon Board when applicants have shown stability, improvement and service in their 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, and/or
  • 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.7

8. Are all Nevada pardons the same?

No. The Nevada Board of Pardons ultimately decides which kind of pardon a person may receive. . .

Some pardons are "full, unconditional pardons." These restore all the person's citizenship rights and lift any legal disabilities that resulted from the conviction. 

Other Nevada pardons limit which rights are restored and which legal disabilities are suspended.8

Nevada 20seal
Nevada cannot pardon out-of-state or federal convictions.

9. Can Nevada 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 is recommended applicants retain counsel to do the application.9

10. Can I get a Nevada pardon if I am on parole?

Generally no, but there are exceptions. Parolees who have served at least one-half of their parole period...or ten (10) years in the case of a life sentence...may be considered for a pardon if:

  • A Pardons Board member requests an applicant's case be placed on the agenda for consideration; and
    • the applicant has received a favorable recommendation for a modification of sentence from the Division of Parole and Probation but the request was denied by the Board of Parole Commissioners; or
    • A petition for modification of sentence submitted by the Board of Parole Commissioners was denied by the court.10

11. How often does the Nevada Pardons Board meet?

It varies. The general public can see the results of Nevada pardon hearings online.11

12. How do I apply for a Nevada pardon?

Applicants can download the Nevada pardon application.

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 has to specify whether they are 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, and/or
  • the conviction has caused the applicant to fail to provide for his/her family
Application

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

Applicants also have to sign and get notarized 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 Pardons Board must receive it within (7) days of receiving the pardon application.12

13. How much does it cost to apply for a Nevada pardon?

Nothing. Applicants just need to pay for 1) a notary to sign off on the waiver and release form, and 2) postage to mail the waiver and release to the Pardons Board.13

14. What happens after I submit the Nevada pardon application?

If a pardon 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 past crime(s) 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, but it is recommended they attend and 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.14

15. Can I get a Nevada pardon without a hearing?

Yes, if the applicant meets all of the following five criteria:

  1. The crime for which the pardon is sought:
    1. did not cause the victim to sustain physical injury;
    2. did not involve force or violence (or the threatened use of force or violence); and
    3. was not a sex crime.
  2. The applicant has never been convicted of:
    1. an offense that caused a victim to sustain physical injury;
    2. an offense involving force or violence (or the threatened use of force or violence); or
    3. a sex crime.
  3. The court which rendered the judgment does not object to the pardon.
  4. The D.A. of the county where the case took place does not object to the pardon.
  5. The Pardons Board has not received a written request for notice concerning a meeting to consider an application for clemency from a victim of a crime committed by the applicant; or, during the course of an investigation of the applicant, a victim of a crime committed by the applicant has not objected to the granting of a pardon to the applicant.

This process may take a few weeks to a few months.15

16. How many pardons does the Nevada Pardons Board grant?

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The Nevada Pardons Board is selective about granting pardons.

The Nevada Pardons Board grants very few pardons. Therefore it is important to have an experienced attorney help complete the pardon application to increase the chances of the Board granting the pardon.16

17. What if I cannot remember my criminal history?

People can contact the Nevada Department of Public Safety, Records & Identification Bureau at (775) 687-1600 for arrest, charge and conviction information in Nevada.17

18. Can I reapply for a Nevada pardon after getting rejected?

No, unless:

  • The person shows a substantial change of circumstance; and
  • The application was previously approved by the Executive Secretary of the Board.18

19. Are Nevada pardons necessary to get civil rights restored?

No. In the majority of cases, people who complete a sentence for a felony conviction automatically regain their rights to vote and serve on a jury (in a civil case). Then they regain their right to hold public office four (4) years after the case ends. And they regain their right to serve on a jury in a criminal case 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.19

20. Can a Nevada pardon get me off the Sex Registry?

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Nevada Pardons do not relieve convicted sex offenders from having to register.

No. Even a full, unconditional Nevada pardon cannot release people from their duty to continue registering as a sex offender.

Instead convicted sex offenders should consult with an attorney about the possibility of petitioning the court to get off the Nevada Sex Registry. Learn more about Nevada sex registration laws.20

21. Do all states recognize Nevada pardons?

States usually honor each other's pardons, but not always. For example a person who has 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.21

22. What if I lose my pardon documents?

The person may file a written request with the appropriate Nevada court. Upon verification that the person has been pardoned, the court will issue an order restoring the person's civil rights. This service is free, but it is recommended he/she retain legal counsel to do the paperwork.22

23. Can non-U.S. citizens get Nevada pardons?

Yes. People facing deportation for a Nevada conviction should describe in their pardon application how being deported would have a negative effect on their family and themselves. 23

24. Will a Nevada pardon prevent deportation?

Perhaps. In the majority of cases, a person cannot be deported based solely on a conviction that has been pardoned. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.24

25. Are Nevada pardons like record seals?

No, they are totally different. Pardons restore certain rights. In contrast, record sealing causes past convictions not to come up in background checks.

Note that people may apply to get their records sealed irrespective of whether they have been pardoned. Also note that it is easier to get a record seal than a pardon.25

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Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE for a FREE consultation.

Convicted in Nevada? Consider a pardon...

If you have 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 our 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


Legal References:

  1. See NRS 213.005 - NRS 213.100.
  2. NRS 213.090; NRS 213.155.
  3. Criteria and Application Instructions, Nevada Pardons Board.
  4. Id.
  5. Id.
  6. Id.
  7. Id.
  8. Id.
  9. Id.
  10. Id.
  11. Id.
  12. Nevada Pardon application.
  13. Criteria and Application Instructions, Nevada Pardons Board.
  14. Id.
  15. NRS 213.035.
  16. Criteria and Application Instructions, Nevada Pardons Board.
  17. Id.
  18. Id.
  19. Id.
  20. Id.
  21. Id.
  22. Id.
  23. Id.
  24. Id.
  25. NRS 179.245.

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