Colorado Governor’s Pardon: A Long Shot Alternative to Colorado’s Harsh Expungement Laws

The Colorado Executive Pardon

Authority: The pardon power is vested in the Governor of Colorado, except in cases of treason or impeachment. The Colorado Constitution says that the Governor “shall have power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons after conviction, for all offenses” except in cases of treason and impeachment.

The Colorado Constitution Article IV, § 7. gives the Colorado State legislature the power to regulate manner of applying for Clemency, and the Governor must report to the state legislature on all grants. The clemency power is regulated by Colo. Rev. Stat. 1-2-103(4).

The Governor can place any conditions on a pardon as he deems proper, so long as the condition is not illegal, immoral, or impossible to perform.

The Legislature can make laws regulating the manner in which a pardon shall be granted. The procedure the Legislature has enacted for the pardon process is found in Colorado Revised Statutes, Sections 16-17-101 and 16-17-102.

An Executive Clemency Advisory Board makes recommendations to the Governor on all pardon applications, except for cases involving treason and impeachment. The Board consists of seven unpaid members who are appointed by the Governor.

To receive a recommendation for the pardon, at least four members of the Board must vote to recommend the pardon.


In order to even be recommended for a pardon by the Executive Clemency Advisory Board, the applicant must have completed the sentence imposed and the applicant must demonstrate that he/she has fully been rehabilitated and re-integrated into society.

Ten years must have passed since completion of the sentence.

An applicant is not eligible for a pardon if they are currently incarcerated or are serving a life sentence. In such cases, a application for a commutation (shortening of the sentence) instead. Commutation is simply form of clemency; the procedure for applying is essentially the same as a pardon.

The Governor can only grant a pardon for a Colorado State conviction.

To achieve a pardon on a Federal conviction, the application is made through the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Pardon Attorney

To be eligible to apply for a pardon, apply as follows.

State of Colorado
Executive Chambers
136 State Capitol
Denver, Colorado 80203-1792
Phone 303-866-2471

Pardon Applicants

There are two basic forms of executive clemency in Colorado. A commutation of sentence is the shortening of a criminal sentence being served and a pardon is a public acclamation or forgiveness for a crime after the sentence has been completed. Both clemency requests require that a completed executive clemency application be submitted for review prior to presentation before the Governor of the State of Colorado.

Commutations of sentence are initiated by the inmate with the assistance of the Department of Corrections case managers.

Pardon applications are accepted only after 10 years have passed since completion of the sentence. Exceptions are granted rarely, and generally only after the sentence has been vacated by the courts.

Restoration of firearms privileges are petitioned separately through the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms after a pardon is granted.

Applicants requesting a pardon from the Governor of Colorado must complete certain forms. Here is a link to obtain those forms.

Copies of the completed application are sent to the presiding judge and district attorney in the judicial district where the conviction took place. Colorado law requires that the Colorado Governor solicit the comments of the appropriate judge and the district attorney. Any victims of the crime are also contacted.

Clemency applications are routinely reviewed by the Executive Clemency Advisory Board for recommendation. The Governor has final discretion to grant, refuse or table all clemency applications.

Most court records can be located with the guidance of the clerk of the court of jurisdiction. Applicants may obtain fingerprints, criminal records and criminal histories from the local law enforcement identification bureau.

An application may take from six months to one year to process.

As in most states, a pardon (and other types of clemency) in Colorado is a privilege, not a right. It is an act of grace that the Governor can bestow at his discretion. Neither the Governor nor the Board is under any obligation to consider an application for clemency.

Few, if any, pardons are granted in Colorado. Only a few pardons have been granted in recent years.

The chance of getting a pardon largely depends on individual circumstances. The older and less serious the conviction, and the more compelling the life story is, the higher the chance of getting a pardon.

The opportunity of obtaining a pardon also depends on who is serving as Governor at the time your application is reviewed; some Governors are more lenient than others in handing out pardons.

The Application Process

(see my Part II – on this subject)

There are no fees to apply for a pardon in Colorado.

The Governor’s office has not made its clemency/pardon application materials available on the Internet. In order to apply, you should contact the Governor’s office directly at 303-866-2471 to have an application sent to you.

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