Absolute Pardons and Writ of Actual Innocence

An absolute pardon may be granted when the Governor is convinced that the petitioner is innocent of the charge for which he or she was convicted. An individual is eligible to petition for an absolute pardon ONLY if he/she pled Not Guilty throughout the judicial process and exhausted all forms of judicial appeals and other remedies.  An absolute pardon is rarely granted.

In 2004, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation giving individuals convicted of crime the opportunity to have the court itself consider claims of innocence, even after a conviction.  If the court finds it made an erroneous conviction, the court then issues a Writ of Actual Innocence. (This legislation is in the Code of Virginia in Sections 19.2-327 through 19.2-327.13.) In most circumstances, this avenue for pardon must also be tried before appealing to the Governor. Writ of Actual Innocence paperwork should be filed with the Office of the Attorney General, not with the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. 

If all remedies have been exhausted as required by law, you may then submit a petition for an absolute pardon to the Governor, along with evidence that the court has rejected your claim under the new law above, or an explanation of the legal basis for why you believe the new law is not applicable to your situation. 

Eligibility criteria to request an Absolute Pardon:

  • You pled “Not Guilty” throughout the judicial process.
  • You have exhausted all forms of judicial appeals.
  • Your have petitioned the Attorney General’s office for a Writ of Actual Innocence 

How to Request an Absolute Pardon:

  • Complete the Virginia Pardon Petition Questionnaire
  • As requested on the questionnaire, provide additional information related to your juvenile and adult criminal record, sentencing information, appellate court information, employment history, educational background, military service, community service, as well as the reason you feel the governor should grant you a simple pardon.

You must answer all questions and provide all relevant information necessary for your petition to be reviewed. If a question does not apply, put N/A in the blank.

Documents (or copies of documents) submitted to our office for pardon consideration cannot be copied or returned. For this reason, please be sure to retain copies of all documents sent to our office.

To ensure an accurate petition, it is recommended that you obtain a copy of your criminal history from the Virginia State Police Criminal Records Division prior to submitting a pardon request.

The petition process does not include a hearing, meeting or conference with the petitioner or persons on the petitioner’s behalf.

There is no reliable method of predicting how long a pardon petition investigation will take to complete. The investigation process may take a year or longer.

If a petition is denied, the petitioner cannot appeal the decision but the petitioner may file a new petition two years after the date of the denial letter.

Mailing address:
Pardons Specialist
Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth
Post Office Box 2454
Richmond, Virginia 23218-2454

For additional information, please email our office at pardons@governor.virginia.gov or by phone at 804-692-2542