Gubernatorial Pardons

By: Anne Kaitlyn Gribbins, EKU Graduate Assistant

What is a Pardon?

As most of us probably know, a pardon is a way of forgiving the crimes of an individual. Though a pardon does forgive crimes, the history of the crime being committed still remains on the individual’s record. Pardons can only be issued by an executive of the government. Once these pardons are issued, they are irreversible, although they can be revoked before they are delivered. Often times, we hear about the President of the United States pardoning individuals of their crimes. However, the President can only issue a pardon for an individual who committed a federal crime. The power to pardon those who commit crimes against the state is reserved for the governor of that state; this is a gubernatorial pardon.

Gubernatorial Pardons

Similar to presidential pardons, gubernatorial pardons are those pardons given out by the governor of a state forgiving individuals of their crimes against that state. Generally speaking, if you wish to earn a pardon for your state-level crime, it will have to come directly from the governor. However, in some states, the governor’s wishes are not enough to obtain a gubernatorial pardon. Sometimes, states have an agency in place that oversees pardons at the state level, and they can work independently or with the governor, depending on the state.

How Does Someone Earn a Pardon?

There is no straightforward answer to this question, other than one must obtain the pardon from the appropriate executive of the state. While a pardon does not indicate innocence, it is typically granted with the rationale that the convicted individual has been rehabilitated for the crime they committed.

Most of the time, an individual can apply for a pardon from the governor if they feel as though they should receive one. However, governors and presidents alike can pardon individuals of their choosing as well, though this is not always the case.

What About Kentucky?

In Kentucky, individuals can apply for a gubernatorial pardon, though this definitely does not guarantee that it will be granted. As mentioned above, the Governor of Kentucky can pardon individuals of their choosing as well as those that apply. It has been an unwritten tradition in Kentucky that outgoing governor’s pardon individuals on their last day in office, but recently this trend has been broken.


Austin, E. (2019, December 12). Can Matt Bevin really do that? The pardon power in Kentucky explained. Courier Journal.

What Is A Governor's Pardon? (n.d.). Retrieved from

Published on March 04, 2020