After Time Served: Pardons and Restoration of Rights

Completing a prison sentence is the first step of rehabilitation, but fully regaining citizenship requires more.

Restoring Your Rights

In Georgia, former offenders regain voting rights immediately upon completion of sentence. There is no application for this, though it is necessary to re-register with the local precinct.

That’s voting. But what about running for elected office? Two years after completing sentence, a former inmate may apply for restoration of civil and political rights (PDF, 339 KB), which covers this right as well as the right to sit on a jury and the right to serve as a Notary Public.

To be approved, the applicant must have lived a law-abiding life since completing sentence, including paying all ordered fines and restitution.

Seeking Pardon

Beyond regaining rights, a rehabilitated offender may seek pardon.

A pardon is an official order of forgiveness, and a former offender may only obtain one by living a law-abiding life of good reputation after completing the prison sentence.

For most convictions, pardons may only be applied for 5 years after completion of prison sentence (including parole and probation, if applicable). For sex offenses, 10 years must pass before applying.

A pardon does not remove the conviction from the pardoned person’s record, but it does serve as official recognition of forgiveness. This may help the rehabilitated offender enter or advance in certain career fields.

The State Board of Pardons and Parole only grants pardons for state convictions. To apply for a pardon from the federal government, contact the U.S. Department of Justice.

Pardon requests take 6 to 9 months to process. For more information, visit the State Board of Pardons and Parole website.

Last updated August 8, 2017.

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