Pardons, Firearm Rights, and Commutations

Pardon & Restoration of Firearm Rights

A pardon restores all rights lost due to a conviction, including the right to vote, the right to hold public office, and the right to possess a firearm. A pardon will not erase or expunge the record of conviction, but is placed on a criminal background sheet and relieves an individual from any further punishment imposed by reason of that conviction.

In Iowa, any person convicted of a felony in a state or federal court is prohibited from receiving, transporting, or possessing a firearm. The Governor has the authority to, in certain cases, restore those firearm rights.

The Governor uses a joint Application for Pardon and/or Restoration of Firearm Rights. Below is a list of common questions about the pardon and restoration of firearm rights process. If you don’t see your question addressed here, call the Governor’s Office at (515) 281-5211.

1. Who can apply for a pardon?

The Governor has the authority to grant a pardon for any conviction in an Iowa court, except treason and cases of impeachment.

If an individual was convicted of a federal offense, they may apply for a Presidential Pardon through the Pardon Attorney’s Office of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Click here to visit the Pardon Attorney’s website.

If an individual was convicted in another state, he or she should contact that state’s governor’s office or other appropriate authority (e.g., a state board of pardons and paroles).

2. Who can apply for restoration of firearm rights?

The Governor has the authority to restore firearm rights for most non-serious convictions in Iowa courts. The Governor cannot restore firearm rights for any federal or out-of-state conviction. Under Iowa law, a person convicted of any of the following offenses cannot have his or her firearm rights restored:

  • A felony violation of chapter 124 (“Controlled Substances”) that involves a firearm;
  • A felony violation of chapter 724 (“Weapons”); or
  • A “forcible felony,” which includes:
    • Felony child endangerment;
    • Most felony assaults;
    • Murder;
    • Most felony sexual abuse offenses;
    • Kidnapping;
    • Robbery;
    • Human trafficking;
    • First-degree arson; or
    • First-degree burglary.

3. When can someone apply for a pardon or restoration of firearm rights?

It is the general policy of the Governor to require at least ten years to pass from the date a person discharges their sentence before granting a pardon, and at least five years to pass from the date a person discharges their sentence before restoring a person’s firearm rights. This waiting period is designed to demonstrate an ability to lead a responsible, productive, and law-abiding life after conviction. Any waiver from the Governor’s general policy is rare and under exceptional circumstances.

4. Can someone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic abuse offense have firearm rights restored?

Federal law prohibits possession of a firearm by a person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Although the Governor cannot restore firearm rights that have not been lost due to an Iowa conviction (a person does not lose his or her right to possess a firearm because of a misdemeanor conviction), a person in these circumstances must apply for a pardon of the misdemeanor domestic abuse conviction.

5. Can the Governor grant clemency to a person who receives a deferred judgment?

The Governor does not have the power to grant a pardon to an individual that received a deferred judgment, because the Governor’s pardon power is limited to those offenses “after conviction.”

If an individual receives a deferred judgment for an offense that disqualifies him or her from possessing firearms, no weapons may be received, transported, or possessed while on probation.  After successfully completing supervision on the deferred judgment, the individual has his or her firearm rights once again.

6. What is the process to apply for a pardon or restoration of firearm rights?

Once your application is submitted to the Iowa Board of Parole, it is reviewed by administrative staff at the Board. The application may then be forwarded to the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) for a full review. During this time, you and other individuals you know may be contacted to verify the information provided in your application is correct. The full Iowa Board of Parole will then review your application and submit a recommendation to the Governor. The Governor then reviews the completed application and the Board of Parole’s recommendation when making a final decision on the application. The entire process may take up to approximately two years from the date the application is submitted.

Commutation

A “commutation of sentence” means the reduction or lessening of an original sentence by any number of years, months, or days. The Governor has the authority to reduce a sentence of life imprisonment to a term of years with parole eligibility, and may reduce a sentence of a certain term of years (i.e., a mandatory minimum sentence) to a lesser indeterminate sentence.

  • Pursuant to Iowa law, a person who has been sentenced to life imprisonment may, no more frequently than once every ten years, make an application to the Governor requesting that the person’s sentence be commuted to a term of years.
  • The Governor only has the authority to commute a sentence imposed by an Iowa court, and cannot commute a sentence imposed in federal court or in any other jurisdiction.

Click here to download the Application for Commutation. Once completed, the application should be sent to the Iowa Board of Parole. After an investigation and review process conducted by the Board of Parole, your application will be sent to the Governor for a final decision.