Virginia Record Sealing & Expungement Blog

Absolute Pardon in Virginia: Innocence Amongst Conviction

Last updated: March 4, 2024

In Virginia criminal justice, an absolute pardon stands as a beacon of hope for those who have been wrongly convicted. This article examines the intricacies of an absolute pardon, the eligibility criteria, and the critical role it plays as a last resort in the pursuit of justice.

Understanding a Virginia Absolute Pardon

In Virginia, an absolute pardon is the highest form of clemency granted by the Governor, signifying complete innocence in the eyes of the law. It serves as an ultimate remedy when all other legal avenues have been exhausted.

The Eligibility Criteria

Not everyone is eligible for an absolute pardon. To qualify, individuals must meet specific criteria:

  1. Pleading Not Guilty
    Throughout the judicial process, the petitioner must have consistently maintained their plea of “not guilty.” This unwavering stance is crucial in demonstrating their claim of innocence.
  2. Exhausting All Remedies
    Eligibility for an absolute pardon requires the exhaustion of all possible legal remedies, including judicial appeals and the pursuit of a Writ of Actual Innocence. This exhaustive effort underscores the petitioner’s commitment to proving their innocence.

The Role of an Absolute Pardon

An absolute pardon plays a pivotal role in the pursuit of justice:

  1. Rectifying Wrongful Convictions
    It serves as the last line of defense against wrongful convictions, offering a path to exoneration for those who have been unjustly accused and imprisoned.
  2. Restoring Dignity and Reputation
    An absolute pardon not only frees individuals from the burden of a wrongful conviction but also restores their dignity and reputation, allowing them to reclaim their lives.
  3. Reaffirming Trust in the Legal System
    By granting absolute pardons, the legal system reaffirms its commitment to rectifying errors and upholding the principle that no one should be unjustly punished.

The Process of Seeking an Absolute Pardon

The journey towards an absolute pardon is not an easy one. It typically involves extensive legal proceedings, the presentation of compelling evidence of innocence, and the scrutiny of the Governor’s office. Each case is evaluated meticulously to ensure justice is served.


In conclusion, an absolute pardon in Virginia represents the highest form of official forgiveness, granted only when there is compelling evidence of innocence and all other legal avenues have been exhausted. It stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment to justice, rectifying wrongful convictions, and restoring the lives of those who have been unjustly accused. In the pursuit of justice, the absolute pardon serves as a beacon of hope and a critical safeguard against miscarriages of justice.


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