Article IV, Section 11 of the Texas Constitution

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As amended November 8, 2011:

(a) The Legislature shall by law establish a Board of Pardons and Paroles and shall require it to keep record of its actions and the reasons for its actions. The Legislature shall have authority to enact parole laws and laws that require or permit courts to inform juries about the effect of good conduct time and eligibility for parole or mandatory supervision on the period of incarceration served by a defendant convicted of a criminal offense.

(b) In all criminal cases, except treason and impeachment, the Governor shall have power, after conviction or successful completion of a term of deferred adjudication community supervision, on the written signed recommendation and advice of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, or a majority thereof, to grant reprieves and commutations of punishment and pardons; and under such rules as the Legislature may prescribe, and upon the written recommendation and advice of a majority of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, he shall have the power to remit fines and forfeitures. The Governor shall have the power to grant one reprieve in any capital case for a period not to exceed thirty (30) days; and he shall have power to revoke conditional pardons. With the advice and consent of the Legislature, he may grant reprieves, commutations of punishment and pardons in cases of treason.

Editor Comments

As adopted in 1876, this section read: "In all criminal cases, except treason and impeachment, he shall have power, after conviction, to grant reprieves, commutations of punishment and pardons; and under such rules as the Legislature may prescribe he shall have power to remit fines and forfeitures. With the advice and consent of the senate, he may grant pardons in cases of treason, and to this end he may respite a sentence therefor, until the close of the succeeding session of the Legislature; provided, that in all cases of remissions of fines and forfeitures, or grants of reprieve, commutation of punishment or pardon, he shall file in the office of the secretary of state his reasons therefor."

The section was effected by the addition of Article IV, Section 11A.

It was thereafter directly amended in 1936, 1983, 1989, and 2011.

The 1936 amendment created the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Steve Smith

Recent Decisions

  • Vandyke v. State, 538 S.W.3d 561, 574 (Tex.Crim.App. 2017) (footnotes omitted) ("From these definitions, it is apparent that the governor's clemency power allows the governor to affect the punishment an individual is subjected to. The clemency power does not allow the governor to affect the underlying conviction. This is so because a pardon, and other forms of clemency, forgive only the penalty . . . . ; a pardon implies guilt and does not obliterate the fact of the commission of the crime and the conviction. This has always been the understanding of governor's clemency power as it has been enshrined in our Texas Constitution.")

Historic Decisions

  • Oakley v. State, 830 S.W.2d 107, 109 (Tex.Crim.App. 1992) ("This amendment clearly authorized the Legislature to enact laws that permit or require courts to inform juries about the effect and operation of parole laws. In fact, in 1989 the Bill Analysis for Senate Joint Resolution No. 4, the precursor to the amendment in Article IV, Section 11(a), stated that the purpose for the amendment was to 'establish a constitutional basis for any legislative efforts to provide courts with a jury charge regarding good conduct time and parole.' Thus, when the Legislature re-enacted Article 37.07, Section 4, in 1989, it did so pursuant to express constitutional authority.")
  • State ex rel. Smith v. Blackwell, 500 S.W.2d 97, 104 (Tex.Crim.App. 1973) ("Although the procedure authorized by said Section 4.06 could be referred to as a 'resentencing' after conviction, the act of resentencing in Demolli's case would in fact be a 'commutation.' By whatever name the grant of clemency may be called, the substance of the act and not the name by which it is designated controls its effects. . . . We therefore hold that the Legislature exceeded its power in enacting Section 4.06 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act since it is violative of Article IV, Section 11, of our Constitution.")
  • Ex parte Lefors, 303 S.W.2d 394, 398 (Tex.Crim.App. 1957) ("It is true that the courts, in construing the proclamation, should presume that the Governor acted in a regular and lawful manner. The application of this rule avails relator nothing. . . . Construing the clemency proclamation as granting a conditional parole, a lesser clemency than that recommended by the Board of Pardons and Paroles, complies with the rules stated and also requires that the relief prayed for be denied. We know of no reason why the Governor would be precluded from granting a lesser clemency than that recommended by the Board of Pardons and Paroles.")
  • Hankamer v. Templin, 187 S.W.2d 549, 550 (Tex. 1945) (citations omitted) ("In our opinion, the pardon and restoration of citizenship did not reinstate petitioner's privilege to practice, nor restore his former office as an attorney. The governor's power to pardon is limited to criminal cases (treason and impeachment excepted) after conviction. 'A criminal case is * * * 'an action, suit, or cause instituted to secure conviction and punishment for crime.' The disbarment of an attorney is a civil proceeding, and while the penalty assessed against the accused was punishment in a sense, it was not a part of the penalty as such, assessed against him.")
  • Ex parte Ferdin, 183 S.W.2d 466, 467-68 (Tex.Crim.App. 1944) ("A final analysis of the proceedings now before us presents what is in effect an appeal from the act of the Governor in revoking the parole. . . . Neither has this court any power over the acts of the Governor so long as he is within the law and the matter involved is one of his judgment and discretion in the performance of his duty assigned to him by the Constitution as is the matter before us. Whether or not his acts are harsh, ill advised, and arbitrary, is not a matter for this court to decide and that question so earnestly insisted upon by appellant is not given consideration.")
  • Ferguson v. Wilcox, 28 S.W.2d 526, 536 (Tex. 1930) ("Exemption of pardon for impeachment was expressly retained. The subjects of impeachment and treason were thus expressly dealt with by the people in convention assembled, along with and in connection with the powers granted to the Legislative and Executive Departments of government over these particular subjects. Expressly stipulating the authority and powers these two departments of government may exercise over impeachment and over treason, and expressly exception impeachment from pardon, the exclusion is conclusive on these departments.")
  • Snodgrass v. State, 150 S.W. 162, 167 (Tex.Crim.App. 1912) ("The Constitution having conferred upon the executive department the power to grant pardons, this act of the Legislature seeking to confer this power on the district judges of the state is in violation of that provision of the Constitution, and is null and void. . . . The law had a humane object, a worthy purpose, and, if it were possible under our Constitution to uphold it, we would be glad to do so, but, deeming it violative of the provisions of the organic law, we hold that the act is void, and the court did not err in refusing to submit the question to the jury.")

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