Expungements and Pardons
“Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” It’s a question some job applicants take for granted. But if you’ve had to check the box next to “Yes” and explain why you did so, it’s a question that you’ve probably come to dread. Are you stuck in a dead-end job? Are you haunted by a past mistake or lapse in judgment? Are you looking to improve yourself? To do better by your family? If you’re on the straight and narrow and you just can’t seem to outrun the shadow cast by your conviction, perhaps it’s time to consider expungement or pardon.
Clemency may seem like a lofty concept, but with the right legal counsel it may be possible to put the past behind you. When a client seeks my advice on the matter of expungement or pardon, I feel my first responsibility is to educate him or her on the differences between expungement and pardon and assess which option best suits his or her particular situation.
Criminal expungement is a judicial ruling that seals one’s criminal record such that it is no longer visible during a criminal background check. In spite of being “sealed,” the record remains accessible to certain public officials, including police, FBI, and immigration authorities. Expungement is typically sought by individuals whose misdemeanor or felony convictions have prevented them from obtaining work, housing, or a professional license because of their criminal background. Convictions of minor crimes can only be expunged if you can demonstrate that you have made real changes in your life and that it is highly unlikely that you will commit a future crime.
In the state of Minnesota, the power to pardon does not rest solely with the governor. The Board of Pardons is made up of the governor, the attorney general, and the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, each of whom have an equal vote in matters of clemency. The board meets at least twice a year to consider the applications before it. Their meetings are open to the public, and the victim(s) of an applicant’s crime and law enforcement have the right to submit written or oral statements detailing their recommendations for why pardon should be granted or denied. A vote to grant clemency must be unanimous. There are two types of pardons in Minnesota. The application process is essentially the same for both types of pardons, the distinction lies in whether or not the applicant is currently serving his or her sentence or has completed his or her sentence. If the applicant has completed his or her sentence, then he or she must petition for a pardon extraordinary. A person granted a pardon extraordinary has their conviction set aside and is no longer required to report it, except in limited circumstances.
An application for pardon of either kind must be made in writing and must be filed with the secretary of the Board of Pardons at least 60 days prior to the meeting of the board at which consideration of the application is desired. The application must include a concise summary of why relief is being sought as well as a statement by the applicant consenting to the disclosure to the board of personal data contained in the application or in any other record relating to the condition for which clemency is being sought. Certain other facts pertaining to the applicant and the trial and sentence imposed are required components of the petition for pardon.
When considering a petition for pardon extraordinary, the Board of Pardons looks favorably on individuals who have taken responsibility for their actions, have demonstrated that they can lead an exemplary, law-abiding life, and have improved and would like to continue to improve themselves.
The expungement and pardon processes can seem intimidating and the stakes are high. A lawyer is an indispensable asset to have throughout either process: From case assessment, to preparing the paperwork, to giving guidance on what to say and how to conduct oneself during the hearing, to providing representation at the hearing.
Any attorney can tell you that they understand the expungement and pardon processes, but you’d be wise to seek out a powerful advocate with proven results. Most recently, I helped a client achieve pardon from a first degree drug offense conviction. She had initially contacted me for assistance in obtaining an expungement. After reviewing the details of her case, however, I determined a pardon would be the best option for her. I handled the entire process for my client, including attending the hearing and making a statement on her behalf.
Perhaps you’ve explored an expungement or a pardon only to conclude that your request would be denied or that retaining an attorney to assist you with the process would be a financial hardship you just could not bear. Don’t live in the shadow of a past conviction any longer! Call me to assess the strength of your case or to discuss the benefits of representation and how I can help deliver the best possible outcome for you.