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Understanding Clemency in Illinois

What Is a Clemency Petition?

If you or a loved one were convicted of a crime, you might find applying for jobs or loans challenging. You may even have difficulty in renting a house. Convictions form a part of your public criminal record, and anybody who checks your background would be able to see it. When sealing or expungement fails, a petition for executive clemency may be your only way of removing the conviction from your criminal record.

As per the Illinois Constitution, the Governor has the power to pardon a person who has committed crimes in Illinois by granting clemency. Its purpose is to request the Governor for pardon or forgiveness for the crime(s) committed, allowing the petitioner with a criminal conviction to clear their record. In Illinois, clemency is also called executive clemency.

Types of Clemency in Illinois

Executive clemency or pardon may be granted for:

  • Absolute Pardon: A complete pardon erases all the repercussions of the conviction.

  • Partial Pardon: It absolves some but not all the repercussions of the conviction.

  • Commutation: Reduction of sentence(s).

  • Reprieve: It refers to the temporary postponement of imposing a criminal sentence. For example, those who have a death sentence usually ask for reprieve.

Pardonable Criminal Offenses 

A pardon is available for all state-sanctioned crimes in Illinois. The Governor’s powers in relation to clemency and pardons as enshrined in the Constitution of Illinois are exceptionally wide. Only federal offenses or convictions in another state are ineligible for clemency or pardon. The US Department of Justice and the Office of the Pardon Attorney handles clemency requests for anyone convicted of federal crimes.

Through clemency petitions, the Governor has the power to:

  • Reinstate gun rights or right to obtain a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card.

  • Eliminate the record of disciplinary action.

  • Remove a conviction not eligible for sealing or expungement from your criminal record. This means that you may be able to expunge a drug conviction in Illinois by filing a petition for executive clemency.

The Process of Clemency in Illinois

The clemency process starts with filing a petition before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. The petition for the grant of clemency must be typewritten (not handwritten) and be in a narrative or essay format. Additionally, the following information must be included in the petition:

  • General information about the petitioner, including the name under which you were convicted, your Social Security number, state prisoner number, and current mailing address.

  • State the details of your personal history, including your date and place of birth, education, and employment history or if you served the U.S. military.

  • Details of the criminal conviction(s) for which you’re requesting a pardon, such as the case numbers, sentences imposed, time served, and discharge date.

  • Provide a thorough description of the facts of the criminal offense, including times, locations, and any other relevant context. This serves as the petitioner’s account of the offense(s).

  • Information regarding your criminal history. Detail the facts and circumstances of every instance you were arrested or charged except for minor traffic violations.

  • Explain why you think the Governor should grant you a pardon and the type desired (commutation of sentence, pardon, expungement, or reprieve).

  • Other documentary materials supporting the claims made by you in your petition.

  • A declaration that all your assertions are complete, truthful, and accurate. Providing false testimony or lying on oath is classified as the criminal offense of perjury. It is a Class 3 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The petition must include all the details mentioned above. Your petition will be rejected or returned if the above information is missing.

Illinois Prisoner Review Board

The Prisoner Review Board (Board) is a quasi-judicial body that receives clemency petitions. After reviewing and processing these petitions, the Board submits confidential recommendations to the Governor.

The Board accepts clemency petitions and holds hearings four (4) times a year in January, April, July, and October. They generally submit their confidential recommendations sixty (60) days after the hearing.

How Long Does the Clemency Process Take?

The time taken for a clemency case to be resolved can vary depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. It is worth noting that the Illinois Governor is not obligated to resolve clemency petitions within a specific period.

Acceptance of Clemency Petitions

Petitioners are notified by the Board if their petition is complete or if additional information is necessary to complete their petition. All incomplete petitions must be completed within ninety (90) days and the petitions that are not completed within this stipulated period are discarded.

If your petition is complete, you will receive a confirmation from the Board along with a docket number. You have the option of having a public hearing or a non-public hearing. Unless currently incarcerated, petitioners, their supporters, and any opponents may attend a public hearing arranged by the Board if they request to do so in their petition.

If your petition is denied, you can file again after one (1) year. You can apply for clemency as many times as you want as long as you comply with the one-year rule.

Does Clemency Expunge a Criminal Record?

Yes, the clemency petition can expunge a criminal record. However, you must specifically request for a pardon with the permission to expunge your petition. It is critical that your petition specify the type of clemency desired. Otherwise, your criminal conviction will not be removed from public view even if you are granted clemency.

The Hirsch Law Group Can Help Process Your Executive Clemency Petition

Filing your own petition for executive clemency is not prohibited. However, a skilled attorney from the Hirsch Law Group may be able to help make a more persuasive and complete petition.

  • An experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyer from our firm can guide you through the clemency process and fight on your behalf.

  • We can ensure that your clemency petition and its supporting documents are complete so you or your loved one has a higher chance of being pardoned.

  • We can also represent you at the executive clemency hearing and present witnesses on your behalf.

Are you or a loved one seeking clemency? Call us today for a free initial meeting!