February 12, 2016

Governor Rauner decides another 100 clemency petitions on February 11, 2016

While it may be too early to say this decisively, it certainly looks as though Governor Rauner is attempting to make clemency decisions a monthly activity during his 2016 tenure. Yesterday, he decided an additional 100 clemency petitions, granting 2 individuals pardons with authorization to expunge and denying the other 98 petitions for relief. I will say once again I am very pleased with the speed with which Governor Rauner is addressing the pending petitions, however, I am all but certain there were more than 2 individuals deserving of relief in the batch of petitions that were reviewed by the Governor.

Of the 2 people who were fortunate enough to receive the coveted pardon authorizing expungement yesterday, one had a felony conviction for burglary stemming from a 1993 case and the other had received a sentence of court supervision on two misdemeanor charges dating back to 2007: fleeing/attempting to elude an officer and driving under the influence (DUI). Typically, a sentence of court supervision (assuming it stands in isolation on a person's record) is expungeable without gubernatorial intervention, however, DUI cases are an exception to that rule under the Illinois Criminal Identification Act.

January 16, 2016

Illinois Governor Rauner grants 5 clemency petitions, denies 149 on January 15, 2016

In his first act of executive clemency this calendar year, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner decides a total of 154 clemency petitions, granting 5 and denying 149. Once again, I am pleased to say that I have a client among the 5 who was fortunate enough to receive this extraordinary remedy! The offenses pardoned ranged from forgery, battery and domestic battery to burglary and the offenses ranged in dates from 1987 to 2004. Moreover, the decided petitions dated back to 2009 and reduce the backlog of undecided petitions from previous administrations down to approximately 900 petitions.

Congratulations to the individuals receiving pardons with authorization to expunge! If you or someone you know is in need of executive clemency, please feel free to contact me for a free analysis of your case.

December 24, 2015

Governor Rauner grants clemency to 7 individuals on 12/23/15

In what is very likely his final grant of clemencies this year, Governor Bruce Rauner has granted 7 people pardons with authorization to expunge their past convictions in Illinois on December 23, 2015. I am proud to say that one of these deserving individuals is my client; I couldn't be happier for him! Unfortunately, Governor Rauner denied 247 petitions for clemency in this latest round of decisions.

According to news sources, there are still around 1,000 petitions for executive clemency pending from previous administrations, with new petitions being filed each quarter. When a person is not eligible for either expungement or sealing of his or her criminal record, he or she must pursue a grant of executive clemency, or pardon, through the Governor. Navigating through the complex Illinois Criminal Identification Act can be a daunting task so I encourage you to contact an attorney well-versed in this area of law to help you determine your best course of action. I have been focusing my law practice on criminal records law since its inception in 2010 and would be very happy to speak or meet with you with regards to your needs in this area.

Happy Holidays to all and sincerest congratulations to those receiving pardons.

November 25, 2015

Governor Rauner decides over two hundred clemency petitions on the eve of Thanksgiving 2015

The good news is that Governor Rauner has acted on yet another batch of clemency petitions, the fifth such group since he has taken office earlier this year. The not-so-great news is that out of the two hundred ten (210) petitions he decided, he granted only ten (10) and denied two hundred (200). While I would absolutely like to see more deserving petitions being granted by our present Illinois Governor, I will say I admire the relative speed in which he is deciding such petitions. My only hope is that deserving petitioners are not being overlooked in haste.

While I don't yet have any details concerning what offenses have actually received pardons today, based on my previous analyses of Governor Rauner's clemency decisions I believe it is safe to surmise that at least some very deserving petitioners were unfortunately denied relief in this recent batch of decisions. Fortunately, a petitioner who has been denied relief is able to file a new petition one (1) year after such denial and moreover, in some circumstances, that waiting period can actually be waived upon a showing of good cause. If you have been denied executive clemency, with or without authorization to expunge, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation about your case. I will give you my best professional opinion as to what went wrong and how to best go about rectifying the situation in a subsequent clemency petition.

Best wishes to all for a very happy Thanksgiving.

May 27, 2015

June 6, 2015: Annual Cook County Expungement Summit

Once again, I will be volunteering my day at the annual Adult & Juvenile Expungement Summit and Ex-Offender Job Information Seminar and would love to see you there! This year's event will be held on June 6, 2015 at the Living Word Christian Center, 7600 West Roosevelt Road in Forest Park and opens at 8:30 a.m. Although the event runs through 6 p.m., I do suggest getting there as early as possible. Attorney volunteers, like myself, will be providing information on adult felony and misdemeanor expungements and sealings, juvenile record expungement, as well as information on executive clemency and certificates of relief from disabilities and good conduct. On-site drug testing will be available and you will be able to obtain certified case dispositions at the event as well. Qualified applicants will be able to file expungement and/or sealing petitions for free on-site at the Summit. For more details about the event, please call 312-603-5200 or 312-603-4641. You may also see the official Expungement Summit Guide here.

April 7, 2015

Newly-elected Republican Governor Rauner decides 59 Clemency Petitions on Good Friday

In keeping with his predecessor's tradition of releasing clemency petition decisions on major holidays, Governor Bruce Rauner granted two (2) pardons with authorization to expunge over this past Easter weekend. In total, our new Governor decided fifty-nine (59) petitions for executive clemency, granting two (2) and denying fifty-seven (57). While I of course would have liked to have seen more pardons granted, I am very pleased with the fact that a Governor Rauner's spokesperson stated that going forward, clemency petitions will be reviewed on a "regular basis". In all honesty I did not expect to see any pardon decisions this soon after Governor Rauner took office; this recent action with regards to clemencies seems to indicate that our new state leadership will continue to regard pardon applications as important and deserving of attention.

December 31, 2014

Governor Quinn grants pardons to petitioners for the 3rd time in just over a month span

Just a few hours ago, in advance of the New Year, Illinois Governor Quinn grants executive clemency to 102 more individuals. Along with the 102 grants, Gov. Quinn denied 425 petitions, bringing his total number of clemency decisions to 4,489 (1,520 clemency petitions granted and 2,969 petitions denied). I am pleased to report that I have recently received positive results for 3 of my clemency clients, and am anxiously awaiting decisions on many more. I sincerely hope the outgoing Governor Quinn decides at least one more batch of clemency petitions prior to leaving office next month!

December 29, 2014

Outgoing Governor Pat Quinn decides nearly one thousand more clemency petitions in a one-month span

Throughout his tenure as Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn has truly been a champion in reviewing and deciding Petitions for Executive Clemency. In total, Governor Quinn has reviewed a total of 3,962 petitions, granting 1,418 and denying 2,544. Just this past Christmas Eve (December 24, 2014) he decided a total of 604 clemency petitions, granting 179 of them and denying the remaining 425. Prior to that, on the eve of Thanksgiving, Governor Quinn granted 126 petitions and denied 185. It is my sincere hope that we see at least one more batch of clemency petition decisions prior to Governor Quinn leaving office on January 12, 2015.

May 6, 2014

2014 Cook County Adult & Juvenile Expungement Summit / Informational Seminar

Please join the Honorable Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and me at this year's Expungement Summit on June 7, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at The Living Word Christian Center, 7600 West Roosevelt Road, Forest Park, IL. This is a full-service annual event where people with criminal records are able to speak with on-site volunteer attorneys about expungements, sealings, petitions for executive clemency and certificates of rehabilitation. There will also be on-site child support services, job training, housing and community resources, identity theft information and much more. Members of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board will also be present to discuss the pardon process for those who do not qualify for either expungement or sealing. This event is truly a wealth of information! Please contact the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County at 312-603-5200 for more information, or you may visit www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org. I look forward to meeting you at this year's Summit!

April 30, 2014

Governor Quinn grants 43 additional Petitions for Executive Clemency

On April 18, 2014 Governor Pat Quinn granted 43 clemency petitions and denied 65, thus further reducing the backlog of petitions he inherited from former Governor Rod Blagojevich. The offenses for which clemency was granted ranged from theft to robbery to manufacture and/or delivery of a controlled substance and the offense dates ranged from approximately 1969 to 2003. The bulk of these granted clemency petitions were filed in mid-2009 but some some dated back to 2007 and others were filed as recently as 2014.

Petitions for Executive Clemency (with Authorization to Expunge) are almost inevitably a last resort for people with certain criminal convictions on their records. Although the format of the petition itself is somewhat flexible, it is most certainly in your best interest to contact an attorney experienced in this field to discuss methodology and strategy. I would be happy to speak with anyone needing assistance in this area!

March 3, 2014

For purposes of sealing, there's an important distinction between possession of cannabis with intent to deliver and possession of controlled substance with intent to deliver

As the newly revised Illinois Criminal Identification Act presently reads, a person convicted of felony Class 3 possession of cannabis with intent to manufacture or deliver must petition the Illinois Prisoner Review Board for a certificate of eligibility to seal before preparing the standard Petition to Seal in the court of conviction, whereas an individual convicted of felony Class 3 possession of controlled substance (i.e., anything other than marijuana) with intent to manufacture or deliver can directly petition the court for his or her conviction to be sealed. Both of these offenses were previously not eligible for sealing relief until Public Act 098-0142 changed that, along with expanding other convictions eligible for sealing, as discussed in a previous blog entry.

I came across this illogical discrepancy while researching for a new client; I must have re-read the statutes, proposed legislation and legislative history four or five times before I realized that indeed, this is how the new law reads. I consulted with various colleagues who are extremely learned in this area of the law and sure enough, the effect of the language within the statute is to make the sealing process more difficult for someone with a possession of cannabis conviction with intent to manufacture or deliver than someone with a possession of heroin, ecstasy or cocaine, for example, conviction with intent to manufacture or deliver.

Before I became too disheartened with our state's laws on this subject, I discovered that the legislature is already in the process of amending the newest version of the Illinois Criminal Identification Act to rectify this nonsensical result. Senator Kwame Raoul introduced Illinois Senate Bill 2941 on February 4, 2014 to amend the current law on sealing to allow for Class 3 convictions for possession with intent to manufacture or deliver cannabis to be addressed directly at the court level through a Petition to Seal, without the need of first obtaining a certificate of eligibility from our state's Prisoner Review Board. I am hopeful this proposed legislation passes easily and quickly and soon becomes law in Illinois. The expungement and sealing laws, in my opinion, are already overly complicated and having a hair-splitting substantive distinction between possession with intent to manufacture or deliver of one type of drug versus another simply makes no sense at all. For now, however, if you do have a conviction for possession of cannabis with intent to manufacture or deliver you will need to petition the Illinois Prisoner Review Board for the above-referenced certificate of eligibility to seal before proceeding with your Petition to Seal that conviction. I strongly urge you to contact an attorney experienced in the field of criminal records laws to discuss the particulars of your situation.

February 14, 2014

Interested in obtaining a permit to carry a concealed firearm? You should definitely consider expunging any eligible records before applying.

On July 9, 2013 the Firearm Concealed Carry Act became state law and was codified at 430 ILCS 66. The law allows an eligible individual to legally carry a concealed firearm with a valid Concealed Carry License. There are multiple requirements a person must meet in order to be eligible and there is a certain level of discretion employed in the Ilinois State Police's decision as to whether to issue such a license to an individual. For example, Section 15 of the new law provides that "[a]ny law enforcement agency may submit an objection to a license applicant based upon a reasonable suspicion that the applicant is a danger to himself or herself or others, or a threat to public safety". This is obviously purposefully vague language that serves to open the door for objections by law enforcement agencies.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has been quoted as saying that he will object to the granting of a concealed carry permit to "anyone" with an Illinois arrest record within seven years of that individual's application for such permit. Earlier this month Dart did indeed object to two hundred forty concealed carry applications because these applicants had criminal histories including "gun crimes" and/or "crimes of domestic violence". It is unclear as to whether these individuals all had convictions on their records or if some of the applicants were merely arrested for such crimes and never convicted.

While it is not possible to expunge a conviction and further, not possible to expunge anything on one's criminal record if one has even a single conviction, the expungement laws do allow for expungement of non-convictions such as arrests resulting in aquittals or dismissals. (I've more thoroughly discussed requirements for expungement eligibility in previous blog posts, such as here and here.) I would strongly urge anyone wanting to ultimately obtain a permit to allow him or her to carry a concealed firearm to make sure any expungeable arrests are in fact expunged prior to submitting an application to the Illinois State Police. Even the State Police would need a court order to see a successfully expunged arrest record and therefore would not be able to use such expunged arrests as a reason to deny a person an Illinois Concealed Carry Permit.

February 5, 2014

Overview of Federal Executive Clemency Process - Not So Different from Illinois State Clemency Procedure

In light of the recent attention President Obama has given to low-level drug offenders who were unduly penalized under previous overly harsh drug conviction sentences, I have been researching the federal executive clemency process to see how it differs from that in our state. I am pleased to report that the process of obtaining federal executive clemency is not that different from the process here in Illinois.

The United States Office of the Pardon Attorney assists the President in the exercise of his executive clemency powers, whereas here in Illinois the executive clemency power lies with the Governor, as assisted by our state's Prisoner Review Board. The previously cited United States Department of Justice website contains forms for both pardons and commutations of sentences, rules and standards to be applied to the consideration of these federal executive clemency applications. As is the case in Illinois, there is no mandate that the President must consider a Petition for Executive Clemency within a certain period of time, if at all. Moreover, a granting of federal executive clemency is considered to be an extraordinary remedy governed by the principles of equity, just as it is in our state.

As mentioned above, my research into the federal executive clemency process reveals that it is not so different than that employed by our own state. Basically, a petitioner must answer some fundamental questions concerning him/herself, give a thorough explanation of the legal issues surrounding his/her conviction(s), divulge any/all criminal history, and give one or more reasons he/she is seeking such extraordinary relief through the federal executive clemency process.

Continue reading "Overview of Federal Executive Clemency Process - Not So Different from Illinois State Clemency Procedure" »

October 14, 2013

Illinois Governor Quinn decides 189 additional clemency petitions

Three days ago, on October 11, 2013, the Chicago Tribune reported that Governor Quinn recently granted 65 requests for executive clemency and denied 124 petitions. This brings the total number of petitions for executive clemency Quinn has acted upon since taking office to 2,648. To the best of my knowledge, Governor Quinn is still acting on clemency petitions that date back to 2009. Once again, I applaud Quinn for continuing to decide these all-important petitions that serve to give an individual his or her life back but I urge him to do everything in his power to speed the process up as there are many deserving candidates who are still awaiting a decision.

August 12, 2013

Illinois Sealing Relief is Expanded by P.A. 098-0142 to Include Multiple Class 3 and 4 Felony Convictions!

Great news for individuals burdened by felony criminal records: the Illinois Criminal Identification Act (20 ILCS 2630/5.2 et seq.) has recently been amended by Public Act 098-0142 which adds multiple Class 3 and Class 4 offenses not previously eligible for relief by sealing to now be eligible for sealing through the court system! Prior to this change, only three (3) felonies (all Class 4) were eligible for relief through sealing: possession of a controlled substance (PCS), possession of cannabis (marijuana) and prostitution. Now, in its expanded form, the Illinois Criminal Identification Act allows for the following offenses to be eligible for sealing:

• Class 4 felony convictions for prostitution, possession of cannabis (marijuana), possession of a controlled substance, theft, retail theft, deceptive practices, forgery and possession of burglary tools; and

• Class 3 felony convictions for theft, retail theft, deceptive practices, forgery and possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance.

Moreover, the revised version of the Illinois Criminal Identification Act now provides concrete factors a court may consider in determining whether or not to grant an individual's petition for either expungement or sealing; these factors include the strength of the evidence supporting the defendant/petitioner's underlying conviction(s), the reason the State wishes to retain the individual's conviction records, the petitioner's age, entire criminal history and employment history at the time the petition to expunge or seal is filed, the length of time that has elapsed between the underlying conviction(s) and the filing of the petition to expunge or seal and consideration of specific adverse consequences a petitioner may be subjected to if his/her petition to expunge or seal is denied. While these same factors have been considered since at least as far back as 1998, pursuant People v. Wells (1st Dist. Il. App. Court, 1998), they are now importantly codified within the language of the statute itself.

All in all, the newly-revised Illinois Criminal Identification Act is now giving individuals with either/both Class 3 and Class 4 felonies an opportunity to put their past behind them to continue moving forward as productive members of society. For example, no longer does an individual with a conviction for Class 4 or Class 3 retail theft or theft need to petition our state governor for relief through a petition for executive clemency; instead, this individual may file a petition to seal in the original court where he/she was convicted, thus expediting his/her chance for relief and moreover, freeing up more time for the Governor to consider clemency petitions on more serious crimes. This new version of the Illinois Criminal Identification Act looks to be a win-win for both people looking to seal their criminal records and people needing to seek a pardon through Governor Pat Quinn.