Articles Posted in Restoration of firearm privileges

During April and May, 2023, Governor Pritzker granted a total of thirteen (13) pardons, in various forms, here in our state.  On April 18th, five (5) petitioners with cases from various counties within Illinois, ranging in dates from 1981 to 2002, had their sentences commuted to “parole eligible”. In addition, one (1) petitioner’s sentence, which included Mandatory Supervised Release (MSR), was commuted.  For those not familiar, to “commute a sentence” means that the Governor, in this case, essentially substitutes the original sentence imposed by a judge or jury to something lesser.  It goes without saying, then, that all six (6) of the clemency petitions granted on April 18, 2023, were involving then-currently incarcerated individuals; the next batch of clemency grants (discussed below), involved people who had already served their respective sentences and were seeking the ability to return to court to pursue expungement of statutorily ineligible convictions (and possibly restoration of previously-forfeited firearms rights).

Next, on May 4, 2023, Governor Pritzker granted a total of seven (7) petitions for executive clemency by pardoning, with the authorization to expunge, but without restoring previously-forfeited firearms rights.  The pardons included cases from McLean, Cook, Jefferson, Lawrence, Wayne, and Clay Counties that ranged in dates from at least as far back as 1987 through 2004.  The pardoned convictions included both misdemeanors and felonies, such as retail theft, burglary, forgery, theft, and possession of controlled substance.

Thank you, Governor Pritzker, for giving all these undoubtedly deserving people a second chance in this regard!

In a recent response to my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking information about number and types of pardons granted between mid-June, 2022 and early-April, 2023, the Chief Legal Counsel, and FOIA Officer, for the Illinois Prisoner Review Board has advised that a mere fifteen (15) individuals have received a pardon, or act of executive clemency, from Governor J. B. Pritzker.  More specifically, since June 15, 2022 and through and including April 3, 2023, there were two (2) “batches” of executive clemency grants issued (nine (9) on February 17, 2023 and six (6) on February 24, 2023) including two (2) commutations of sentence and thirteen (13) pardons authorizing expungment in the circuit court of conviction.  None of these clemency grants included restoration of firearms privileges, or the ability to apply for an Illinois Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) Card.  The pardoned convictions ranged, as is typical, from misdemeanor to felony, although most of these convictions were the latter.  There were five (5) “violent” offenses pardoned, but the other ten (10) were “non-violent”, including offenses such as retail theft, traffic and drug offenses.  One of the commutation of sentences issued by Pritzker was for an aggravated kidnapping conviction from 1999, and the most serious pardon with authorization for expungement was given to an individual with mulitple convictions including armed robbery and unlawful use of a weapon.  More generally, the relief granted this past February by Governor Pritzker involved convictions ranging in dates from 1977 through 2010.

I am pleased to learn of the fifteen (15) people receiving relief through the executive clemency process, and trust that these individuals will finally be able to put past mistakes behind themselves, but I do not believe that nearly enough “second chances” are being given by the present administration.  There were undoubtedly many petitions for pardons denied during the nearly ten (10) month date range at issue and I am working to get more information concerning how many petitions were filed, in total, in order to determine percentage granted numbers, along with other important information. I, of course, do not know the details behind every petition, nor do I know every petitioner; I do know, however, that I had  very deserving young man denied a commutation of sentence during the time frame stated above (in fact, he was released from custody multiple months prior to his petition actually being decided, which is problematic in my mind on its own).  I would urge Governor Pritzker to step up his efforts with regards to deciding, and ultimately granting, petitions for executive clemency – he must remember, above all, that each of us is human and that we all make mistakes.  People can and do change, and so many of us can benefit from being given the benefit of the doubt.

On this Fourth of July holiday, while many of us are enjoying the abundant freedoms our great nation has to offer, others are not so fortunate.  One group of people that comes to mind in that regard would be those incarcerated, either now or in years past, or individuals otherwise convicted of a criminal offense.  The stigma associated having a past, or present, criminal offense (especially felony) on one’s record cannot be ignored and is one of the main reasons many of my clients approach me seeking help in petitioning the Illinois governor for a pardon.  The term “executive clemency”, or “pardon”, is generally thought of as the umbrella word for a few different types of relief, including authorization to expunge and commutation of sentence.  Firearms privileges, otherwise forfeited post criminal conviction, can also be restored by the governor, if properly requested in a pardon petition and should he see fit to do so.

During the year and a half span (January 1, 2021 through January 14, 2022), Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker granted a total of one hundred forty-seven (147) pardons or clemencies, including two (2) pardons, one hundred twenty-three (123) pardons authorizing expungement, three (3) pardons authorizing expungement and restoring the petitioner’s firearms privileges previous forfeited, twenty-two (22) commutations of sentence (including three (3) commutations to parole-eligible crimes).  While these “acts of mercy” by Governor Pritzker are undoubtedly invaluable to the individual recipients, I am all but certain there are many other deserving individuals still awaiting decisions on their pending petitions for clemency…individuals either still incarcerated or otherwise inhibited by their past criminal records.  I urge Governor Pritzker to continue, and even increase, his review of pending pardon petitions and further, to do whatever necessary to ensure the Illinois Prisoner Review Board is capable of operating efficiently and expediently when it comes to the public hearings that are associated with executive clemency petitions.  Most importantly, I also thank Governor Pritzker for giving these one hundred and forty-seven (147) people their lives back in some way.  Finally, it goes without saying that I, for one, will continue to fight zealously for petitioners’ rights to be reinstated through the pardon process for as long as it may take!

The Illinois Prisoner Review Board has just announced that it has postponed the public hearings available to clemency petitioners that were originally scheduled for January 10th through 14th, 2022 to a later, to-be-determined date.  Updates to the hearing schedule should be published on the Prisoner Review Board’s website, under the Executive Clemency and Expungement tab, but I would also recommend you stay in touch directly with the Prisoner Review Board to determine when you, or your loved one’s, hearing will be rescheduled to.  The next date public hearings are officially set for, as of now, is April 12th through 14th, 2022 and these are slated to take place in Springfield, Illinois, likely at the Illinois State Library.  It is possible an additional docket date may be added to account for the now-delayed January 2022 hearings. Contact information for the Illinois Prisoner Review Board is as follows:

Illinois Prisoner Review Board

319 East Madison Street, Suite A

Not quite two (2) Fridays ago, perhaps in advance of the upcoming Easter holiday as is common tradition, Governor J. B. Pritzker granted a total of thirteen (13) Petitions for Executive Clemency.  Most of these grants were in the forms of a pardon authorizing expungement of the underlying case or cases in the appropriate county’s or counties’ Circuit Court(s), but there were included amongst the success stories three (3) commutations of sentences.  The convictions at issue ranged, as usual, from felonies to misdemeanors/ordinance violations, and the crimes were both of a violent and non-violent nature, and included burglary, theft, forgery, drug offenses, battery and murder.  The convictions spanned a period of twenty (25) years, from 1985 to 2010.  None of these pardons recently granted included any restoration of firearm ownership privileges and/or rights.  I am very proud to say that one (1) of my clients was included in this group of individuals granted relief from past convictions and I am sincerely elated for this extremely deserving individual.

Prior to this recent batch of clemency grants, Governor Pritzker granted twenty-four (24) undoubtedly deserving individuals relief through the executive clemency process; nineteen (19) individuals were granted a pardon with authorization to expunge (two (2) of these did include restoration of firearm  ownership privileges and/or rights) and five (5) people’s sentences were commuted on December 18, 2020. Again, the convictions ranged from serious, violent felonies to less serious, non-violent misdemeanors, and spanned the years from 1981 to to 2016.  Additionally, on January 14, 2021, Governor Pritzker commuted one (1) person’s sentence on a 2012 second degree murder and burglary conviction and just two (2) days later, he commuted a sentence on a 2016 aggravated discharge of a firearm conviction.

A heartfelt thanks goes out to Governor Pritzker for acting on these very important restorative justice issues, even during the current pandemic we are suffering through, and a sincere congratulations to everyone who was the recipient of relief through the clemency process!

Hello and Happy New Year to all! I have just received the official press list of the 20 individuals to whom Governor Pritzker has granted executive clemency authorizing expungement and I can advise that this list includes, as usual, people with both misdemeanor and felony convictions, ranging in nature from non-violent drug offenses to crimes of violence, including battery, unlawful use of a weapon and resisting a peace officer. There were several pardons authorizing expungement granted today for (retail) theft convictions and there was even one pardon with authorization to expunge a conviction involving domestic battery and endangering the life and health of a child.  Some of these pardoned individuals spent time in prison while others were on probation or conditional discharge for a period of time. The most recent case appearing to be pardoned occurred in 2011, while the oldest dated back to 1975.  I have no doubt that all of these people, like so many of us, made a mistake or two in their past but have moved on in a healthy and productive way, thus earning this highly coveted relief from the Governor. It is unclear to me at this point if any of these pardons with authorization to expunge granted today restored firearm ownership privileges to anyone.

In addition to granting these undoubtedly deserving individuals relief through the formal written pardon process, Governor Pritzker also granted relief today to over 11,000 people with minor cannabis offenses on their backgrounds, allowing them a fresh start as well.

Congratulations to everyone receiving a second chance and for those of you reading this with some blemishes still remaining on your own record, please consider reaching out to me for a free consultation and a brief overview of current the expungement, sealing and executive clemency processes. I’d be glad to help if I can!

After reviewing a batch of clemency petitions in both November and December, 2018, and granting just a few petitions each time (including commuting the sentences of six young men who were given lengthy prison sentences for what were described as “minor” infractions at a southern Illinois youth correctional facility on December 27, 2018), outgoing Governor Rauner granted thirty pardons with authorization to expunge, most of which contained language restoring firearm ownership privileges as well, on January 11, 2019.  He also granted an additional four commutations, two of which were for murder convictions, thereby shortening the sentences of the individuals currently incarcerated for those crimes.  When Governor Rauner exited office, there were no pending clemency petitions left for newly elected Governor Pritzker to inherit.

I am proud to say that two of my own clients were granted executive clemency with authorization to expunge, including the restoration of their firearm privileges, in this last batch of decisions by now ex-Governor Rauner. A very sincere congratulations to all the deserving individuals who were successful in obtaining what is referred to as an “extraordinary remedy”!  We shall now see what incoming Governor Pritzker will do for worthy candidates for executive clemency, only time will tell.

If your clemency petition was denied, please know that many candidates do have to petition for relief at least twice, sometimes even three or more times. There is a standard waiting period of one year from the date of denial before you are able to submit a new petition for executive clemency, but that time frame can be waived under certain circumstances. Please consider contacting an attorney knowledgeable in this highly nuanced area of the law to assist you in preparing your petition for executive clemency with authorization to expunge, possibly with restoration of firearm ownership privileges.

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