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.

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!

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.

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 I look forward to meeting you at this year’s Summit!

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!

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.

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.

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

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.

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.