Restoration of Rights Series/Maine

MaineI.  Restoration of Civil/Firearms Rights
A.  Civil rights

The right to vote is not lost even upon incarceration.   The right to serve on a jury is also not lost.  See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 14, § 1211 (providing disqualifications for jury service, none of which refer to criminal history).1  The right to hold office is also not lost, although a judgment of conviction may include an order disqualifying the defendant from office.  Me. Rev Stat. Ann tit. 17-A, 1152(4).

B.  Firearms

Firearm privileges are lost upon conviction of a crime punishable by a term of one year or more, or a juvenile adjudication involving violence or a firearm.  Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § 393(1), paragraphs (A-1) and (C).  The Commissioner of Public Safety has the authority, five years from the date of discharge, to grant a permit to carry a “black powder weapon.”  tit. 15, § 393(2).2 A juvenile with a non-violent disqualifying conviction under paragraph A-1 is disqualified only for a period of 3 years following completion of any disposition imposed or until that person reaches 18 years of age.  A person subject to the provisions of paragraphs A-1 or C as may apply for a permit to carry a firearm, but may not be issued a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

C.  Sex Offender Registration

The lifetime registration and quarterly verification requirements of the 1999 sex offender registration act may not be retroactively imposed upon offenders sentenced under the 1991 and 1995 acts. See State v. Letalien, 985 A.2d 4 (Maine 2009) (holding that retroactive application of requirements violates ex post facto provision of Maine Constitution since the effect of requirements is essentially punitive).

II.  Discretionary Restoration Mechanisms
A.  Executive pardon

The governor has authority to pardon, except in cases of impeachment, subject to regulation “relative to the manner of applying.” Me. Const. art. V, pt. 1, § 11.1  The governor is assisted by the non-statutory Governor’s Board on Executive Clemency, composed of three members appointed by the governor.  Me. Exec. Order 25 FY 11/12 (Nov. 1, 2011), available at  The Board is tasked with making recommendations to the governor on each pardon petition, and has the power to hold public hearings on such petitions.  Id.  The final decision on clemency petitions rests solely with the governor.2 Id.

The Board shall consist of three persons appointed by the Governor to serve at his pleasure.  The Chair of the Board shall be designated by the Governor.  All members of the Board will be Maine citizens who have demonstrated humanitarian concern as well as thorough knowledge of the criminal justice system, and who have demonstrated such qualities in their private and professional lives that would assist them in evaluating the rehabilitation of persons convicted under our criminal justice laws.


The Department of Corrections (DOC) administers the governor’s pardon power.  Frequently asked questions about eligibility, the application process, and the effect of pardons are available at  The Parole Board is authorized, “when requested by the Governor,” to investigate pardon cases, and to make recommendations to the Governor.  Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 34-A, § 5210(4).  All information gathered by the Parole Board is confidential.  Id.  In practice, the Governor’s Board on Executive Clemency holds pardon hearings and makes the recommendations to the governor while the Parole Board assists with investigations.  See Governor’s Board of on Executive Clemency, General Information Regarding Executive Clemency (2008), available at;  Exec. Order 25 FY 11/12, supra.


Petitions will not be considered until five years after the completion of the petitioner’s sentence.  Adult Community Corrections, Maine Department of Corrections,  Petitions to pardon DUI offenses will not be considered,  nor will petitions seeking a pardon solely to regain gun rights, to be removed from the state’s sex offender registry,3 or to enter Canada.  Further, petitions “seeking a pardon for one criminal conviction when the Petitioner has one or more additional serious criminal convictions that are not included in the Petitioner’s application for a pardon will not be heard.”  Id.


The pardon application form requires a description of “exceptional” circumstances warranting a pardon. Petition for Executive Clemency (2008), available at


A pardon lifts automatic legal barriers and evidences rehabilitation.  Because Maine has no expungement law, criminal records are not “wiped clean” by a pardon.  Instead, information concerning the pardoned conviction is considered “non-conviction” data and is available only under the conditions or circumstances set forth in Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, §§ 611-622.  Ten years after the final discharge of their sentence, a pardoned person may apply to the State Bureau of Identification  to have all references to the pardoned crime deleted from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s identification record.  15, § 2167 (2011).  See also tit. 34-A, § 1125-A(6)(c) (sex offender registration no longer required after pardon).


Pardon application forms and instructions are available at  Petitions are sent to the Department of Corrections, which initiates a preliminary background check on the petitioner by the State Bureau of Identification.  General Information Regarding Executive Clemency, The Governor’s Board on Executive Clemency then reviews the petitions and decides whether to grant a hearing before the Board.  Id.  If a hearing is granted, the Parole Board conducts a more thorough background investigation which includes an interview with the petitioner, and may also include interviews with third parties including the petitioner’s family, friends, and co-workers.  Id.   The only statutory regulation of the pardon process is that, prior to the hearing, written notice of the petition for pardon must be given “to the Attorney General and the district attorney for the county where the case was tried at least 4 weeks before the time of the hearing.”  Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § 2161 (2011). Petitioners must post a notice of the hearing in a newspaper in the county where the conviction occurred at least four weeks before the hearing.  Id. See also General Information Regarding Executive Clemency, supra.

The hearing on the petition is public, and allows the Board to ask the petitioner “about matters involving the Petitioner’s application for clemency, including the reason why clemency is being sought and the circumstances surrounding the crime(s) for which a pardon or commutation is being requested.”  See General Information Regarding Executive Clemency, supra.  After the hearing, the Board meets in Executive Session to discuss the petitioner’s case, and then transmits its recommendation to the governor. The Board meets at least three times each year.  Id. The entire process, from the time the application is received until a final decision is issued, usually takes a minimum of six months, and “could take as much as a year or longer.”  Id.  If the petition is denied, the petitioner must wait one year to reapply.  Id.

Frequency of Grants

As of January 2018, Governor Lepage had reportedly granted pardons to only 30 individuals since taking office in 2011, all grants coming in his first two years in office.  The website of the Maine Board on Executive Clemency contains no information on the number of pardon applications granted and denied, though newspaper reports indicate that hundreds have applied for relief.4  In 2012, the Board received nearly 160 pardon petitions, and granted hearings on just over a quarter of those petitions.  Of the petitions heard, the Board recommended 18 to the Governor, 11 of which were granted.  During his eight years in office (2002-2011), Governor Baldacci granted 131 pardons, 51 in his final year in office.  About 50 people are granted hearings each year, and of them about 25% are granted pardon.  Governor Baldacci regarded pardons as exceptional, primarily useful for “working people,” for whom pardons make a significant difference in their life (employment, particularly nurses and teachers; immigration cases).  Two of his final pardons went to individuals seeking pardon to avoid deportation.5  Angus King pardoned about the same number during the preceding eight years, with some individuals receiving multiple pardons, according to information supplied by the Secretary of State’s Office.  Gov. Joseph Brennan approved about 300 requests for pardons and commutations, according to Bangor Daily News articles from the 1994 campaign.


Questions regarding pardons may be directed to:

Department of Corrections
Division of Adult Community Services
111 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333
(207) 287-4340

B.  Judicial sealing or expungement

State law makes no provision for sealing or expungement of adult convictions, other than conviction for class E crimes committed while a person was 18 years old or older but younger than 21.

Sealing of youthful Class E convictions

Under a new 2015 law, courts may seal the records of convictions for Class E crimes (misdemeanors) that were committed while a person was 18 years old or older but younger than 21 if the person has not been convicted of any other offenses and has no charges pending.  Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, §§ 2251, 2255. Sexual assault offenses are ineligible.  § 2251. A 4-year waiting period applies from the time of completion of sentence.  § 2252. Sealing is mandatory if the court finds that the person meets all eligibility criteria. § 2254(5).  If a person is convicted of an offense subsequent to sealing, then the sealed records must be unsealed.  § 2254(7).  Sealed records may not be disseminated to anyone except other than criminal justice agencies.  § 2255. A person whose record is sealed “may respond to inquiries from other than criminal justice agencies by not disclosing its existence without being subject to any sanctions.” § 2256. A sunset provision in the law is set to repeal this sealing authority on Oct. 1, 2019.  See § 2259.

Deferred adjudication

“A person who has pled guilty to a Class C, Class D or Class E crime and who consents to a deferred disposition in writing is eligible for a deferred disposition.” Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 1348. “Following the acceptance of a plea of guilty for a crime for which a person is eligible for a deferred disposition under section 1348, the court may order sentencing deferred to a date certain or determinable and impose requirements upon the person, to be in effect during the period of deferment, considered by the court to be reasonable and appropriate to assist the person to lead a law-abiding life.” § 1348-A.  Upon successful completion of the period of deferment, the prosecutor may file a motion permitting the defendant to withdraw the plea, and dismiss the charges. § 1348-B.  Other dispositional options may be available, such as knocking down a felony to a misdemeanor.  No provision for expungement, except that the record then becomes a non-conviction record not available to the public except upon specific request.

Sealing of juvenile records

See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § 3308.  An individual may petition the court to seal all juvenile adjudication records at least three years have passed since the end of the juvenile’s disposition, there have been no subsequent adjudications or convictions since the disposition, and there are no pending charges.  tit. 15, §§ 3308(8)(A)(1)–(3).  The court may rule against sealing if it determines that the public’s right to information substantially outweighs the juvenile’s privacy interest.  tit. 15, § 3308(8)(B).  Once sealed, a juvenile may deny existence of the record.  tit. 15, § 3308(8)(D).

Dissemination of non-conviction records

Substantial changes were made to Maine’s Criminal History Record Information Act in June 2013.  See 2013 Me. Legis. Serv. Ch. 267 (H.P. 1070) (L.D. 1493) (effective Oct.  9, 2013).  As under the prior version of the Act, non-conviction records are not generally available to the public after one year, so long as no prosecution is pending and a person is not a fugitive from justice.  See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, §§ 703(2), 705; see also tit. 16, §§ 611, 613 (2012) (prior version).   However, under the new law, disclosure of such information may be made to “[a]ny person who makes a specific inquiry . . .  as to whether a named individual was summonsed, arrested or detained or had formal criminal charges initiated on a specific date.”  tit. 16, § 705(1)(E).

III. Nondiscrimination in Licensing and Employment 

Maine limits consideration of conviction in determining eligibility for the granting of any occupational license, registration or permit issued by the State, placing stricter limits on less serious offenses and generally barring consideration of dated convictions.  Under Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 5, § 5301(1), licensing agencies may take into consideration criminal history record information from Maine or elsewhere relating to certain convictions that have not been set aside or for which a full and free pardon has not been granted, but “the existence of such information shall not operate as an automatic bar to being licensed, registered or permitted to practice any profession, trade or occupation.”

Section 5301(2) further limits consideration of certain minor convictions: convictions for which incarceration for less than a year is authorized may be considered only if the offense “directly relates” to the license, or if the offense involves dishonesty or false statement.  Convictions of a sexual nature may be considered in connection with certain types of health care licenses.  However, under § 5302 convictions specified in § 5301(2) may be taken into account if the licensing agency determines that the individual “has not been sufficiently rehabilitated to warrant the public trust.”  In such event, the licensing agency “shall explicitly state in writing the reasons for a decision which prohibits the applicant, licensee, registrant or permit holder from practicing the profession, trade or occupation if that decision is based in whole or in part on conviction of any crime described in section 5301, subsection 2.”

Section 5303 provides that licensing authorities may consider only recent convictions (within the last three or ten years, depending on the type of license sought, with a longer period for health care and law enforcement licenses).6 “Beyond the [3-year][10-year] period, ex-offender applicants or licensees with no additional convictions are to be considered in the same manner as applicants or licensees possessing no prior criminal record for the purposes of licensing decisions.” § 5303(1), (2)(A).  There is no time limitation for consideration of an applicant’s or licensee’s conduct that gave rise to the criminal conviction if that conduct is otherwise a ground for disciplinary action.  §5303(1)(, (2)(B).

No similar limitations on public or private employment.

  1. The Maine Supreme Court has held statutes purporting to reduce prison terms through good time or judicial resentencing to be an unconstitutional usurpation of governor’s clemency authority.  See Chestnut v. State, 524 A.2d 1216, 1219-20 (Me. 1987); State v. Hunter, 447 A.2d 797, 801-803 (Me. 1982).
  2. In 1977, Amendment 129 to the Maine constitution eliminated the requirement that the governor obtain the advice of the quasi-legislative Executive Council before issuing a pardon.  Me. Con. Res. 1975, c.4   See also In re Pardoning Power of Governor & Council, 27 A. 463 (Me. 1892) (governor not required to seek concurrence of the justices of the supreme court, noting separation of powers concerns) In 1995, freed of these venerable limits on his pardon power, Governor Angus King created the Board on Executive Clemency.  See E.O, 8-94/95, January 27, 1995 (on file with author).
  3. Cf.  Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 34-A, § 1125-A(6)(c) (2011) (registration no longer required after pardon).
  4.   According to a 2013 article in the Bangor Daily News, “the [Department of Corrections] has not yet received any signed paperwork from the governor’s office.  So, while the pardons are signed, an employment or criminal background check would not yet indicate that any [of the pardons] exist.”  Judy Meyer, Hundreds seek pardons of criminal conviction in Maine each year, but few are granted, Bangor Daily News, June 2, 2013, available at
  5. See Kevin Miller, As clock runs out on his term, Baldacci grants final pardons,  Bangor Daily News, Jan. 5, 2011, available at
  6. E.g., § 5303(1): “THREE-YEAR LIMITS. Except as set forth in this subsection and subsection 2, the procedures outlined in sections 5301 and 5302 for the consideration of prior criminal conviction as an element of fitness to practice a licensed profession, trade or occupation shall apply within 3 years of the applicant’s or licensee’s final discharge, if any, from the correctional system. Beyond the 3-year period, ex-offender applicants or licensees with no additional convictions are to be considered in the same manner as applicants or licensees possessing no prior criminal record for the purposes of licensing decisions. There is no time limitation for consideration of an applicant’s or licensee’s conduct which gave rise to the criminal conviction if that conduct is otherwise a ground for disciplinary action against a licensee.”

Copyright © 2017

Restoration of Right Series/ Louisiana

Louisiana flagI.  Restoration of Civil/Firearms Rights
A.  Vote

The right to vote “may be suspended” while a person is “under an order of imprisonment for conviction of a felony.” La. Const. art. I, § 10.   This does not require actual imprisonment; disenfranchisement applies to people on parole, and also to probationers whose prison sentence was suspended.  See Rosamond v. Alexander, 846 So. 2d 829 (La. App. 3d Cir. 2003).  The Administrative Office for the U.S. Courts has taken the position that federal offenders on supervised release are entitled to register and vote.1

B.  Office and Jury

As of January 2016, those with felony convictions are now eligible to run for elective office.2 Public officers are automatically removed following a felony conviction while holding office.  La. R.S. § 42:1411. Under La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 401(A)(5), those convicted of or “under indictment” for a felony may not serve on a jury.  See also State v. Baxter, 357 So. 2d 271 (La. 1978) (includes federal convictions).

C.  Automatic Restoration of Rights

La. Const. art. I, § 20 provides that “[f]ull rights of citizenship shall be restored upon termination of state and federal supervision following conviction for any offense.”  This provision restores the “basic rights” of citizenship (voting, holding office).  See State v. Adams, 355 So. 2d 917, 921-22 (La. 1978) (“the ultimate language, ‘rights of citizenship,’ was adopted to make it clear that the drafters’ intent was to restore the customary rights a citizen may exercise (the rights to vote, work, hold public office, etc.) and not to erase automatically the fact of the conviction”).  However, it does not restore firearms rights or other privileges.  See, e.g., State v. Williams, 358 So. 2d 943 (La. 1978) (firearms rights not restored automatically upon completion of sentence); Williams v. Louisiana Bd. (Comm’n) of Alcoholic Beverages, 317 So. 2d 247 (La. App. 3d Cir. 1975) (same for liquor license).  There is also caselaw holding that the general restoration authority in § 20 does not extend to jury service, e.g., State v. Haynes, 514 So. 2d 1206 (La. App. 2d Cir. 1987), but the reasoning of these cases does not account for § 20. See generally Helen Ginger Berrigan, Executive Clemency, First-Offender Pardons, Automatic Restoration of Rights, 62 La. L. Rev. 49 (2001).

D.  First offender pardon

A first offender (defined in La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572(C) as a person “convicted within this state of a felony but never previously convicted of a felony” under federal law or the law of any state or country) “shall be pardoned automatically upon completion of his sentence without a recommendation of the Board of Pardons and without action by the governor.”  La. Const. art. IV, § 5(E)(1); La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572(B)(1).  Entitlement to first offender pardon for those eligible is guaranteed by the constitution and may not be infringed by statute.  Op. La. Att’y Gen. No. 04-0080 (2005).  Payment of court costs is not required. Id.


Applies to state convictions on or after January 1, 1975.  Since a 1999 amendment to the Louisiana Constitution, first offender pardon is available only to persons convicted of “non-violent crime, or convicted of aggravated battery, second degree battery, aggravated assault, mingling harmful substances, aggravated criminal damage to property, purse snatching, extortion, or illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities.” La. Const. art. IV, § 5(E)(1) as amended by Acts 1999, No. 1398, § 1, approved Oct. 23, 1999, eff. Nov. 25, 1999.  All others must apply for full pardon.


First offender pardon restores “all rights of citizenship and franchise,” La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572(D), but not the right to run for office, Touchet v. Broussard, 31 So.3d 986 (La. 2010), or privileges such as liquor license.  See State v. Adams, 355 So. 2d 917 (La. 1978).  Unlike a gubernatorial pardon, a first offender pardon does not preclude use of a conviction in subsequent prosecution or sentencing, see Touchet v. Broussard, 31 So. 3d at 993–94, or to disqualify for occupational licensing.   Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572(E).  It does not restore firearms rights.  State v. Wiggins, 432 So. 2d 234 (La. 1983).  Nor does it relieve of obligation to register as sex offender.  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572(B)(2). 

A first offender pardon is not regarded as “full and unconditional” under federal immigration law for purposes of avoiding deportation, or demonstrating good moral character for naturalization.  See Hang Thuy Nguyen v. USCIS, No. 16-30904 (5th Cir. Feb. 9, 2017) (in contrast to unconditional gubernatorial pardon, Louisiana’s automatic first offender pardon does not qualify as “full and unconditional” so as to enable petitioner to demonstrate good moral character for naturalization), 

E.  Firearms

Restriction on possessing firearms or carrying concealed weapons applies to any person convicted of a crime of violence, felony weapons or drug offense, or sex offense, and terminates ten years after completion of sentence so long as no other felony conviction occurs during that period.  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:95.1(C).  A governor’s pardon will restore firearms rights prior to the ten years, but a first offender pardon will not.  Wiggins, supra, 432 So. 2d 234.  The federal government takes the position, based on the holding in Caron v. United States, 524 U.S. 308 (1998), that a person who is ineligible for a concealed carry permit, as described in the paragraph below, is prohibited from possessing firearms under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).  See Complaint filed in Lynch v. Lee, No. 3:16-cv-00089-BAJ-EWJ (M.D. La.)    

Concealed carry permits:  In addition, persons who have been convicted of, or pled guilty or nolo contendere to, a crime of violence or any crime punishable by a term of one year or more may not obtain a concealed carry permit.  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:1379.3(C)(10).  “A conviction, plea of guilty, or plea of nolo contendere under this Paragraph shall include an expungement of such conviction or a dismissal and conviction set-aside under the provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure Article 893.”  Conviction of or plea to a misdemeanor crime of violence (as defined in R.S. 14:2) will result in loss of concealed carry privileges for five years after completion of sentence, unless the conviction was set aside and the prosecution dismissed.  Persons convicted of federal counterfeiting or forgery charges under may obtain such a permit 15 years after completion of sentence.  Id.   However, a person who has been convicted of a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 491(a) shall be permitted to qualify for a concealed handgun permit if fifteen or more years has elapsed between the date of application and the successful completion or service of any sentence, deferred adjudication, or period of probation or parole. Id.     

II.  Discretionary Restoration Mechanisms
A.  Executive pardon

“Upon favorable recommendation of the Board of Pardons,” the Governor may pardon “those convicted of offenses against the state.” La. Const. art. IV, § 5(E)(1); La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572(A).  In 2012, Act 714 merged the functions and duties of the Board of Pardons and the Parole Board.

The Board consists of five appointees of the governor confirmed by the Senate, whose terms run concurrent with Governor’s, and one of which shall be chosen from a victims group. See (providing general information on the Board of Pardons). The governor chooses the chair.  Const. art. IV, § 5(E)(2);  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572.1.  Any board action requires four favorable votes.  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572.1(e).


An applicant for pardon must have completed their sentence, including court costs.  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572(A); see Op. La. Att’y Gen. No. 04-0080 (2005).  The Rules of the Louisiana Board are posted at  The Louisiana Supreme Court held in 2006 that a pardon issued by the governor of the state of Louisiana was sufficient to restore the right to hold a municipal or state office to one convicted of a federal felony offense. Malone v. Shyne, 937 So. 2d 343 (La. 2006). 3 See also 1978-79 Op. Att’y Gen. 103 (No. 79-787)(1980).


Where a convicted person receives a full executive pardon by the governor upon recommendation of the Board of Pardons (“Gold Seal” Pardon), he is restored to “status of innocence.”  State v. Riser, 704 So. 2d 946  (La. App. 2 Cir. 1997).  After a pardon, the conviction cannot be used to enhance punishment for a subsequent crime, though it may be used at trial to impeach.   (By contrast, an automatic first offender pardon does not preclude use of the conviction in subsequent prosecution, or to disqualify for occupational licensing.  See cases cited in Part I D.)  A full pardon also is effective under federal immigration law to avoid deportation and to lift the bar to establishing good moral character for purposes of naturalization.  See Hang Thuy Nguyen v. USCIS, supra.


See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572.4.   The Board meets at regularly scheduled dates, see Rule 1(A) of Board Rules at   All applications must be made on the official form, posted at  “Before considering the application for pardon of any person, the board shall give written notice of the date and time at which the application will be heard and considered, at least thirty days prior to the hearing,” to the district attorney, the victim (if any), and any other person who has indicted an interest and has a legal right to present testimony.  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572.4(B)(1).  In addition, the applicant must notify the district attorney and victims of his application, and place public notice in a newspaper on three separate days in a 30-day period.  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572.4(C).  Information relating to a pardon request must be made available to the public.  The district attorney, injured victim, spouse or next of kin, and any other persons who desire to do so shall be given a reasonable opportunity to attend the hearing, and both the district attorney and victim must be given an opportunity to respond to the application, either telephonically or in person.  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:572.4(B)(2) and (3).  See also Rule 6(C) of the Board Rules.  No more than three persons may speak in favor of an application, and no more than three against.  All actions of the Board require the favorable vote of at least four members of the Board.  See Rule 1(C).

In recent years the legislature has erected more and more procedural barriers to pardon, generally permitting greater public scrutiny of the process, and making formal provisions for input by officials and victims.  Because a favorable Board recommendation is necessary for the governor to act, recent amendments create obstacles to pardon.  See generally Berrigan, supra.

Frequency of Grants

In addition to First Offender Pardons, the Board hears 20-25 cases of full pardon every two months, or about 120 cases annually, and historically has recommended favorably in about 40% of these.  Dockets and decisions can be viewed at Governor Jindal issued 83 pardons during his 8 years in office, acting favorably on only 11% of the Board’s recommendations. Kevin Litten, Bobby Jindal grants pardon to 21 offenders, Times-Picayune, (Jan. 6, 2016). Previous governors Blanco and Foster issued few pardons early in their terms, but ended by pardoning over 331 individuals (in four years) and 476 individuals (in eight years), respectively.  Governor Edwin Edwards approved more than 3000 clemency recommendations in 16 years in office.  See Michelle Milhollon, Governor Spurns Most Pardon Bids, The Advocate, Sept. 11, 2011,  If past is prologue in Louisiana, Governor Jindal should pick up the pace of his pardoning in his second term.


Board of Pardons
504 Mayflower St.
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
Phone: (225)342-5421
Fax: (225)342-2289

B.  Judicial expungement or sealing
1.  Expungement

Until 2014, there was no provision for expungement or sealing of adult felony convictions in Louisiana.  In May 2014, a comprehensive set of provisions for expunging criminal records was enacted as Chapter 34 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and previous provisions for expunging nonconviction records (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:9) were repealed.   See La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. Ch. 34. Art. 971. The purpose of the new chapter is “to break the cycle of criminal recidivism, increase public safety, and assist the growing population of criminal offenders reentering the community to establish a self-sustaining life through opportunities in employment.”  Id.

    a. Eligibility
Felony conviction records:

Article 978 La. C. Cr. Proc. provides for expungement of felony conviction records 10 years from completion of sentence so long as no convictions (either misdemeanor or felony) in intervening years and no pending charges. 978(A). Non-eligible offenses: violent offenses, crimes against minors, drug trafficking offenses (though mere possession with intent to distribute is eligible), and sex offenses (though expungement is available for conviction under pre-2001 statutory rape law if the offense would be a misdemeanor today). Certain controlled substance offenses are also ineligible. 978(B).  May be granted only once every 15 years. 978(D).

Misdemeanor conviction records:

Article 977 provides that misdemeanors may be expunged at any time if set aside pursuant to deferred sentencing options provided under La. C. Cr. Proc. Arts. 893 and 894. They may also be expunged 5 years from the completion of sentence so long as the person has no felony convictions in the intervening years and no pending felony charges.  Domestic abuse offenses (if not dismissed following set-aside) and sex offenses are not eligible for expungement. 977(C).  Expungement of misdemeanor conviction records may be granted only once every five years, and only once every ten years in the case of a DUI conviction. 977(D).

Non-conviction records:

Article 976 La. C. Cr. Proc. provides that a person may at any time file a motion to expunge records if the person was not prosecuted and prosecution is barred, if the DA declined to prosecute, or if the proceedings have been finally disposed of by dismissal, sustaining of a motion to quash, or acquittal.

     b. Effect

Article 973 provides that persons with expunged records are not required to disclose the expunged arrest or conviction, or the fact that a record has been expunged. 973(C).  Expunged records are not available to the public, but are available to law enforcement/prosecutors and to a number of licensing boards (mostly medical-related, but also the bar, social work, insurance, and other boards).  973(A), (B).  Expunged records may be used as a predicate offense in recidivist schemes. 973(E).  Expungement of a record does not relieve sex offender registration/reporting obligations. 973(H). Nor does expungement relieve handgun permit restrictions, though it does relieve firearm disabilities imposed as a result of a domestic battery abuse conviction. La. R.S. § 40:1379.3, 14:95.10.

c. Procedure

Article 980 calls for “contradictory hearing” if the district attorney, Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information, or arresting agency object to a motion to expunge within 60 days after receiving notice from the clerk (though court may grant another 60 day extension).  980(A)(B).  If there is an objection, a contradictory hearing is held at which the entity must show cause for denial by a preponderance standard. 980(E).  Otherwise the court will grant if requirements are met.


Article 983 – Fees are capped at $550.  983(A)(B).4

No cost for expungement following acquittal, wrongful conviction, dismissal/non-charge (so long as district attorney consents), or in cases where juvenile has completed drug court.

Third party dissemination

Article 974 provides that a private entity “that compiles and disseminates criminal history information for compensation,” excluding news-gathering organizations, may not disseminate information on expunged records once they have received notice of the expungement from the affected person.  974(A).  An action for damages is available against entities that violate this provision.  974(C). The provisions of this paragraph do not apply to private third-party credit reporting companies regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.) or financial institutions regulated by Graham-Leach-Bliley Act (15 U.S.C. §6801 et seq.).  La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. Art. 974.

Expungement by redaction

Art 985 – If a record includes the name of more than one individual and one or more of the individuals is entitled to an expungement of an arrest or conviction, any individual entitled to an expungement may petition the court to have records related to the arrest or conviction of the individual expunged by redaction.

Interim expungement of felony arrest records resulting in misdemeanor conviction: Article 985.1 – Apart from the other expungement provisions, a felony arrest record can be expunged at any time if the arrest resulted in a misdemeanor conviction.  Only the felony arrest record is expunged; the misdemeanor conviction record remains.  There is no limit on the number of times this may be done.

2.  Deferred Adjudication

Under Art. 893(A):  “When it appears that the best interest of the public and of the defendant will be served,” the court may place certain offenders on probation, at the successful conclusion of which charges are dismissed.  Expungement may then be sought under Section 44:9(A) or (B).  See Art. 893(E)(3)(c) (“Dismissal under this Paragraph shall have the same effect as an acquittal for purposes of expungement under the provisions of [Art. 976] and may occur only once with respect to any person.”).  Eligibility criteria are complex, but in general no more than one prior felony unless the prosecutor consents.  The offense may still be used as a predicate offense.  See also State v. Jones, 539 So. 2d 866 (La. App. 1989) (conviction expunged after completion of deferred adjudication probation could be considered for the purposes of the felon in possession charge).  Sex offenses involving children, violent offenses, and serious drug trafficking offenses are not eligible for deferred sentencing.  No expungement is available in the case of a suspended sentence.  See State v. Oliver, 874 So.2d 365, 367-68 (La. App. 2004).

3.  Juvenile Records

Immediately upon turning age 17, a person may apply to expunge non-adjudication records. Child Code Ann. art. 918(A).  Upon a person’s motion to the court, misdemeanor adjudication records may be expunged only if two or more years have passed since satisfaction of the most recent judgment.  Id. at (B).  Felony adjudication records may only be expunged if the offense was not murder, a sex crime, kidnapping, or armed robbery; five or more years have elapsed since the satisfaction of the most recent judgment against the person; there are no subsequent convictions for a felony or misdemeanor involving a weapon; and there are no pending charges against the person.  Id. at (C).  If the court finds that grounds for expungement exist, it may order expungement.  Id. at (F).  Expungement results in destruction of records and prohibition against release of non-destroyable items; the person may deny any existence of the record, with certain exceptions.  La. Child Code Ann. arts. 920–22.

C.  Administrative Restoration

The Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification may purge records of individuals over 60 who have not been arrested for 15 years.  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:586.

III.  Nondiscrimination in Licensing and Employment
A. Licensing

The Licensing for Ex-Offenders Act of 2017, La. Rev. Stat. § 37:31 through 36, is intended to facilitate licensing for convicted individuals. Originally enacted in 2014 to regulate only “provisional” licenses, it was amended in 2017 to remove the term “provisional” and apply to permanent licenses.  It provides that a covered licensing entity “shall issue” a license to an “otherwise qualified” convicted individual. § 37:325, and specifies that a license issued to a covered individual may be revoked if the individual commits “a new felony” or violates the rules of the profession for which the license was issued.  § 37:34.  It does not require issuance of a license to any person convicted of a crime of violence or sex offense, or fraud if the licensed field of work is one in which the licensee owes a fiduciary duty to a client.   § 37:36(A), (B).  In addition, a licensing entity shall not be required to issue a license to an applicant whose conviction “directly relates” to the specific field or profession.  § 37:36(C).  “A license holder who supervises children or individuals who lack mental capacity shall not do so without another licensee in the room at all times.”   § 37:36(D).  A number of regulatory and employing agencies are exempted, including law enforcement, medical and nursing licensing boards, state bar association, financial regulation, education, state racing and athletic commissions, pharmacists, architects, embalmers and funeral directors, and state board of elementary and secondary education.  § 37:36(E)(1).  However, exempt licensing entities are required to record and report on the number of licenses issued or denied to an otherwise qualified convicted applicant, including all reasons for any such issuance or denial.  “The entity shall provide the report annually to the House Committee on Commerce no later than February first of each year.”  § 37:36(E)(3).

A more specific older provision dealing with “Criminal record effect on trade, occupational, and professional licensing,” provides that “a person may not be disqualified, or held ineligible to practice or engage in any licensed trade, occupation, or profession “solely because of” a prior criminal record unless it involves a conviction that “directly relates to the position of employment sought, or to the specific occupation, trade or profession for which the license, permit or certificate is sought.”  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 37:2950(A).6  “Any decision which prohibits an applicant from engaging in the occupation, trade or profession for which the license, permit or certificate is sought, which is based in whole or in part on conviction of any crime . . . shall explicitly state in writing the reasons for the decision.”  § 37:2950(B).  Any complaints concerning violations of this section “shall be adjudicated in accordance with generally applicable procedures for administrative and judicial review.”  § 37:2950(C).  It exempts the same professions as the Licensing for Ex-Offenders Act, supra. See § 37:2950(D).  Section 37:2950 does not overrule specific restrictions on certificates of employment such as those applicable to employees in the gaming industry under La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 27:28.  Eicher v. Louisiana State Police, Riverboat Gaming Enforcement Division, 710 So. 2d 799 (La. App. 1 Cir. 1998).

B. Negligent hiring protection

In 2014, La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 23:291(E) was enacted, protecting employers from negligent hiring and supervision liability in many claims based solely on an employee’s past criminal convictions.  However, that protection does not extend to acts that are “substantially related to the nature of the crime for which the employee was convicted and the employer, general contractor, premises owner, or other third party knew or should have known of the conviction.”  § 23:291(E)(2)(a).  It also does not extend to a past conviction for enumerated crimes of violence or sex offenses of which the employer “knew or should have known.”  § 23:291(E)(2)(b).    

C. Ban-the-box in public employment and college admission

Ban-the-box in public employment:  Effective August 1, 2016, state employers may not inquire into the criminal history of applicants for “unclassified” state service positions until after the applicant has been interviewed for the position, or, if no interview is conducted, until the applicant is extended a conditional offer of employment.  See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42:1701 (added by Act No. 398 (2016)). The law does not apply to law enforcement or corrections positions or to positions “for which a criminal background check is required by law.” § 42:1701(D). 

The law permits the consideration of an applicant’s criminal history once it is disclosed and provides that:

In considering the criminal history of the prospective employee, the state employer may consider the following:

1) The nature and gravity of the criminal conduct.

2) The time that has passed since the occurrence of the criminal conduct.

3) The specific duties and essential functions of the position and the bearing, if any, that the criminal conduct will have on the ability of the prospective employee to perform one or more of those duties or functions.

§ 42:1701(B).  Effective July 2017, “classified” state service positions will also be covered by ban-the-box provisions adopted by the the State Civil Service Commission.  See Civil Service Rule 22.4.1, available at; see also (adopting proposed rule).  Rule 22.4.1 provides as follows:

No state employer, when filling a position in the classified service, may inquire on an initial application form about a prospective employee’s felony criminal history unless it is for a position that has a legal restriction that prohibits employment due to a criminal conviction. However, during the candidate’s interview or after the candidate has been given a conditional offer of employment, the appointing authority or his or her designee may inquire about the candidate’s criminal history.

Ban-the-box in public college admissions:  Effective July 2017, admission forms to public colleges in Louisiana will no longer require information about an applicant’s criminal history, with the exception of certain violent sexual offenses.  See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 17:3152.  Inquiries may be made after admission for specified educational purposes, but students may not be excluded from programs designed to prepare for occupational license or certification as teacher.  Applications to Health Sciences Center and School of Veterinary Medicine excepted.

  1. In an opinion dated October 31, 2008, the General Counsel, Administrative Office for U.S. Courts, opined that federal supervised release, as a penalty imposed separately from a prison sentence, is analogous to probation as opposed to parole.   See Memorandum from Joe Gergits, Assistant General Counsel, AOUSC, October 31, 2008 (on file with authors).
  2. On January 27, 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned a 1997 amendment to the state constitution, La. Const. art. I § 10 (B) that barred those with felony convictions from holding elective office until 15 years after completion of sentence.  The court held that the amendment had not been constitutionally adopted because, due to an error, the version of the amendment that was voted on by the public omitted provisions that had been approved by the legislature.  See Shepherd v. Schedler, 209 So. 3d 752 (La. 2016), available at; see also Janet McConnaughey, Associated Press, State high court overturns bar to felons running for office, The Advertiser, (Jan. 28, 2016).
  3. In holding that the phrase “offenses against the state” in art. IV, § 5 includes federal offenses, the court referred to “the historical practice of Louisiana governors to issue pardons to federal offenders. See La. Atty. Gen. Op. 103, 97-878 (3/13/80), which recites the fact that Louisiana governors issued 87 pardons to persons convicted of federal felonies in the 15 years preceding 1980.”  937 So. 2d at 351.  Prior to the Shyne decision, the Board of Pardons had announced in 1996 and again in 2005 that it would no longer accept applications from federal offenders.  See
  4. Art. 983.  Costs of expungement of a record; fees; collection; exemptions; disbursements

    A.  Except as provided for in Articles 894 and 984 of this Code, the total cost to obtain a court order expunging a record shall not exceed five hundred fifty dollars.

    B.  The nonrefundable processing fees for a court order expunging a record shall be as follows:

    (1)  The Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information may charge a processing fee of two hundred fifty dollars for the expungement of any record of arrest when ordered to do so by the court in compliance with the provisions of this Title.

    (2)  The sheriff may charge a processing fee of fifty dollars for the expungement of any record of arrest when ordered to do so by the court in compliance with the provisions of this Title.

    (3)  The district attorney may charge a processing fee of fifty dollars for the expungement of any record of arrest when ordered to do so by the court in compliance with the provisions of this Title.

    (4)  The clerk of court may charge a processing fee not to exceed two hundred dollars to cover the clerk’s costs of the expungement.

    C.  The clerk of court shall collect all processing fees at the time the motion for expungement is filed.

  5. The law also specifies that the law should not be interpreted to limit the licensing entity’s discretion vis a vis individuals “not covered” by the law. § 37:33.
  6. Prior to 2012 amendment, only a felony could be disqualifying.

Copyright © 2017

Restoration of Rights/Kentucky

Kentucky flagI.  Restoration of Civil/Firearms Rights
A.  Vote/office

Persons convicted of a felony lose the right to vote and it is restored only by expungement (available only for certain low-level felonies, see Part II-B, below) or personal action of the governor.  See Ky. Const. § 145(1) (“Persons convicted in any court of competent jurisdiction of treason, or felony, or bribery in an election, or of such high misdemeanor as the General Assembly may declare shall operate as an exclusion from the right of suffrage, but persons hereby excluded may be restored to their civil rights by executive pardon.”); see also Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 27A.070 (court shall send notice of a felony conviction to the state board of elections when conviction is final).  In addition, people who are “in confinement under the judgment of a court for some penal offense” at the time of the election, whether convicted of felony or misdemeanor, are not allowed to vote.  Ky. Const. § 145(2).  The legislature has chosen not to extend disenfranchisement to those convicted of “high misdemeanors,” except those “in confinement under the judgment of a court” at the time of an election.  Id.  Federal offenders and out-of-state offenders may have voting rights restored by the governor, Arnett v. Stumbo, 153 S.W.2d 889 (Ky. 1941), except that those with out-of-state convictions may vote in Kentucky if their rights were restored in the jurisdiction of conviction.  Source: Office of the Governor.1 As of April 2016, set-aside and expungement of Class D felonies also restores the right to vote.  See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 431.078. 

Except as provided below, a person convicted of a felony “or of such high misdemeanor as may be prescribed by law” loses the right to hold office, unless pardoned.  Ky. Const. § 150.

B.  Jury

A person who has “been previously convicted of a felony and has not been pardoned or received a restoration of civil rights by the Governor or other authorized person of the jurisdiction in which the person was convicted” is disqualified from jury service.  See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 29A.080(2)(e).

C.  Firearms

A person convicted after January 1, 1975 is prohibited from possessing a handgun, and a person convicted after July 15, 1994 is prohibited from possessing any firearm, unless pardoned.  Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 527.040(1).  See Posey v. Commonwealth, 185 S.W.3d 170, 181 (Ky. 2006) (state constitutional right to bear arms did not limit legislature’s authority to prohibit possession of firearms by convicted felon).

D.  Collateral consequences

Kentucky’s collateral consequences have been compiled and analyzed in two law review articles:  Troy B. Daniels, Dawn L. Danley-Nichols, Kate R. Morgan and Bryce C. Roades, Kentucky’s Statutory Collateral Consequences from Felony Convictions: A Practitioner’s Guide, 35 N. Ky. L. Rev. 413 (2008), available at;   Sara M. Caudill and Ashley England-Huff, Collateral Consequences of Felony Convictions Established in the Kentucky Administrative Regulations, 35 N. Ky. L. Rev. 453 (2008).

II.  Discretionary Restoration Mechanisms
A. Executive pardon

The power to pardon is vested in the governor.  Ky. Const. § 77.  The governor may also act to restore certain rights of citizenship to a person, including the right to vote or to hold office.  §§ 145 (right to vote), 150 (eligibility to hold office).  For pardons, the governor must file with the legislature a statement of reasons with each pardon grant, which must be available to the public.  § 77.  The governor may ask the Kentucky Parole Board to investigate and make recommendations on pardon cases, but he is not bound by its advice.  Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 439.450 (“On request of the Governor the board shall investigate and report to him with respect to any case of pardon…”).


The Kentucky Parole Board is composed of nine full-time members appointed by the governor to four-year terms. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 439.320.  The governor must make each appointment from a list of three names provided by the Kentucky State Corrections Commission.  §439.320(1).  No more than six Board members may be of the same political party.  Id.  Full-time members are salaried employees.  The governor designates one Board member to serve as chair.  § 439.320(2).2


For restoration of rights, expiration of sentence or discharge, with no pending charges.  For pardon, governor requires seven-year waiting period.  Federal and out-of-state offenders are eligible only for a partial pardon (restoration of citizenship).  See Stumbo, 153 S.W.2d at 891-92.


Restoration of citizenship restores a person’s right to vote and eligibility for jury service.  A full pardon relieves additional legal disabilities.  See Leonard v. Corrections Cabinet, 828 S.W.2d 668, 672-73 (Ky. Ct. App. 1992) (Governor’s pardon would at least open the door for convicted person’s consideration as peace officer, but restoration of rights does not).  The governor’s pardon document may limit rights being restored.  See Anderson v. Commonwealth, 107 S.W.3d 193 (Ky. 2003) (Governor’s order restoring a convicted person’s civil rights did not restore felon’s “right” or eligibility to serve as a juror, where order specifically limited the restoration to felon’s rights to vote and to hold office).  With the enactment of HB40 in 2016, a full pardon is now grounds for vacatur and expungement.  See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 431.078; Part II-B-1, infra.

Restoration of rights

Simplified process for restoration of rights: In 2001, legislature directed Department of Corrections to implement “simplified” process for restoration of civil rights, including informing all eligible offenders of their right to apply, generating a monthly list of all eligible offenders who have asked for their rights back, conducting investigations, giving notice to prosecutor in county of conviction and county of residence, and forwarding to Governor’s office on a monthly basis a list of all eligible offenders for consideration for partial pardon.  See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 196.045.  Application form on DOC website is available at

Full pardon

Pardon applications are sent directly to the Governor’s Office, along with a statement of the reasons for seeking relief and three letters of recommendation.  An application form may be obtained by inquiring with the office of the governor (Phone:  502-564-2611).  Each completed application is sent to prosecutor for recommendation (if no response within 30 days, assumes no objection).

Frequency of grants
Restoration of rights

Shortly after taking office in December 2015, Governor Matt Bevin suspended an executive order of predecessor Governor Steve Beshear that automatically restored civil rights to all those who have completed their sentences.  See David Weigel, Kentucky’s new governor reverses executive order that restored voting rights for felons, Washington Post, (Dec. 23, 2015); see also Part I-A, supra.  According to the Office of the Secretary of State, Beshear had restored rights to more than 4200 individuals in his first 21/2 years alone.  (Phone:  502-564-3490).  Governor Fletcher, Beshear’s predecessor, imposed strict limits on restoration, including payment of an application fee and requirement of a written essay from applicants.3

Full pardon

On July 3, 2017, Governor Matt Bevin issued the first ten pardons of his term.   The most controversial of these grants went to a woman convicted in 2016 of child abuse in connection with the death of her 5-year old child.  See  In his statement accompanying the grants, Governor Bevin stated that “There will be additional pardons granted, as warranted, in the months and years ahead,” id., which suggests that he intends to depart from the custom of Kentucky governors in recent years of reserving pardons until the end of their terms.  For example, Governor Steve Beshear (2007-2015) issued all 201 of his pardons and commuted six prison sentences on December 8, 2015, his last day in office.  Ten of the grants went to women convicted of violent acts stemming from domestic violence.  The grants are listed at   Beshear received approximately 3400 applications during his eight years in office.  Governor Fletcher issued about 100 pardons on his last day in office.  He also caused a sensation in August of 2005 by issuing blanket pardons to nine of his aides who were being investigated by a grand jury for merit system personnel violations, but had not been convicted.  See Associated Press, “Kentucky Governor Issues Pardons in Hiring Probe,” August 29, 2005, available at


Office of the Governor, State Capitol, 700 Capitol Avenue, Frankfurt, Kentucky, 40601.  502-564-2611.

B.  Judicial expungement or sealing
1. Set-aside and expungement of minor felonies, pardoned convictions

On April 1, 2016 the Kentucky legislature passed HB40, adding new sections to KRS Chapter 431 that authorize courts upon petition to vacate specified Class D felony convictions and pardoned convictions, dismiss the charges, and expunge the record.  See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 431.073 (added by HB40 (2016)).  Until the passage of HR 40 in 2016, the only felony cases eligible for expungement were Class D felonies in which adjudication was deferred.  See §§ 533.250-533.262, discussed infra.


Eligible Class D felonies include third-degree burglary, drug possession, prescription forgery, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, stealing credit card information, stealing computer data, filing falsified financial records, conspiracy to promote gambling, bigamy and selling real estate without a license, among several others.  A person can only apply for vacatur under this authority once in their lifetime, but multiple eligible Class D felonies stemming from a single incident may be vacated in a single application.  A 5-year waiting period from completion of sentence (including any period of probation and parole) applies, during which time a person must remain conviction-free.  A person with pending criminal charges may not apply.


The vacatur application shall be filed as a motion in the original criminal case, and defendants “shall be informed of the right at the time of adjudication.”  The court must hold a hearing within 120 days of filing.  Prosecutors have 60 days to respond, and no hearing is required if the prosecutor either indicates no objection or does not respond within the 120 days.  There is a filing fee of $500 (a floor amendment to reduce this to $250 was defeated).

If all eligibility requirements are met, the court may order the conviction vacated, upon which

the court shall dismiss with prejudice any charges which are eligible for expungement . . . and order expunged all records in the custody of the court and any records in the custody of any other agency or official, including law enforcement records ….

HB 40 (2016), § 1(4). The law does not provide any standards guiding the court’s exercise of discretion in deciding whether to issue a vacatur order.


Upon entry of an  order  vacating  and  expunging  a  conviction,  the  original conviction  shall  be  vacated  and  the  record  shall  be  expunged.  The court  and other agencies shall cause records to be deleted or removed from their computer systems  so  that  the  matter  shall  not  appear  on  official  state-performed background checks. The court and other agencies shall reply to any inquiry that no record exists on the matter. The person whose record is expunged shall not have to  disclose  the  fact  of  the  record  or  any  matter  relating  thereto  on an application for employment, credit, or other type of application. If the person is not prohibited from voting for any other reason, the person’s ability to vote shall be restored and the person may register to vote.

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 431.078(6).

Index of expungement orders

The Administrative Office of the Courts shall retain an index of expungement orders entered under Section 1 of this Act. The index shall only be accessible to persons preparing a certification of eligibility for expungement pursuant to Section 4 of this Act. If the index indicates that the person applying for expungement has had a prior felony expunged under Section 1 of this Act, the person preparing the report may, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 1 of this Act, access the expunged record and include information from the expunged record in the certification.

§ 431.078(5).

Additional information

A guide to felony expungement created by the The Kentucky Courts is available at

2. Expungement of misdemeanors

Most misdemeanors and violations are eligible for expungement, upon petition to the court of conviction, five years after completion of sentence or probation, whichever is later.4  Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 431.078(2). Expungement is mandatory if the individual has no other convictions for a misdemeanor or violation (a series of misdemeanors or violations arising out of the same incident counts as single offense), § 431.078(1)(a), and discretionary if the individual has been convicted of multiple misdemeanors or violations not arising from the same incident, § 431.078(1)(b). In either case, the individual must not have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor within the preceding five years and must have no pending charges. § 431.078(4) – (5). Sex offenses or offenses against a child are ineligible. Id.

Upon receiving the petition, the court must notify the prosecutor, identified victims, and “any other person whom the person filing the petition has reason to believe may have relevant information related to the expungement of the record.” § 431.078(3). A hearing is required for both mandatory and discretionary expungement. No standards for consideration of discretionary expungement are set forth in the law. Individual must be informed of right to expunge conviction at time of conviction. § 431.078(1). The section is retroactive to offenses committed prior to July 14, 1992. § 431.078(8).

All petitions for expungement must include a certificate of eligibility for expungement, in which the Kentucky State Police certify an individual’s eligibility. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 431.079.5


Upon the entry of an order to expunge the records the proceedings in the case shall be deemed never to have occurred; the court and other agencies shall cause records to be deleted or removed from their computer systems so that the matter shall not appear on official state-performed background checks; the persons and the court may properly reply that no record exists with respect to the persons upon any inquiry in the matter; and the person whose record is expunged shall not have to disclose the fact of the record or any matter relating thereto on an application for employment, credit, or other type of application.

Ky. Rev. Stat. § 431.078(6).

3.  Pretrial diversion/deferred adjudication

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 533.250-533.262.  Pretrial diversion is available to a person charged with a Class D felony offense who has had no prior felony convictions within a ten-year period, who has not been under felony sentence within the ten year period immediately preceding the commission of the offense, and whose offense is not one for which probation or parole is prohibited.  § 533.250(1)(a).  Persons must demonstrate treatment compliance as a precondition of participation in the pretrial diversion program, if indicated, though this requirement may be waived.  §§ 533.251(1)-(2).  The court may permit Class C felony offenders to participate.  § 533.251(4).  Prosecutor must make a recommendation on each request for admission to diversion, and the court cannot grant diversion without the prosecutor’s approval.  § 533.250(6).  See also Flynt v. Commonwealth, 105 S.W.3d 415 (Ky. 2003).6 A guilty plea is a precondition for participation, but upon successful completion of the probationary period the charges are listed as “dismissed-diverted” and “shall not constitute a criminal conviction.”  § 533.258(1).  Expungement is available under Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 431.076 (see supra).  The defendant shall not be required to list this disposition on any application for employment, licensure, or otherwise unless required to do so by federal law.  § 533.258(2).

4.  Juvenile expungement

Kentucky significantly revised its juvenile expungement authority in 2017.  See SB-195 (2017) amending Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 610.330.  Under the amended law, expungement is now available for all juvenile offenses, excluding sex crimes and those that would result in “violent offender” classification.   § 610.330(1)(a), (c). Previously, those that would have been felonies if committed by an adult were ineligible.  Only a single felony (or “a serious of felonies arising from a single incident”) may be expunged, while there is no limitation of the number of misdemeanors, violations, or status offenses that may be expunged.   § 610.330(2).  Individuals with proceedings pending are ineligible.  § 610.330(1(c). Expungement proceedings may be initiated by motion from “any interested person,” a probation officer, a representative of the Department of Juvenile Justice, or upon the court’s own motion.   § 610.330(1)(b). The petition must be filed no sooner than two years after the ending of the court’s jurisdiction over the juvenile or two years after the juvenile’s unconditional release from commitment, with waiver of the waiting period available in extraordinary circumstances.  § 610.330(2). Under the new amendments, expungement is discretionary, and a juvenile’s record may be vacated and expunged so long as the eligibility requirements described above are met.  § 610.330(5). Upon expungement, “the case shall be deemed never to have occurred and all index references shall be deleted and the person and court may properly reply that no record exists with respect to such person.” § 610.330(6). Only the person or those named in the sealing order may inspect the records, and the juvenile may deny the existence of any record, and may not be required to disclose the record on “an application for employment, credit, or other type of application.”  § 610.330(6), (9). The court must inform the juvenile of the right to expungement at the time of adjudication.  § 610.330(1)(a).

Under the new amendment, expungement is now automatic if a juvenile petition is dismissed, or results in a finding of not-delinquent. § 610.330(7).

5.  Expungement of non-conviction records

Courts are authorized to expunge records of misdemeanor or felony cases that result in dismissals or acquittals.  Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 431.076(1).  In spousal abuse cases judges “shall” expunge if the charges are dismissed or end in acquittal.  Id. § 510.300.  If the court finds after a hearing that there are no current charges or proceedings pending relating to the matter for which the expungement is sought, the court “may” grant the motion and order the expunging of all records in the custody of the court and any records in the custody of any other agency, including law enforcement records. § 431.076(1).  See also § 17.142 (segregation of records).

In 2016 expungement authority under § 431.076 was extended to cases in which filed charges have not resulted in indictment after 12 months. 


In 2005, an investigative article from the Louisville Courier-Journal reports that 12,000 expungements were granted in Kentucky in the two-year period prior to May 2005.  Jason Riley & Kay Stewart, Confusing laws allow abuse and inequality: Filing errors also leave some sealed cases open, Courier-Journal, May 15, 2005.  The Courier-Journal article also documents confusion among judges as to whether they have discretion to deny expungement under these statutes.  Uncertainty expressed about court authority to expunge records in diversion cases.  When a case is expunged, several agencies—including Metro Corrections, the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, metro police and sometimes the state police and the FBI—are ordered to seal their records.  They are supposed to certify to the court within 60 days that they have done so.  The FBI, which runs the National Crime Information Center, is not bound by the state order but routinely erases the requested records. 

III.  Nondiscrimination in Licensing and Employment:
A.  Public employment and licensing, generally

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 335B.020-.070.  Under § 335B.020(1),

No person shall be disqualified from public employment, [or from] . . . any occupation for which a license is required, solely because of a prior conviction of a crime, unless the crime for which convicted is directly relates to the position of employment sought or the occupation for which the license is sought.

§ 335B.020(1) (as amended by SB-120 (2017)).

In determining if a conviction directly relates to the position of public employment sought or the occupation for which the license is sought, the hiring or licensing authority shall consider:

(a) The nature and seriousness of the crime for which the individual was convicted and the passage of time since its commission.

(b) The relationship of the crime to the purposes of regulating the position of public employment sought or the occupation for which the license is sought;

(c) The relationship of the crime to the ability, capacity, and fitness required to perform the duties and discharge the responsibilities of the position of employment or occupation.

§ 335B.020(2) (as amended by SB-120 (2017)).

See also 1980 Ky. Op. Atty Gen. 80-388 (1980), 1980 WL 102528 (Ky.A.G) (explaining that a felony conviction is not an absolute bar to an occupational license, Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. Ch. 335B supersedes all other statutes and regulations as to licensing convicted persons, and the licensing board should consider if an applicant has been rehabilitated).

In 2017, SB-120, § 31 made significant amendments to § 335B.030, further defining the scope of discretion granted to public employers and licensing boards. The amendments prohibit disqualification based solely on conviction unless the employer or board provides the individual with written notice that it “has determined that the prior conviction may disqualify the person, demonstrates the connection between the prior conviction and the license being sought, and affords the individual an opportunity to be personally heard before the board prior to the board making a decision on whether to disqualify the individual.” § 335B.030(2)(a). The amendment also provides,

If an individual’s prior conviction was for a Class A felony, a Class B felony, or any felony offense that would qualify the individual as a registrant pursuant to KRS 17.500, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that a connection exists between the prior conviction and the license being sought.

§ 335B.030(2)(b).

B.  Ban-the-box in public hiring

On February 1, 2017, Governor Matt Bevin signed Executive Order 2017-064, removing questions about criminal history and convictions from state job applications.  The Order also prohibits agencies from inquiring “into an applicant’s criminal history until the applicant has been contacted to interview for a position, unless required by law to do so.”

  1. Efforts have been made in the Kentucky legislature to restore the vote automatically upon completion of sentence; The Democratic-led House repeatedly has approved a proposed constitutional amendment to that effect, but it has been blocked in the Republican-led Senate.  On November 24, 2015, just prior to leaving office, Governor Steve Beshear issued an executive order restoring the right to vote and hold office to persons convicted of non-violent felonies upon completion of their sentence, as long as they had paid restitution and have no charges pending.  The order did not restore rights to those convicted of specified violent crimes, sex offenses, bribery or treason, who will still have to apply for discretionary restoration. Upon assuming office, his successor Governor Bevin suspended this order.  See David Weigel, Kentucky’s new governor reverses executive order that restored voting rights for felons, Washington Post, (Dec. 23, 2015).  This action did not affect those whose voting rights had been recognized in the intervening two weeks.
  2. Note that prior to 2010, the Parole Board consisted of 9 full-time and 2 part-time members, and each of the part-time members had to be from a different political party.  In 2010, legislation was passed that deleted reference to part-time Board members.  See 2010 Ky. Laws Ch. 107 (H.B. 564).
  3. See Elizabeth A. Wahler, Losing the Right to Vote: Perceptions of Permanent Disenfranchisement and the Civil Rights Restoration Application Process in the State of Kentucky, The Sentencing Project (Apr. 2006), available at; Marc Mauer & Tushar Kansal, Barred For Life: Voting Rights Restoration in Permanent Disenfranchisement States, Sentencing Project (Feb. 2005) at 14, available at
  4. The petition form is available at
  5. The website of the Kentucky courts describes certification procedures and allows petitioners to begin the certification process of line.  See As of February 2016, a $40 fee is required for certification — this is in addition to the $100 fee required to file the petition itself.
  6. In Gibson v. Commonwealth, 291 S.W.3d 686, 690 (Ky. 2009), the Kentucky Supreme Court explained its reasoning in Flynt as follows:

    The issue presented in Flynt, was whether a trial court could place a criminal defendant on a pretrial diversion program without the consent of the prosecuting attorney. Id. at 426. A criminal defendant who successfully completes a Pretrial Diversion Program is entitled to dismissal of his charges under circumstances that  ‘shall not constitute a criminal conviction.’ KRS 533.258(1). Upon completion of the program, RCr 8.04(5) provides for the charges to be ’dismissed with prejudice.’ In holding that the prosecuting attorney’s consent was required, we said:

    ‘[t]o interpret KRS 533.250(2) as permitting a trial court to approve pretrial diversion applications over the Commonwealth’s objection – and thus conferring upon circuit courts the discretionary authority that we have previously held to be within the exclusive province of the executive branch – would construe it in a manner inconsistent with Kentucky’s constitutional separation of powers provisions …. (W)here the Commonwealth objects to pretrial diversion, circuit courts cannot unilaterally approve a defendant’s diversion application.’

    Id. at 426. Critical to our holding in the Flynt case is the fact that, unlike other ‘pretrial diversion’ schemes, the program established by the General Assembly enables a criminal defendant to avoid a felony conviction entirely, and potentially, if the Program is satisfactorily completed, results in a dismissal of the case  ‘with prejudice,’ barring future prosecution for that offense. Thus, we held that our Constitution’s provision for separation of powers requires the agreement of the executive branch (‘the Commonwealth’) before entry into the Program may be ordered by the court.

Copyright © 2017

Restoration of Rights Series/Kansas


imageI.  Restoration of Civil/Firearms Rights
A.  Civil Rights

A person convicted of a felony loses the right to vote, to hold office, and to serve on a jury.  Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6613(a).1 These rights are automatically restored upon completion of the authorized sentence.  § 21-6613(b).  Upon satisfaction of conditional release or parole (or sooner if the sentence expires sooner), a state offender receives from the parole board a “certificate of discharge,” which restores civil rights.  § 22-3722.

B.  Firearms

A conviction of a “person felony” or a drug felony, or juvenile adjudication of a similar crime, results in a permanent loss of firearm rights if a firearm was carried at the time of the offense.  Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6304(a)(1).  If a firearm was not used, the prohibition is 10 years for specified serious felonies if the offense was not pardoned or expunged, § 21-6304(a)(3)(A), and five years for other person felonies.  § 21-6304(a)(2).  Nonperson felonies result in a ten-year loss if committed with a firearm.  § 21-6304(a)(3)(B).

II.  Discretionary Restoration Mechanisms
A.  Executive pardon

The pardon power is vested in the governor, subject to regulations and restrictions by law.  Kan. Const. art. I, § 7.  The governor is required to seek the advice of the Kansas prisoner review board before acting, though he is not bound to follow it.  See Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3701(4) (as amended by 2012 Kansas Laws Ch. 16 (H.B. 2535)).  The governor must report to the legislature on each pardon application granted during the preceding year, but is not required to give his reasons.  § 22-3703.


Prior to 2011, the governor was required to see the advice of the Kansas parole board before acting on a pardon, per Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3701(4) (2010).  The parole board was composed of three members appointed by the governor to four-year terms, with the advice and consent of the Senate; and no more than two could be from the same political party.   22-3707(a) (2010).  Board members were full-time salaried employees; and the chairperson was designated by the governor.  §§ 22-3708 (2010); 22-3709 (2010).  Board members were subject to dismissal by the governor for “disability, inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.”  § 22-3707(b) (2010).

In January 2011, however, Governor Brownback issued Executive Reorganization Order No. 34, which replaced the parole board with a “prisoner review board.”  See Executive Reorganization Order No. 34 [hereinafter ERO 34], available at [2]  Per the terms of ERO 34, the parole board was “abolished” and the prisoner review board was deemed a “continuation of the Kansas parole board.”  ERO 34 at § 2(a).  Accordingly, the ERO transferred “[a]ll of the powers, duties and functions” of the parole board to the prisoner review board and the prisoner review board became “the successor in every way” to the old parole board.  Id. at §§ 2(b)-3.

The prisoner review board is established within the Kansas department of corrections and is administered under the supervision of the secretary of corrections.  ERO 34 at § 1.  “The prisoner review board shall consist of three members appointed by the secretary of corrections and all members shall serve at the pleasure of the secretary.”  Id. (emphasis added).  Additionally, Board members shall be “existing employees of the department of corrections.”  Id.  The abolishment of the old parole board and the establishment of, and transfer of powers to, the new prisoner review board was codified in Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 75-52,152 and 75-52,153.3[3]  Pursuant to a subsequent “clean-up” bill, see 2012 Kansas Laws Ch. 16 (H.B. 2535), the chair and vice-chair of the prisoner review board shall be designated by the secretary of corrections (not the governor).

The Kansas Department of Corrections’ website contains a historical overview of Kansas paroling authorities at


No eligibility restrictions, except that only Kansas state convictions are eligible to be pardoned or commuted. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3701(1).


In general a pardon removes disabilities imposed under state law, but does not erase or expunge conviction.  See (“a pardon does not erase the conviction from the record, remove responsibility for the crime, nor can it be the basis for a negative response to the question: ‘Have you ever been convicted of a crime?’”).  In particular, it does not lift the bar to service as law enforcement officer.   Kan. Att’y Gen. Op. No. 85-165, 1985 WL 204857 (Nov. 26, 1985) (Texas pardon, construed under Texas law, does not lift the bar under Kansas law to service as law enforcement officer).  It also does not preclude increased sentencing in subsequent offense.  State v. Zumalt, 451 P.2d 253, 256 (Kan. 1969).


An applicant for pardon must publish a copy of the application in a newspaper of general circulation in the county of conviction at least 30 days before pardon is granted or pardon is void.  Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3701(3).  An applicant must also provide written notice of the application to: (a) the prosecuting attorney and the judge of the court in which the defendant was convicted; and (b) any victim of the person’s crime or the victim’s family.  Id.  “All applications for pardon or commutation of sentence shall be referred to the board.”  § 22-3701(4).  The board “shall examine each case and submit a report, together with such information as the board may have concerning the applicant, to the governor within 120 days after referral to the board.”  Id.  The governor “shall not grant or deny any such application until the governor has received the report of the board or until 120 days after the referral to the board, whichever time is the shorter.”  Id.  The Board may seek a personal interview with an applicant in a particular case, but it is not required to do so.  See Kan. Admin. Regs. § 45-900-1(c).  Additional information about applying for clemency (including pardons) can be found on the Board’s website,  This website contains a copy of the notice that needs to be sent to the judge, prosecuting attorney, and applicable law enforcement officer; a request for publication form to the newspaper; and the application form.  See id.

Frequency of Grants

Pardons are very rare, and granted primarily for miscarriage of justice.  For a summary of the pardoning practices of recent governors see Shaun Hittle, Brownback has no plans to pardon any Kansas inmates, Lawrence Journal-World, Dec. 11, 2011,  Expungement appears to be the preferred method of dealing with disabilities associated with conviction.


Prisoner Review Board

Office of the Governor
300 SW 10th Ave., Ste. 212S
Topeka, KS 66612-1590

B.  Judicial sealing or expungement
1.  Adult conviction and arrest records
Authority and eligibility

A procedure for expunging state convictions and arrest records is set out in § 21-6614 of the Kansas statutes.  A convicted person may petition the court after discharge from probation or parole, after a waiting period of three years for misdemeanors and minor felonies, and five years for eligible felony offenses,   Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6614(a)-(b).  Serious violent offenses (murder, rape, sex offenses) are ineligible for expungement.  § 21-6614(d).  DUI with a commercial driver’s license is also not eligible.  In 2012, the legislature amended this law to provide that no expungement is available for any conviction or any part of an offender’s criminal record if and while the offender is required to register per the Kansas offender registration act (i.e., Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-4901 et seq.), which applies to people convicted of sex offenses, violent offenses, and drug offenses.  See § 21-6614(e). A person must be informed at each stage of the criminal process about the possibility of obtaining expungement, including upon release from prison.  § 21-6614(i).  The expungement law is amended frequently, so care should be taken to obtain the most current version.

Process and criteria

Expungement forms and instructions are available for each county. See, e.g., (Shawnee County).  See also (internal Kansas Department of Corrections policies and procedures for expungement, reissued July 15, 2011).  Petition must be filed in the county of conviction, and is made part of the original criminal docket.  Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6614(f)(3).  A docket fee of $100 is required.  § 21-6614(f)(2).  The court notifies prosecutor and arresting law enforcement agency, and may inquire into petitioner’s background and shall have access to any reports or records relating to the petitioner that are on file with the secretary of corrections or the Kansas prisoner review board.  §§ 21-6614(f)(1), (3).  Any person who may have relevant information about the petitioner may testify at the hearing.  § 21-6614(f)(3).  At the hearing on the petition, the court is required to order the petitioner’s arrest record, conviction or diversion expunged if the court finds that: (1) the petitioner has not been convicted of a felony in the past two years and no proceeding involving any such crime is presently pending or being instituted against the petitioner; (2) the circumstances and behavior of the petitioner warrant the expungement; and (3) the expungement is consistent with the public welfare.  § 21-6614(g).  Parole (in another jurisdiction) is not a “pending proceeding” for expungement purposes.  State v. Gamble, 891 P.2d 472, 474 (Kan. Ct. App. 1995).


After expungement, a person “shall be treated as not having been arrested, convicted or diverted of the crime,” except that the expunged conviction may be considered as a prior conviction for sentencing purposes related to a conviction for a subsequent crime and it may be disclosed in a subsequent prosecution for an offense which requires a prior conviction as an element. Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 21-6614(h)(1), (4).  Additional circumstances requiring disclosure are set forth in § 21-6614(h).  Additionally, the expungement may be disregarded by the secretary of corrections for purposes of a new commitment to the custody of the secretary, and the court ordering the expungement may specify other circumstances under which the conviction is to be disclosed.  §§ 21-6614(h)(3), (5).  Also, the conviction must be disclosed in connection with certain licensing and public employment applications (health, security, gaming, commercial driver or guide, investment adviser, law enforcement).  § 21-6614(h)(2).  See also § 21-6614(k).

An expungement does not remove state firearms restrictions (which are generally time-limited in any event, see Part I above).  § 21-6614(j).  In 2012, in response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s holding that an expungement terminates the obligation to register as a sex offender, State v. Divine, 291 Kan. 738 (2011), the legislature amended § 21-6614 to make clear that no expungement is available for any conviction or any part of an offender’s criminal record if and while the offender is required to register per the Kansas offender registration act (i.e., Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-4901 et seq.).4[4]  See § 21-6614(e).

Other than the contexts specified in § 21-6614(h) and (k), a person may respond that he has not been convicted in response to questions on applications for a license or employment or benefit.  § 21-6614(j).

2.  Juvenile Record

Kan. Stat. Ann. § 38-2312.  Juveniles may have both arrest and court records expunged, and a juvenile’s parent or guardian may expunge records if the juvenile is under the age of majority.  § 38-2312(a).  Expungement is unavailable for certain serious or violent offenses.  § 38-2312(b).  To expunge, a juvenile must petition the court, which holds a hearing.  § 38-2312(c).  The court will grant expungement upon a finding that the person is at least age 23 or two years have passed since final discharge, there have been no subsequent convictions or adjudication, no charges are pending, and the petitioner’s circumstances and behavior warrant expungement.  §§ 38-2312(d)(1)(A)–(C).  Upon expungement, the custodian of records must disclose existence of the records to various state agencies upon request.

3.  Non-conviction records

May be expunged on petition to court under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-2410(a).  The court shall order the arrest record and subsequent court proceedings, if any, expunged upon finding: (1) the arrest occurred because of mistaken identity; (2) a court has found that there was no probable cause for the arrest; (3) the petitioner was found not guilty in court proceedings; or (4) the expungement would be in the best interests of justice and charges have been dismissed or no charges have been or are likely to be filed. § 22-2410(c).  Expungement is subject to certain court-ordered grounds for disclosure in connection with certain peace-keeping or gambling employment.  § 22-2410(e).  “Subject to any disclosures required under subsection (e), in any application for employment, license or other civil right or privilege, or any appearance as a witness, a person whose arrest records have been expunged as provided in this section may state that such person has never been arrested.”  § 22-2410(g).  Per 2012 legislation, the statute was amended to provide that the court shall make all expunged records and related information in the court’s possession available to the Kansas bureau of investigation for the purposes of (1) completing a criminal history record information within the central repository or (2) providing information to the FBI for purposes of a background check to determine a person’s qualification to possess a firearm.  § 22-2410(f) (as amended by 2012 Kansas Laws Ch. 66 (S.B. 322)).  See also Kan. Stat. Ann. § 12-4516 (similar authority for expungement under city ordinances).

Penalties for Improper Disclosure of Information

Under Kan. Stat. Ann.§ 22-4707(a), a criminal justice agency and the central repository “may not disseminate criminal history record information except in strict accordance with laws including applicable rules and regulations adopted pursuant to this act,” and may not request such information from the central repository or another criminal justice agency unless it has a legitimate need for the information.”  Under § 22-4707(c), “any individual violating or causing a violation of the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a class A nonperson misdemeanor.  If the person is employed or licensed by a state or local government agency, a conviction shall constitute good cause to terminate employment or to revoke or suspend a license.”  See Patrick v. City of Overland Park, 937 F. Supp. 1491 (D. Kan. 1996) (suit under § 1983 against police chief for unauthorized use of criminal history information in political campaign, in violation of Stat. Ann.§ 22-4707; court held that defendant failed to keep private information that plaintiff “legitimately expected would remain confidential while in the state’s possession”).

III.  Nondiscrimination in Licensing and Employment:
Limitations on Inquiry and on Use

Section 22-4710(a) of the Kansas Statutes Annotated makes it a misdemeanor for an employer to inquire into an applicant’s criminal history record without the applicant’s consent, though employer may require an applicant to sign a release allowing inquiry.  See §§ 22-4710(a)-(c).  Under a 1996 amendment to this law:

“No employer shall be held liable for any employment decision or decision to enter into a contract with an independent contractor based upon knowledge of such criminal history record information, provided the information reasonably bears upon the independent contactor’s, applicant’s or employee’s trustworthiness, or the safety and well-being of the employer’s employees or customers.”

§ 22-4710(f).  See Brent N. Coverdale, Practical Use of Criminal History Information by Kansas Employers, 75 J. Kan. B. Ass’n 16 (2006).


Kan. Stat. Ann. § 74-120:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person, board, commission or similar body who determines the qualifications of individuals for licensure, certification or registration may consider any felony conviction of the applicant, but such a conviction shall not operate as a bar to licensure, certification or registration.

  1. Until 1996, only persons sentenced to a term of imprisonment lost their civil rights.
  2. Under the Kansas Constitution, EROs have the force of law.  Kansas Const. art. 1, § 6(c) (“[e]ach executive reorganization order transmitted to the legislature as provided in this section shall take effect and have the force of general law on the July 1 following its transmittal to the legislature” unless disapproved by the legislature).  See also Kan. Const. art. 1, § 6(d) (“An executive reorganization order which is effective shall be published as and with the acts of the legislature and the statutes of the state.”).  Governors may issue EROs to transfer, abolish, consolidate, or coordinate state agencies when considered “necessary for efficient administration.”  Kansas Const. art. 1, § 6(a).  Upon issuance, the ERO is transmitted to the legislature and becomes law on July 1 following its transmittal, unless either the senate or house disapproves of the order by majority vote within 60 days and before the adjournment of the legislative session.  § 6(c).  Accordingly, ERO 34 become effective on July 1, 2011.
  3. According to a press release, ERO 34 was intended to increase efficiency and save the state almost $500,000 in the next fiscal year.  See  However, some news articles noted the criticism that this change in effect consolidated authority within the executive branch.  That is, instead of being a somewhat independent agency (one where members are appointed by the governor but must also get consent from the senate), the prisoner review board now may become less independent since they must be corrections department employees, are appointed by the secretary of corrections, and the secretary is appointed by the governor.  See, e.g.  Potential conflicts of interest were also raised:
  4. Offenders required to register under Kansas’s offender registration act include sex offenders, violent offenders, and drug offenders as defined in Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-4902.  See generally §§ 22-4901 et seq. (as amended by 2012 Kansas Laws Ch. 149 (H.B. 2568)).

Copyright © 2017

Restoration of Rights Series/Iowa

Iowa flagI.  Restoration of Civil/Firearms Rights
A.  Vote/Office

Under the Iowa Constitution, persons convicted of an “infamous crime” (any crime punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary, which may include aggravated misdemeanors as well as felonies) are ineligible to vote or hold public office.  Iowa Const. art. II, § 5; see Iowa Code § 48A.30(d).  The rule in Iowa has been that “[a]ny crime punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary is an infamous crime.” State ex rel. Dean v. Haubrich, 248 Iowa 978, 980 (1957). In 2016, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the state’s policy of lifetime disenfranchisement of anyone convicted of any felony as being consistent with the state Constitution. See Griffin v. Pate, No 15-1661 (June 20, 2016).  Two years earlier, the court held that repeat DWI, an aggravated misdemeanor carrying a potential prison term, was not an “infamous crime” so as to constitute a bar to eligibility for office.  See Chiodo v. Section 43.24 Panel, No 14-0553 (April 15, 2014).  However, the court stressed that the category of “infamous crime” was broader than “felony.”

Iowa state offenders may regain the right to vote by applying directly to the governor for restoration of rights under Iowa Code § 914.2, or through the Board of Parole for a pardon.  Under current policy, a convicted person will be eligible for restoration of rights only upon satisfaction of fines, restitution, or other financial obligations stemming from the crime.  See Iowa Exec. Order No. 70 (Jan. 14, 2011), available at (last visited May 29, 2012). 1

Federal and out-of-state offenders may also obtain a restoration of rights through application to the Board of Parole, but the Governor’s Office takes the position that the persons convicted in another state jurisdiction, whose rights have been restored in that jurisdiction, may vote in Iowa.

B.  Jury

Felony offenders are not rendered ineligible for jury service, but may be challenged for cause.  Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.915(6)(a); Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.18(5)(a).

C.  Firearms

Conviction or adjudication of a felony, or conviction of misdemeanor domestic violence, renders an individual ineligible to possess a firearm.  Iowa Code § 724.26.  See also §§ 724.8(4), 724.15(1)(b).  In addition, a person convicted within the previous three years of “any serious or aggravated misdemeanor defined in chapter 708 not involving the use of a firearm or explosive” may not possess a firearm.  Iowa Code § 724.8(5).  See also § 724.15(1)(b).  Restoration of citizenship by governor or expungement restores firearms rights unless the conviction is of a forcible felony or firearms offense.  Iowa Code §§ 724.27; 914.7(1).  See Part IIA, infra.

II.  Discretionary Restoration Mechanisms
A.  Executive pardon and restoration of rights

The governor has the authority, except in cases of treason or impeachment, to grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, after conviction, “subject to such regulations as may be provided by law.” Iowa Const. art. IV, § 16; accord Iowa Code §§ 914.1-914.7.  Application for clemency may be made at any time either to the Board of Parole or to the governor.  Iowa Code § 914.2.2  Every two years, the governor must report to the legislature on pardons issued, “and the reasons therefor . . . .” Iowa Const. art. IV, § 16.  The pardon power includes the power to restore rights of citizenship.  See State ex rel. Dean v. Haubrich, 83 N.W.2d 451, 455-56 (Iowa 1957).

Restoration of Citizenship, including firearms rights

Restoration of the right to vote and hold public office is handled by the Office of the Governor.  There is a special process for restoration of firearms rights. The governor’s website on executive clemency includes application forms and instructions as well as frequently asked questions. See (accessed July 6, 2017).


Applications for pardon are also submitted to the governor.  However, the Board of Parole is authorized to periodically review applications for pardon and make recommendations to the governor for all applications by persons convicted of criminal offenses.  Iowa Code § 914.3(1).  Upon request of the governor, the board may “take charge of all correspondence in reference to an application filed with the governor” and provide the governor with advice and recommendation concerning “any person for whom the board has not previously issued a recommendation.”  § 914.3(2).  The governor is required to respond to recommendations of the Board within 90 days; he must “state whether the commendation will be granted and shall specifically set out the reasons for such action.”  § 914.4.  However, the governor’s power to pardon and restore rights of citizenship “shall not be impaired.”  Iowa Code § 914.1; see State v. Duff, 122 N.W. 829 (Iowa 1909) (statute authorizing board to parole prisoners does not confer power upon the board to reprieve or pardon and hence does not violate the constitutional provision granting such power to the governor).

The predecessor statute to section 914.3 does not require the governor to present a case to and obtain a recommendation from the Board of Parole before granting a pardon.  See 1940 Op. Att’y Gen. 125 (reversing 1934 Op. Att’y Gen. 372).  A challenge to this opinion was rejected in the context of the governor’s blanket restoration of voting rights to all persons who have completed their court-imposed sentences.  See Iowa Exec. Order No. 70; see also Ruling on Mot. for Summ. J., State ex rel. Gary R. Allison v. Vilsack, No. EQCV 018165 (Oct. 27, 2005).

Restoration of Citizenship (Vote and Office)

Application for restoration of civil rights may be made directly to the Office of the Governor at any time following conviction. Iowa Code § 914.2.  It is not necessary for a person to have completed parole, probation, or paid all fines (though progress toward satisfying court-imposed obligations will be considered).   Federal and out-of-state offenders may obtain a restoration of civil rights, but not restoration of firearms rights or pardon.

Special Restoration of Citizenship (Firearms)

Firearms restoration must be applied for separately, and requires a waiting period of five years from the date of discharge of sentence. All fines and restitution must be paid.  Persons convicted of forcible felonies, or felonies involving drugs or weapons, are ineligible to have their firearms rights restored, even by pardon. Iowa Code § 914.7.


Application may be submitted “at any time following the conviction,”  Iowa Code § 914.2, though it is the general policy of the governor’s office to require at least ten years to pass from the date that a person is discharged from the sentence of that person’s most recent conviction before granting a pardon.  An applicant must submit criminal history and credit history information.  Evidence of rehabilitation and good character must be demonstrated, and the applicant is invited to submit as many letters of recommendation as possible.  Review appears to be a paper review, since no in-person hearing specified.

The governor’s website on executive clemency includes application forms and instructions as well as frequently asked questions. See (accessed July 6, 2017).


Restoration of rights restores right to vote and hold public office.  Pardon relieves all legal disabilities (including public employment disabilities).  See Slater v. Olson, 299 N.W. 879 (Iowa 1941) (invalidating a statute barring convicted persons who had been pardoned from civil service positions, on ground that it encroached upon the governor’s constitutional powers).  Firearms rights may be restored by pardon, restoration of rights, or expungement of a conviction for a disqualifying offense, Iowa Code § 724.27, except for persons convicted of forcible felonies or firearms offenses, § 914.7.

Role of Board

The Board “shall recommend to the governor the reprieve, pardon, commutation of sentence, remission of fines or forfeitures, or restoration of the rights of citizenship for persons who have by their conduct given satisfactory evidence that they will become or continue to be law-abiding citizens.”  Iowa Code § 914.3(1); see Iowa Admin. Code rules 205-14.3-14.4.  For violent crimes, notice of application for commutation or pardon must be given to registered victims. Iowa Code § 915.19; see paragraph above on governor’s obligation to respond to Board recommendations and give his reasons; see also (last visited July 27, 2013).

Restoration of Citizenship

There is a streamlined statutory process for restoration of citizenship by the governor.  Persons sentenced to prison must initiate application under section 914.2, and upon request from the governor, the warden or superintendent of prison shall provide the government with a statement of the prison conduct and recommendation “as to the propriety of restoration.” Iowa Code § 914.5(3).  For those sentenced to probation, upon discharge the sentencing judge “shall forward to the governor a recommendation for or against restoration of citizenship rights . . . .” § 907.9(4)(a).  The abbreviated process takes from four to six months.  A list of the persons whose rights have been restored must be delivered to the state registrar of voters at least once each month.  § 914.6(3).


An application may be filed with Board of Parole or directly with the governor.  Each application is forwarded to the Department of Public Safety for a full review of criminal and traffic violations as well as a credit history.  According to law, these materials will be reviewed by the Board of Parole, and a recommendation will be submitted to the governor.  The governor may ask the judge and prosecutor for facts or a recommendation.  Upon receipt of recommendation from the Board of Parole, the governor must act on it within 90 days, stating whether or not the recommendation will be granted.  The governor may interview an applicant personally.  The governor must give reasons for decision in either case.  If the governor does not grant the recommendation, the recommendation shall be returned to the board of parole and may be re-filed with the governor at any time.  Iowa Code § 914.4.

Frequency of Grants

See Iowa Board of Parole Annual Reports, 1999 through present.; see also charts below.

Pardon Applications

Rec. favorable/
Pardons Granted
Special Restoration applications
reviewed (w/gun)

Special Restoration of rights (w/gun) granted/denied
Restoration applications
Restoration granted/denied

18 granted

25 granted

21 granted

19 granted












Colin Smith
Deputy Legal Counsel, Office of the Governor
(515) 725-3516

Sarah Harms
Board of Parole

B.  Judicial sealing or expungement of adult felony convictions
1.  Deferred Adjudication and Expungement

For a first felony offense (excluding forcible felonies and certain sex offenses) , the court may defer judgment and place the defendant on probation.4 Iowa Code § 907.3(1).  At any time, if the court determines that the purposes of probation have been fulfilled and fees have been paid, the court may order the discharge of a person from probation. § 907.9(1).  If the defendant is discharged from probation, no conviction occurred in strict legal sense because no adjudication of guilt was made.  State v. Farmer, 234 N.W.2d 89, 92 (Iowa 1975); accord Daughenbaugh v. State, 805 N.W.2d 591, 597 (Iowa 2011).  Upon successful completion of probation, “the court shall forward to the governor a recommendation for or against restoration of citizenship rights to that person . . . .”  § 907.9(4)(a).  In addition, a person who has been discharged from probation “shall no longer be held to answer for the person’s offense,” id. and “the court’s criminal record with reference to the deferred judgment shall be expunged,” § 907.9(4)(b).  The court’s record “shall not be expunged in any other circumstances, unless authorized by law.”  Id.; see Op. Iowa Att’y Gen. No. 75-9-11, 1975 WL 368808 (Sept. 10, 1975) (“expungement” refers only to that part of the court’s criminal record “with reference to the deferred judgment” and there is no authority for expunging the docketing or indexing of the case, the defendant’s name, the charge filed or the plea).5

Expunged records are “segregated in a secure area or database which is exempted from public access.” Iowa Code § 907.1.  However, a deferred judgment that has been expunged may be used to enhance punishment for a subsequent offense.  State v. Moore, 569 N.W.2d 130, 131-32 (Iowa 1997).  Convictions expunged under this authority count as prior convictions under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.  See United States v. Townsend, 408 F.3d 1020, 1025 (8th Cir. 2005) (concluding that “Iowa state-court conviction for third-degree burglary was not expunged due to constitutional invalidity, innocence, or a mistake of law . . . [i]nstead, the conviction was exempted from public access to permit [defendant] Townsend a clean start and to restore some civil rights”).

2.  Juvenile records

Adjudication records in delinquency proceedings arising on or after July 1, 2016 are presumptively confidential if they do not involve a forcible felony offense.   Iowa Code Ann. §§ 232.147(3), 232.149B(1) (amended and enacted by 2015 SF 2288).  Forcible felony records may be treated as confidential if, upon petition, the court finds that the juvenile’s interest in making the records confidential outweighs the public’s interest in the records remaining public. § 232.149A(1).  Confidential records are not available to the general public but remain available to law enforcement, county attorneys, and military recruiters, among others. §§ 232.147(3), 232.149A(3).

For non-forcible felony offenses, presumptively confidential records may be made public while the juvenile court holds jurisdiction if the court finds, upon a motion by the court or anyone else, any of the following: that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the juvenile’s interest in confidentiality; that, in certain “youthful offender” cases, jurisdiction will be transferred to district court upon the juvenile’s 18th birthday; or the juvenile was subsequently charged with or adjudicated for a serious misdemeanor, aggravated misdemeanor, or felony. § 232.149B(2), (3).  Records made public may be subsequently sealed under § 232.150, discussed below. § 232.149B(4).


Sealing is governed by Iowa Code Ann. § 232.150(1). The court is required to schedule a sealing hearing two years after the last official action in a case or on the person’s 18th birthday, whichever is later.  Id.  For offenses other than aggravated misdemeanors and felonies, the court will seal upon a finding that the person is at least age 18; at least two years have elapsed since the last official action on the person’s case; there have been no subsequent felony or aggravated misdemeanor convictions; the person was not placed on youthful offender status, transferred to adult court, and sentenced for the underlying offense; and that the person was not adjudicated for an OWI (DUI).  Id.  Aggravated misdemeanors may be sealed upon application if they meet the same eligibility requirements (excepting the youthful offender and OWI criteria) and if sealing is in the best interests of the person and the public § 232.150(1)(b).  Unlike “confidential” records, sealed records “shall no longer be deemed to exist as a matter of law.”  § 232.150(5).  Courts and agencies shall respond to requests for sealed records that no such records exist.  Id.  “All agencies and persons having custody of [sealed records] shall send such records to the court issuing the [sealing] order,” and “all index references to sealed records shall be deleted.”  Id.

Status of records at age 21

Iowa Code Ann. § 692.17(1):

Criminal history data shall not include custody or adjudication data, except as necessary for the purpose of administering chapter 692A, after the juvenile has reached twenty-one years of age, unless the juvenile was convicted of or pled guilty to a serious or aggravated misdemeanor or felony between age eighteen and age twenty-one.

3.  Non-conviction records

Effective January 1, 2016, a person acquitted of all charges or whose charges have been dismissed (except deferred adjudication cases) is entitled to have the record expunged after 180 days. Iowa Code § 901C.1.  Same definition of expungement as for deferred adjudication under § 907.4.  See also Iowa Code § 962.17(1):  “Criminal history data in a computer data storage system shall not include arrest or disposition data or custody or adjudication data after the person has been acquitted or the charges dismissed . . . .”

C.  Administrative certificate
“Certificate of Employability”

In 2008, the Iowa legislature authorized the Board of Parole to develop and implement a “certificate of employability program” for certain formerly incarcerated persons on parole (no sex offenders), or no longer on parole but unemployed or underemployed.  The purpose of the program is to “maximize the opportunities for rehabilitation and employability of a person and provide protection of the community, while considering the needs of potential employers.”  Iowa Code § 906.19(2).  The program developed by the Board is described at Chapter 9 of the Parole Board Rules, (last visited May 29, 2012).

Certificates may be issued by the board at the time the offender is released from prison or at any time thereafter, with a positive recommendation from the department of corrections or community-based corrections in the state of Iowa.  The Board must determine that relief “is consistent with the employability of the eligible offender,” and “consistent with the public interest.”  Iowa Code § 9.3(2).  The certificate may be revoked during the parole period for a new arrest, or afterwards for a new conviction.  § 9.3(3).  A certificate of employability may be presented to any public agency or private employer, except where a statutory bar exists to employment.  The only legal effect given a certificate under the Board Rules relates to licensing:  Under section 9.2(2), licensing agencies cannot deny a license based on the felony conviction or based on a lack of good moral character, unless the agency makes a determination that there is a direct relationship between the offense and the license sought or that the issuance of the license involves unreasonable risk to property or the safety and welfare of specific individuals or the general public.

III.  Nondiscrimination in Licensing and Employment:

Iowa has no general law regulating consideration of conviction in employment or licensure.  It does apply a direct relationship test in connection with some licenses.  See, e.g., Iowa Code § 147.3 (health-related professions licensing; “[a] board may consider the past criminal record of an applicant only if the conviction relates to the practice of the profession”); see also Part II C, supra, on certificates of employability.

  1. Between 2005 and 2011, an executive order issued by Governor Tom Vilsack automatically restored the right to vote and to hold public office to offenders who had completed their court-imposed sentences.  See Iowa Exec. Order No. 42, available at  According to news accounts of Governor Vilsack’s action, the order restored the right to vote to some 80,000 persons then unable to vote in Iowa.  His successor Chet Culver continued this automatic restoration policy, and rights were restored to offenders completing their sentences on a monthly basis (about 25,000 individuals over his four-year term).  Governor Terry Branstad rescinded the Vilsack order on January 14, 2011, so requests for restoration of rights are again handled on a case-by-case basis by the Office of the Governor.  See Iowa Exec. Order No. 70, available at
  2. An exception is stated under section 902.2, which provides that persons sentenced to life in prison may apply for clemency “no more frequently than once every ten years.”  This provision, enacted in 1995, was sustained against constitutional challenge under the ex post facto clause in Snodgrass v. Robinson, 512 F.3d 999 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 813 (2008).  To the extent this provision appears to require the Governor to send applications for clemency to the Parole Board, it may be constitutionally problematic.  See State ex rel. Gary R. Allison v. Vilsack, No. EQCV 018165.
  3. Prior to 2005, when Governor Vilsack issued a blanket restoration of the right to vote, much of the Board’s clemency work was consumed with processing applications for restoration of rights.  Now that Governor Vilsack’s executive order has been rescinded, this work may pick up again.
  4. If a case qualifies for disposition under section 907.3, a defendant is entitled to be considered for deferred judgment.  See State v. Johansen, Nos. 6-451, 05-1106, 2006 WL 1751285, at *1 (June 28, 2006).
  5. In Dickerson v. New Banner Institute, the Supreme Court held that a guilty plea and deferred sentence that was expunged under the Iowa deferred adjudication scheme did not relieve a defendant of federal firearms disabilities.  460 U.S. 103 (1983), superseded by statute, Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, 100 Stat. 449 (1986), as recognized in Logan v. United States, 552 U.S. 23, 27-28 (2007) (citing 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)).  Congress subsequently amended the Federal Firearms Act to give effect to state relief provisions, including set-aside and expungement provisions.  See 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20).

Copyright © 2017

Restoration of Rights Series/Indiana

Indiana_Flag_(1903)I.  Restoration of Civil/Firearms Rights
A.  Civil Rights

The Indiana Constitution authorizes the legislature to pass laws disenfranchising those convicted of an “infamous crime.” Ind. Const. art. 2, § 8 (“The General Assembly shall have power to deprive of the right of suffrage, and to render ineligible, any person convicted of an infamous crime.”).1  In addition, Indiana law provides that a person who has been imprisoned following conviction of a “crime” may not vote until release from incarceration or other lawful detention.  Ind. Code § 3-7-13-4.  See Snyder v. King, 958 N.E.2d 764, 785-86 (Ind. 2011)(holding that “the Indiana General Assembly has authority under its general  police power to disenfranchise persons incarcerated upon conviction of a crime, so long as the disenfranchisement lasts only for the duration of incarceration”).


A person who “has had the right to vote revoked by reason of a felony conviction and the right has not been restored” is disqualified from jury service; the right to serve as a juror is automatically restored upon restoration of the right to vote.  Ind. Code § 33-28-5-18.


A person convicted of a felony, or who pled guilty or nolo contendere, is disqualified from holding or being a candidate for elected office. § 3-8-1-5(c)(3).  Whenever a person is convicted of misdemeanor violation of the laws against bribery, conflict of interest, and official misconduct, the sentencing court may include in the sentence an order rendering the person ineligible to hold office of profit or trust for a period not to exceed 10 years.  § 35-50-5-1.1(a).  Disabilities affecting the right to hold office may be removed by expungement under Ind. Code § 35-38-9 (see Part II, infra) or by pardon.

B.  Firearms

Indiana’s laws relating to gun possession by convicted persons appear to bar possession of handguns only. See, e.g., Ind. Code § 35-47-2-3(g)(1)(license to carry a handgun shall not issue to anyone convicted of a felony).  Under these laws, those convicted of a felony or of domestic battery are barred from handgun licensure. §§ 35-47-2-3(g)(1), 35-47-2-1(c), 35-47-4-7(a).  Restoration by expungement, §§ 35-38-9-10(b), or by  governor’s pardon if 15 years have passed since commission of the offense.  § 35-47-2-20.  The governor may issue a conditional pardon under § 11-9-2-4, which will remove the handgun disability “if the superintendent [of State Police] determines after an investigation that circumstances have changed since the pardoned conviction was entered to such an extent that the pardoned person is likely to handle handguns in compliance with the law.” § 35-47-2-20.  A person convicted of domestic violence may petition the court five years after conviction to regain firearms privileges.  § 35-47-4-7-(b).

II.  Discretionary Restoration Mechanisms
A.  Executive pardon  

The constitution gives pardon power to the governor, “subject to such regulations as may be provided by law.”  It also authorizes the legislature to create a “council composed of officers of state, without whose advice and consent the Governor may not grant pardons.”  Const. art. 5, § 17.  In 1980, the legislature abolished the Commission on Clemency, and gave the Parole Board authority to review applications and make advisory recommendations to the governor regarding applications for pardons, commutations, and reprieves.  See Ind. Code §§ 11-9-2-1 to 11-9-2-3.  While there is a statutory requirement that all applications for pardon be filed with the Board, § 11-9-2-1, there is also a specific disclaimer of any intent to limit the constitutional power of the Governor.   § 11-9-2-3.2  The constitution requires the governor to report to the legislature his pardons at next scheduled meeting.  Ind. Const. art. 5, § 17.


The Parole Board consists of five members appointed by the governor to four-year terms. Not more than three of these members may be from same party.  Code § 11-9-1-1(a).  The Parole Board members are full-time salaried employees.


Recent governors have required a 5-year waiting period and evidence of rehabilitation.  A person convicted under the laws of another state or by the federal government is ineligible for a pardon.  Firearms disability relieved only after 15 years.


The Indiana Supreme Court has held that pardon essentially wipes out both the punishment prescribed for the offense and the guilt of the offender.  Kelley v. State, 185 N.E. 453, 458-59 (Ind. 1933).  Based on the Supreme Court’s holding in Kelley, the Indiana Court of Appeals has found that a pardon provides automatic grounds for judicial expungement. See State v. Bergman, 558 N.E.2d 1111 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990).  A pardon removes firearm disabilities, except for crimes against the person, “if fifteen (15) years have elapsed between the time of the offense and the application for a license under this chapter.”   Code § 35-47-2-20(a).  In addition, a pardon may be issued that is conditional upon a determination by the Superintendent of State Police that the person is “likely to handle handguns in compliance with the law.”   § 11-9-2-4.  If that determination is made in conjunction with such a conditional pardon, the firearms disability is removed.  §§ 11-9-2-4, 35-47-2-20(b).


The governor in recent years has relied on the Parole Board for all pardon investigations and accepts a majority of its recommendations (which, if true, suggests that it recommends very few).  Applications are filed in the first instance with the Parole Board.  Instructions and application forms are at  The Indiana pardon process is described in detail at

By statute, the Parole Board must: 1) notify the victim, sentencing court, and prosecuting attorney; 2) conduct an investigation; and 3) conduct a hearing at which the petitioner and other interested parties are given an opportunity to present their position. Ind. Code § 11-9-2-2(b).  Whenever the Parole Board is conducting an inquiry, investigation, hearing, or review, it may delegate that function to one or more members of the Board.  § 11-9-1-3(a).  If one or more member acts on behalf of the Board, he or she may exercise all the powers of the Board except the power to render a final decision.   § 11-9-1-3(b).  Upon completion of the inquiry, the member acting on behalf of the Board files the complete record of the proceedings together with his or her findings, conclusions, and recommended decision.  Based upon the record and the findings, conclusions, and recommendations, the Board renders a final decision.  Id.  In making its recommendation to the governor, the board must consider: “1) the nature and circumstances of the crime for which the offender is committed, and the offender’s participation in that crime; 2) the offender’s prior criminal record; 3) the offender’s conduct and attitude during commitment; and 4) the best interests of society.”  220 Ind. Admin. Code 1.1-4-4(d).  Additionally, in making its recommendation to the governor, the board may consider other issues relating to the offender and his rehabilitation.  1.1-4-4(e).  This process takes six to eight months to complete.

Frequency of Grants

Mike Pence granted his only three pardons in January 2015.   Governor Mitch Daniels (2005-2013) granted 62 pardons during his eight years in office, generally pursuant to favorable Board recommendations. Several pardons went to non-citizens seeking to avoid deportation, and many to minor drug offenders (though only three to those convicted of selling drugs).   See Executive Order archives,  In the seven-year period between 1997 and 2004, 129 pardons were granted, and a high percentage of those who applied were granted.3   Source: Indiana Parole Board.


Parole Board

B.  Judicial expungement and sealing
1.  Expungement and sealing

A comprehensive new law enacted in May 2013 authorized “expungement” of all but the most serious violent and sexual offenses, and in addition “sealing” of non-conviction records and minor offenses that have been expunged. See Ind. Code § 35-38-9.4   (The term “expungement” is not defined except by its practical effect, which involves restricting the use of records that have been expunged, as further explained below.)  Expungement is available after a waiting period that varies depending upon the seriousness of the offense, and is mandatory where eligibility criteria are met for non-conviction records, misdemeanors and less serious felonies.5  Even where expungement is discretionary, relief may not be denied based on non-statutory criteria where “all evidence presented to the trial court militated toward expungement.” 6

As explained below, non-conviction records and records of misdemeanors and minor felonies are “sealed” upon expungement, which limits public access without a court order. While the records of more serious felonies “remain public” after expungement, there are limits on the uses to which they may be put.  A petitioner must have completed the terms of a court-imposed sentence, and may not waive the right to seek expungement as part of a plea agreement.  The law was amended in March 2014 and June 2015 to add certain procedural provisions and modify eligibility requirements.7

Non-conviction records and vacated convictions

After one year, non-conviction records (including non-adjudication records in juvenile cases), and records of convictions vacated on appeal may be expunged and sealed by the circuit or superior court in the county where the charges were filed, or, if no charges were filed, in the county of arrest. § 35-38-9-1.  Once records are sealed under this provision, no information concerning the arrest or charges may be retained in “any state central repository for criminal history information or in any other alphabetically arranged criminal history information system maintained by a local, regional, or statewide law enforcement agency,” with the exception of non-public internal law enforcement documents created at the time of arrest. § 35-38-9-1(f).  All court records, including those of appellate courts, must be permanently sealed or redacted.  Id. Official online versions of opinions and memorandum decisions of the supreme court and court of appeals must also be redacted.

Misdemeanors and low-level felonies

After waiting periods ranging from five to eight years, records of most misdemeanors and Class D felonies or level 6 felonies may be expunged, and are then automatically sealed and, with some exceptions, may not be disclosed even to a prosecutor, unless ordered by the court.  Ind. Code §§ 35-38-9-2, -3, -6(a).8  If sealed records are unsealed upon request of a prosecutor to use in a subsequent prosecution of the person, or to a defense attorney, they shall be resealed at the earliest possible time if the person is not convicted, but need not be resealed if a new conviction results.  § 35-38-9-6(d).


Most serious felonies may also be expunged, with certain exceptions (e.g., offenses involving sexual offenses), after waiting periods of eight or ten crime-free years from date of conviction, or three-to-five years from completion of sentence, but they are not sealed.  See § 35-38-9-4, -5.  The record of more serious felonies “remain public” after expungement, although they must be “clearly and visibly marked or identified as being expunged.” § 35-38-9-7. Expungement of these more serious felonies is discretionary, (and in the case of offenses committed while holding elective office and offenses “resulting in serious bodily injury,” may not be granted without the prosecutor’s consent, see § 35-38-9-5), although “[t]he expungement statutes are inherently remedial and, as such, should be liberally construed to advance the remedy for which they were enacted.”  See Cline v. State, 38A04-1512-XP-2221 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016), supra, quoting from Taylor v. State, 7 N .E.3d 362 (Ind.Ct.App.2014).9

Eligibility waiting periods

A petition for expungement may be granted only after completion of sentence (including payment of fines and restitution) and only if the person has no pending criminal charges or existing/pending drivers’ license suspensions.  See, e.g., Ind. Code § 35-38-9-2(e).  Expungement is not available to any person who has been previously convicted of two or more felonies involving unlawful use of a deadly weapon. §§ 35-38-9-2(b), -3(b)(6), -4(b)(6), -5(b)(4).  Persons convicted of misdemeanors or the lowest level felonies are eligible to petition for expungement five years after conviction (unless the prosecutor consents to a shorter period).  Id.  Persons convicted of less serious felonies may apply for expungement eight years after conviction or three years after completion of sentence whichever is later (unless the prosecutor consents to a shorter period), if the crime was not committed while holding elective office and did not involve sex or violence.  §§ 35-38-9-2 through -4.   Felonies committed while holding elective office or involving serious bodily harm may be expunged ten years after conviction, or five years after completion of sentence.  Offenses involving  human/sex trafficking, sex crimes, and certain violent crimes are not eligible for expungement. § 35-38-9-5(b).

Procedures and scope of relief

Procedures for filing an expungement petition with the sentencing court are set forth in Ind. Code § 35-38-9-8.  Expungement may be granted without a hearing unless the prosecutor objects.  § 35-38-9-9(a).  A petitioner may seek to expunge multiple convictions in multiple courts, but all petitions must be filed within one year — after that year has passed, a person may not file another petition in their lifetime.  § 35-38-9-9(h). Two exceptions apply: 1) If a petition for mandatory expungement is denied in whole or part, it may be amended and refiled at a later date once eligibility requirements are met (an additional three-year waiting period applies for discretionary expungement),  § 35-38-9-9(i);10 2) After the one year filing period has passed, a person may file an amended petition seeking expungement of an additional conviction if that conviction’s omission from the original petition was the result of “excusable neglect” or “circumstances beyond the petitioner’s control,” § 35-38-9-9(j).  Those filing for expungement must pay the filing fees required for filing a civil action ($141), though those fees may be reduced or waived for indigent petitioners.  § 35-38-9-8(d).  There is no filing fee requirement for petitions to expungement non-conviction records. § 35-38-9-1(c).  An expungement case, and all documents filed in the case become confidential only after the court issues the order granting the petition.  § 35-38-9-10(i).  The Indiana courts have published sample petitions for expungement at

Effect of expungement

Restoration of rights: Civil rights, including voting rights and eligibility for public office and jury service, are restored upon expungement, as are firearm rights (“to the extent not prohibited by federal law”). § 35-38-9-10(b).

Discrimination: “It is unlawful discrimination for any person to” refuse to employ, admit or license or “otherwise discriminate against” a person because of a conviction or arrest record that has been expunged or sealed.  § 35-38-9-10(a).  A person whose record is expunged shall be treated “as if the person had never been convicted of the offense,” except that an expunged conviction may be considered in imposing sentence in the event of a subsequent conviction.  § 35-38-9-10(d).  Any person that so discriminates commits a Class C infraction and may be held in contempt by the court issuing the order of expungement or by any other court of general jurisdiction. §35-38-9-10(e).

Employer inquiry: In any application for employment, license or “other right or privilege, a person may be questioned about a previous criminal record only in terms that exclude expunged convictions or arrests, such as: ‘Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime that has not been expunged by a court?’” § 35-38-9-10(c).

Negligent hiring: In any action alleging negligence an expungement order may be introduced as evidence of due care, and expunged convictions are not admissible as evidence of negligence against a person who relied on the expungement order.  § 35-38-9-10(f) and (g).

Public access to records:  The records of convictions that have been expunged and sealed are not generally available to the public, or to prosecutors without a court order.  The records of convictions that have been expunged but not sealed “remain public,” although they must be “clearly and visibly marked or identified as being expunged.” § 35-38-9-7.

Credit reporting: Convictions that have been expunged may not be reported by credit reporting companies.  See § 24-4-18-6(a).

Exceptions: Expungement orders do not affect sex offender registration or driver’s license suspension. § 35-38-9-6(e), -7(b).  Expungement orders do not automatically restore firearms rights to persons convicted of domestic violence, who must wait five years before petitioning the court for restoration.

2.  Felony knocked down to misdemeanor

Certain Class D felonies committed prior to July 1, 2014, or level 6 felonies committed after that date, may be converted to Class A misdemeanors upon entry of judgment on a one-time basis (DV and child pornography offenses are ineligible).  Ind. Stat. § 35-50-2-7(c).  In addition, court may convert conviction of Class D felony (or level 6 felony) to a Class A misdemeanor upon petition of the convicted person three years after completion of sentence, upon satisfaction of certain conditions and with the agreement of the prosecutor, as long as there has been no intervening conviction.  Ind. Code § 35-50-2-7(d).  Sex offenses and offenses involving violence or official corruption are not eligible.  If a person whose Class D felony conviction has been converted to a Class A misdemeanor conviction under subsection (c) is convicted of a felony within five (5) years after the conversion under subsection (c), the prosecuting attorney may petition a court to convert the person’s Class A misdemeanor conviction back to a Class D felony conviction.  § 35-50-7-2 (e).  Expungement and sealing of records that have been converted is governed by § 35-38-9-2, discussed above.

3.  Expungement of pardoned convictions

The Indiana courts have recognized the court’s ability for judicial expungement following a pardon (discussed above).  See State v. Bergman, 558 N.E.2d 1111 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990).

4.  Deferred prosecution/adjudication

Indiana law authorizes deferral or continuance of prosecution for drug abusers and alcoholics charged with less serious felonies, if they have no more than one prior conviction and no other charges pending.  See Ind. Code §§ 12-23-6.1-1, 12-23-7-1 et seq.   The defendant “must waive a jury trial and consent to a trial by the court or must enter a guilty plea, with the general finding to be entered by the court to be deferred until the time that prosecution may be resumed.”   § 12-23-7-2.  If the treatment is completed successfully, the charges must be dismissed.  § 12-23-7-11. See also State v. Nix, 833 N.E. 2d 541 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005). With the consent of the defendant and the prosecuting attorney, a court may defer prosecution for up to one year for a defendant charged with a misdemeanor or infraction in which the use of alcohol or drugs was a contributing factor or material element of the offense or the defendant’s mental illness was a contributing factor, Ind. Code § 12-23-5-1 et seq.  The court may order the defendant to satisfactorily complete an alcohol or drug treatment program, undergo treatment for mental illness, or satisfy other conditions imposed by the court during this deferral period.   § 12-23-5-2.  If the defendant fulfills the conditions set forth by the court, the court shall dismiss the charges.   § 12-23-5-4.  A defendant is not eligible for deferral under this section if the offense giving rise to the prosecution involved a death or serious bodily injury, the defendant has at least two prior felony convictions, or other criminal proceedings (not arising out of the same incident) alleging the commission of a felony are pending against the defendant.  § 12-23-5-7.

5.  Juvenile adjudications

Expungement is governed by Ind. Code § 31-39-8-2.  At any time, a person may petition the juvenile court to expunge all records pertaining to juvenile delinquency proceedings.  Id.  In reviewing the petition, the court considers numerous factors, including the nature of the offense, case disposition, and the person’s current status.  § 31-39-8-3.  Upon a court order of expungement, all records are destroyed or given to the petitioner.  § 31-39-8-6.  There exists no statutory authority to seal a juvenile record.

C.  Administrative Sealing

Limited sealing

The state police may disclose “limited criminal history” records to noncriminal justice agencies for a variety of purposes, including where the subject of the records has applied for employment and licensing, or has been convicted of specified sexual offenses. Ind. Code § 10-13-3-27(a) and (b).  “Limited criminal history” does not include arrest records that do not indicate a disposition more than one year after the arrest.  § 10-13-3-11 (defining “limited criminal history”).  Any person who knowingly or intentionally uses limited criminal history for any purpose not specified under this section commits a Class A misdemeanor.  § 10-13-3-27(c).

Fifteen years after discharge from probation, imprisonment, or parole (whichever is later), a felony offender may petition the state police department to limit access to his criminal history to criminal justice agencies.  Ind. Code § 35-38-5-5(b).  “When a petition is filed [the state police department] shall not release limited criminal history to non-criminal justice agencies.”  § 35-38-5-5(c).  Records remain available if a person has volunteered services that involve contact with, care of, or supervision over a child who is being placed, matched, or monitored by a social services agency or a nonprofit corporation, or is being sought by the parent locator service of the child support bureau of the department of child services.  § 35-38-5-5(a), citing § 10-13-3-27(a)(8) and (12).

III.  Nondiscrimination in Licensing and Employment
A.  Licensing

Except for serious drug offenses, “a license or certificate of registration that an individual is required by law to hold to engage in a business, profession, or occupation may not be denied, revoked, or suspended because the applicant or holder has been convicted of a crime.”  Ind. Code § 25-1-1.1-1.  The acts resulting in conviction “may, however, be considered as to whether the applicant or holder should be entrusted to serve the public in a specific capacity.”  Id.   The purpose of this provision, which forbids agencies to use felony or misdemeanor convictions as the sole basis for denial of a license application, is to require that the nature of the acts underlying a prior conviction be explored and that these acts be related to both a specific statutory requirement and to the occupation or profession for which a license is sought. Ind. Bd. Registration and Ed. for Health Facility Adm’rs v. Cummings, 387 N.E.2d 491 (Ind. Ct. App. 1979).  Drug offenses are excepted from this requirement, see § 25-1-1.1-2, and certain serious drug offenses are grounds for mandatory revocation or denial.  See § 25-1-1.1-3.  Under Rule 12 Section 2 of the Indiana Rules for Admission to the Bar and Discipline of Attorneys, persons convicted of a felony are ineligible to sit for the bar.  No provisions on public or private employment.

B.  Employment
Negligent hiring protection

Pursuant to section 4 of SB-312, enacted in April of 2017, an employee’s criminal history may not be introduced as evidence against an employer in a civil suit based on the employee’s actions if,

(1) the nature of the criminal history information of the employee or former employee does not bear a direct relationship to the facts underlying the civil action

(2) before the acts giving rise to the civil action occurred

(A) a court order sealed the record of the criminal case

(B) the criminal conviction has been reversed or vacated;

(C) the employee or former employee received a pardon for the criminal conviction; or

(D) the criminal conviction has been expunged under IC 35-38-9; or

(3) the criminal history information concerns an arrest or a charge that did not result in a criminal conviction.

The law explicitly states that it does not supersede any requirement to conduct background checks mandated by law or “consider criminal history information in hiring for particular types of employment.”

Ban-the-box in executive employment

In June of 2017, Governor Holcomb issued Executive Order 17-15, mandating that job applications for employment with the Executive Branch be amended to remove questions about criminal history unless “a particular crime precludes the person from employment in the particular job to which she or he applied.” See E.O. 17-15 (2017), available at   The Order additionally states that criminal history background checks “typically will be conducted at a later point in the application and hiring process.”  Two months earlier, the Governor signed SB-312, prohibiting localities from banning the box or limiting employer consideration of criminal history.

C.  Fair Credit Reporting

In 2012 a new chapter 24-4-18 was added to the Indiana Code to restrict criminal history information that may be reported by a “criminal history provider” (background screening company).  As subsequently amended (twice in 2013 and again in 2014), this chapter prohibits reporting the following:

  • A record that has been expunged, either by marking the record as expunged or by removing the record from public access (which may include non-conviction data after a year, see Code § 35-38-9-1, supra11);
  • A record that is restricted by a court or the rules of a court and is marked as restricted from public disclosure or removed from public access.
  • A record indicating a conviction of a Class D felony (for a crime committed before July 1, 2014) or a Level 6 felony (for a crime committed after June 30, 2014) if the Class D felony or Level 6 felony conviction that

(A) has been entered as a Class A misdemeanor conviction; or
(B) has been converted to a Class A misdemeanor conviction;12

  • A record that the criminal history provider knows is inaccurate.

Ind. Code § 24-4-18-6(a).  A criminal history provider may provide information described above if the requester is required by state or federal law to obtain the information; or if the requester is the state or a political subdivision, and the information will be used solely in connection with the issuance of a public bond. § 24-4-18-6 (b).

“A criminal history provider may not include criminal history data in a criminal history report if the criminal history data has not been updated to reflect changes to the official record occurring sixty (60) days or more before the date the criminal history report is delivered.”  § 24-4-18-7.

The Attorney General may enforce sections 6 and 7 through injunction and fines, and a private individual injured by a violation of these sections may recover damages, court costs and attorney fees. See § 24-4-18-8.

  1. In 2011, the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the line of cases finding that an “infamous crime” for purposes of these authorities refers to any or all felonies.  See Snyder v. King, 958 N.E.2d 764, 781 (Ind. 2011) (“infamous crime includes any crime involving an affront to democratic governance or the public administration of justice such that there is a reasonable possibility that a person convicted of such crime poses a threat to the integrity of elections”)  “Prototypical examples of infamous crimes” under the Snyder v. King standard “are treason, perjury, malicious prosecution, and election fraud.”  Id.   Misdemeanor battery does not constitute an infamous crime, and the legislature may therefore disenfranchise someone convicted of this crime only under its general police power, and only if the person is sentenced to prison for the duration of the prison term. Id. at 785-86.
  2. The statutory requirement that all applications for clemency be filed with the Parole Board has evidently not been interpreted in practice as a limitation on the governor’s power to pardon without consulting the board.  See “Frequency of Grants,” Part IIA.
  3. According to the Parole Board, there have been few commutations granted since 1989, since courts have sentence modification authority and prison administrators have generous good time authority.  In 2004, two death sentences were commuted to life without parole, one on the recommendation of the Parole Board and one by the Governor without consulting the Board.
  4. The process leading up to enactment of this comprehensive scheme is described by the legislation’s chief sponsor, Rep. Jud McMillin, in Indiana’s new law the product of ‘many many compromises,’” Collateral Consequences Resource Center, December 15, 2014,
  5. The Indiana Court of Appeals has held that the word “shall” in § 35-38-9-2 left the court with no discretion to withhold expungement of a misdemeanor sex offense, notwithstanding the objections of the victim.  Taylor v. State, 7 N .E.3d 362 (Ind.Ct.App.2014).  The same mandatory term appears in §§ 35-38-9-1 (non-conviction records) and 35-38-9-3 (Class D felonies).  The Taylor court pointed out that a victim’s objections may be weighed only where expungement is discretionary, as is the case with more serious felonies under §§35-38-9-4 and -5.
  6. See Cline v. State, No. 38A04–1512–XP–2221 (Ind. Ct. App., September 15, 2016), where the court of appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of relief based on the seriousness of the petitioner’s drug offense, noting that 

    Cline committed her offenses during her youth and has satisfied the statutory prerequisites for expungement. Beyond that, Cline has consistently been employed, and has obtained an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration, a CPR license, and a ServSafe certification. She testified that she had been promoted from food server to store management, but lost her job when store owners learned of her criminal record. Cline expressed a desire to return to management, a prospect more feasible with record expungement. The prosecutor offered no evidence or argument in opposition to expungement.

    But see W.R. v. State of Indiana, 17A03-1703-XP-571 (Ind. Ct. App., Nov. 1, 2017).  In W.R., the court affirmed the denial of expungement for two felony drug dealing convictions where the statutory requirements were met and the petitioner “led a generally successful life” but was subsequently convicted of a DUI misdemeanor (which was expunged in the same case).  The court stressed the discretionary nature of the statute and distinguished the case from Cline, noting the “troubling articulation” of the lower court’s reasoning in Cline along with the fact that Cline had no subsequent convictions.

  7. The 2014 amendments specify where a petition for expungement must be filed, provide that expungement proceedings may be closed (including to victims), change a petitioner’s burden of proof from “clear and convincing” to “preponderance,” remove a prohibition against a waiver or reduction of the filing fee for an indigent person, grant a defense attorney and a probation department access to expunged records if authorized by court order, and allow a court to accept filing of a subsequent petition for expungement that includes convictions not named in the original petition under certain circumstances.  The 2014 amendments reduce waiting periods while requiring a petitioner to have completed the terms of his court-imposed sentence, and add a prohibition on waiving the right to expungement as part of a plea agreement.  They specify that access to expunged records will be grated to: (1) the supreme court and the state board of law examiners to determine a person’s fitness for admission to the bar; and (2) a person required to access expunged records to comply with the federal Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act.  Finally, they specify the procedure to regain the right to possess a firearm by a person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence after five years. 

    The 2015 amendments disqualify any person convicted of two or more felonies involving a deadly weapon from seeking expungement of any conviction record; expand expungement eligibility to cover records of criminal charges and juvenile allegations instead of just arrest records; and expand protection of non-conviction records by requiring the courts to seal and redact their own non-conviction records .  The 2015 amendments also added § 35-38-9-8.5, which clarifies the law’s application to older offenses that were subject to indeterminate sentences.  Eligibility for those offenses is now determined by an offense’s current felony or misdemeanor classification.  See P.L. 142-2015.

  8. Exceptions allow for records to be disclosed to the state board of law examiners, persons required to access the records under the federal Mortgage Licensing Act, certain state and federal motor vehicle agencies, and the FBI and Department of Homeland Security in certain situations. § 35-38-6(a)(2).
  9. In Cline, the petitioner sought to expunge her 13 year-old felony forgery and methamphetamine distribution offenses after she had been released from probation and remained crime-free for 5 years, been consistently employed, and achieved a number of job-related credentials.    The lower court denied the petition based on the nature of the conviction, the severity of the offenses, and the “relatively short” duration since release, factors not identified in the statute.  In rendering its decision, the lower court also expressed particular disdain for methamphetamine offenders such as Cline. While the Court of Appeals recognized that the lower court had discretion to deny a petition based on factors not listed in the statute, it found that the lower court abused that discretion since “all evidence presented to the trial court militated toward expungement,” and remanded the case.
  10. Amended petitions based on denial may only seek expungement of convictions included in the original petition.  § 35-38-9-9(i).
  11. The law as originally enacted in 2012 would have permitted reporting only “criminal history information that relates to a conviction,” and 2013 amendments first deleted this provision then re-enacted it, with elaboration to specify the non-convictions records that were exempt from reporting.  In 2014, P.L. 168-2014 restricted the prohibition on reporting to non-conviction data that has been expunged under § 35-38-9-1, which has an eligibility waiting period of one year. See supra.
  12. It appears that misdemeanors may not be reported even if they have not been expunged.

Copyright © 2017

Restoration of Rights Series/Illinois

Illinois FlagI.  Restoration of Civil/Firearms Rights
A.  Vote

The right to vote is lost if convicted of a felony and sentenced to imprisonment; it is regained upon release.  See Ill. Const. art. III, § 2  (“A person convicted of a felony, or otherwise under sentence in a correctional institution or jail, shall lose the right to vote, which right shall be restored not later than upon completion of his sentence.”).  (Note that disenfranchisement extends to misdemeanants sentenced to a prison term.)  The election code provides that the right to vote shall be restored upon release from confinement.  10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-5; see also 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5-5(c).

B.  Office

The right to hold an office created by the state constitution (e.g., any of the five statewide officesgovernor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general; a member of the state General Assembly; a judgeship; a chief education officer position and a member of the state board of education) is lost upon conviction, but automatically restored upon completion of sentence (excepting convictions for crimes involving election fraud).  730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5-5(b).  The bar is permanent for “other elected offices,” including alderman and mayor, unless restored by a pardon.  65 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3.1‑10‑5(b).  The disparate standards applied to municipal and legislative offices have been upheld by the Illinois courts.1

C.  Jury

Illinois law does not exclude convicted persons from jury service, nor is a prior conviction grounds for a juror challenge for cause, though jurors must be “[f]ree from all legal exception, of fair character, of approved integrity, [and] of sound judgment.” 705 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 305/2; see John F. Decker, Collateral Consequences of a Felony Conviction in Illinois, 56 Chi.-Kent L. Rev 731, 741 (1980) (stating that whether a convicted person meets character standard must be decided on a case-by-case basis).

D.  Firearms

Firearm rights are lost upon a felony conviction or juvenile adjudication/misdemeanor, 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/24-1.1(a), and may be restored by the Department of State Police or by the circuit court where the person resides.  430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 65/10(a), (c).   Relief may be granted if: (1) the applicant has not been convicted of a “forcible felony” within the preceding 20 years or 20 years have passed since release from imprisonment for that offense; (2) he is not “likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety;” and (3) restoration of firearm rights. would not be “contrary to the public interest.” 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 65/10(c).  Individuals may appeal a denial to the Director of State Police unless their conviction involves violence (including domestic violence), drugs or firearms, in which case rights may be restored only by the court.  Id.  A pardon must include a special provision restoring firearms rights.

E.  Executor

A felony offender may not serve as executor of a will or administrator of an estate.  755 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/6-13(a), 5/9-1; see In re Estate of Muldrow, 799 N.E.2d 497, 502-03 (Ill. App. Ct. 2003) (concluding that rational basis exists under the Probate Act for excluding convicted felons from serving as executors based on a felon’s demonstrated inability to act within the confines of law, even if the felony conviction, “as applied” in particular case, is remote in time and the felon is able to demonstrate rehabilitation).

F.  Licenses

The Code of Corrections provides that “[o]n completion of sentence of imprisonment or upon discharge from probation, conditional discharge or periodic imprisonment, or at any time thereafter, all license rights and privileges granted under the authority of this State which have been revoked or suspended because of conviction of an offense shall be restored unless the authority having jurisdiction of such license rights finds after investigation and hearing that restoration is not in the public interest.”  730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5-5(d).  This provision does not apply to the suspension or revocation of a license to operate a motor vehicle.  However, other more specific laws restrict licensure for certain professions.  For example, the Child Care Act bars licensure and employment of individuals in child care facilities when they have been convicted of any of a long list of enumerated offenses.  225 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 10/4.2.  Moreover, the Illinois Vehicle Code makes conviction of any of a long list of enumerated offenses a bar to licensure as a school bus driver. 625 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/6‑106.1(a)(11).  

G.  Juvenile adjudications

Juvenile adjudications or dispositions do not “operate to disqualify a minor from subsequently holding public office nor shall operate as a forfeiture of any right, privilege or right to receive any license granted by public authority.”  705 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann.  405/5-410.

H.  Compilation of Collateral Consequences

Illinois Public Act 96-0593, originally signed in 2009 and amended in 2012 (20 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5000), created a Task Force on Inventorying Employment Restrictions and called for the work to be conducted within the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. The legislation provides that the Task Force “review the statutes, administrative rules, policies, and practices that restrict employment of persons with criminal history and report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly by July 1, 2013.”  On June 28, 2013 the Task Force announced online access to the Final Report of the Task Force on Inventorying Employment Restrictions. This report may be viewed and downloaded at

II.  Discretionary Restoration Mechanisms:
A.  Pardon

The pardon power is vested in the Governor, although “the manner of applying therefore may be regulated by law.” Ill. Const. art. V, § 12.  By statute, the Prisoner Review Board (PRB) serves as “the board of review and recommendation for the exercise of executive clemency by the Governor.”   730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-3-1(a)(3).  The Board “shall hear and . . . decide all requests for pardon, reprieve or commutation, and make confidential recommendations to the Governor.”  5/3-3-2(c).  At the same time, “[n]othing in this Section shall be construed to limit the power of the Governor under the constitution to grant a reprieve, commutation of sentence, or pardon.”  5/3-3-13(e).  The Supreme Court of Illinois has ruled that the constitution does not give the legislature authority to limit the Governor’s power to act in the absence of an application, and that in any event the legislature has not done so.  People ex rel. Madigan v. Snyder, 804 N.E. 2d 546, 588 (Ill. 2004).  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that there is no Fourteenth Amendment property or liberty interest in obtaining a pardon in Illinois; the statutory pardon procedure does not require prompt or indeed any action by the governor, but merely describes steps in the sequences of procedures in clemency matters.  Bowens v. Quinn, 561 F.3d 671, 673-75 (7th Cir. 2009).


PRB consists of 15 members appointed by the Governor to six year terms, with the advice and consent of the Senate. 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-3-1(b), (c).  No more than 8 of the same party may be on the board.  The chair is to be appointed by the Governor.  Id.  Six-year terms, members serve full-time and may not do anything else.  Id.  The Board is charged with the duty to “hear by at least one member” and decide by at least a panel of three members all requests for pardon. 5/3-3-2(a)(6).


No eligibility requirements for Illinois convictions. Misdemeanants may also apply.  Federal offenders and those convicted in another state are ineligible.


“[A] pardon removes the penalties and disabilities (resulting from the conviction) and restores the [individual] to all his civil rights.” People v. Glisson, 358 N.E.2d 35, 38 (Ill. App. Ct. 1976), aff’d in part, rev’d in part on other grounds, 372 N.E.2d 669 (Ill. 1978).  A pardon authorizes judicial expungement only if provided in the terms of the pardon.  20 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 2630/5.2(e); see People v. Thon, 319 Ill. App. 3d 855, 859-60 (2001).  A pardon must specifically restore firearms rights in order to qualify a pardoned individual for a FOID card.


730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-3-13.  Guidelines for applying are available at    A sample application form is available at  According to the Board’s website,

Incomplete petitions must be completed within 90 days or that [sic] are discarded. A late, but completed, petition is placed on the next available hearing docket. The petitioner is also afforded the opportunity to have a public or a non-public hearing. The Board’s recommendations are typically forwarded to the governor within 60 days following the hearing. The Governor is not under any deadline to respond to the petition. See Bowens v. Quinn,  561 F.3d 671, 673 (7th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 130 S. Ct. 470 (2009) (holding that where petitioners claimed that a governor’s failure to act on their clemency petitions within a reasonable time violated their rights under the Due Process Clause, their suit should have been dismissed because there was no Fourteenth Amendment interest in obtaining a pardon).  “Notice of the proposed application shall be given by the Board to the committing court and the state’s attorney of the county where the conviction was had.” 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-3-13(b).  The Board is required to meet to consider clemency petitions at least four times each year.  5/3-3-13(c).  “The Board shall, if requested and upon due notice, give a hearing to each application, allowing representation by counsel, if desired, after which it shall confidentially advise the Governor by a written report of its recommendations which shall be determined by majority vote.” Id.  All cases are sent to the governor with a recommendation.  Id.  The statute expressly provides that “[n]othing in this Section shall be construed to limit the power of the Governor under the constitution to grant a reprieve, commutation of sentence, or pardon.”  5/3-3-13(e).

Frequency of Grants

As of January 2017, Governor Bruce Rauner has granted 80 pardons and denied approximately 2,300 applications, a much less generous pardoning policy than his predecessor Pat Quinn.   In December 2016, Governor Rauner announced that he had eliminated a backlog dating back to Governor Blagojevich’s tenure.  See Gregory Platt, Rauner clears clemency backlog, approves just 3 percent of petitions,   In Quinn’s nearly six years in office starting in April 2009, he granted 1,789 pardons (including two for innocence) and denied 3,133 requests, a nearly 37 % approval rate.  Stacy St. Clair, et al., In last days as governor, Quinn grants clemency to 232 petitioners, Chicago Tribune, (Jan. 9, 2015).   He also authorized 21 people who had previously received pardons to seek expungement of their convictions, and granted seven sentence commutations.  A large number of Quinn’s grants went to people who applied for pardon in 2002-2007 when Governor Blagojevich was in office.  (Governor Blagojevich granted only 65 pardons during his six years in office, most of them during his first two years, and left more than 2500 PRB recommendations unacted upon when he left office).  Since April 2009, the PRB has sent forward more than 3000 additional recommendations.  The average size of the Board’s quarterly clemency docket has risen from 35 petitions in 1990 to approximately 400 petitions in 2013.  About one third of all applications are filed by misdemeanants.  Source: Illinois Prisoner Review Board.  See also PRB website,


Kenneth Tupy
Chief Legal Counsel, IL
Prisoner Review Board
319 East Madison Street, Suite A.
Springfield, IL 62703
Phone: 217-782-1610
Fax: 217-524-0012

B.  Judicial Expungement and Sealing

Public Act 96-0409 (August 8, 2009) amended the Criminal Identification Act, 20 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 2630/0.01 et seq.. Notably, the law added a new section entitled “Expungement and Sealing.”  2630/5.2.2

1.  Expungement and sealing

The term “expunge” means “to physically destroy the records or return them to the petitioner and to obliterate the petitioner’s name from any official index or public record, or both.”  20 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 2630/5.2(a)(1)(E).  Records that may be “expunged” are described in 2630/5.2(b), and include arrests that resulted in no charges, acquittal or dismissal; and convictions “set aside on direct review or on collateral attack and the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the petitioner was factually innocent.”  Notwithstanding the definition of “expunge” above, records of drug offenses disposed of through diversion programs may be maintained by the state police. 2630/5.2(b)(7).  A prior conviction of any sort makes a person ineligible for expungement. 2630/5.2(b)(1)(A). 

Pardoned convictions: The only convictions that may be expunged are those that have been pardoned (if the pardon document authorizes expungement), and the term “expunge” in this context does not mean physical destruction of the record.  See 2630/5.2(e):

(e) Whenever a person who has been convicted of an offense is granted a pardon by the Governor which specifically authorizes expungement, he or she may . . .  have a court order entered expunging the record of arrest from the official records of the arresting authority and order that the records of the circuit court clerk and the Department be sealed until further order of the court . . . .  All records sealed by the Department may be disseminated by the Department only to the arresting authority, the State’s Attorney, and the court upon a later arrest for the same or similar offense or for the purpose of sentencing for any subsequent felony. Upon conviction for any subsequent offense, the Department of Corrections shall have access to all sealed records of the Department pertaining to that individual.


The term “seal” means “to physically and electronically maintain the records . . . but to make the records unavailable without a court order, subject to [certain] exceptions,” and to “obliterate” the offender’s name from the official index required to be kept by the circuit court clerk. 20 Ill. Comp. Stat. 2630/5.2(a)(1)(K).  As of August 2017, most misdemeanor and felony convictions are eligible for “sealing” upon petition after a three-year eligibility waiting period, if no further findings of guilt. 2630/5.2(c) (as amended by HB-2373 (2017)).  Ineligible offenses include DUI, sex crimes, animal crimes, and domestic battery.  2630/5.2(a)(3).  Individuals subject to registration under the following laws remain ineligible until removed from the registry:  the Arsonist Registration Act, the Sex Offender Registration Act, and the Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registration Act.  2630/5.2(c)(3)(C). Several deferred adjudication authorities involving “qualified probation” for minor drug crimes are also eligible for sealing after a waiting period of two to five years (see discussion of Section 1410 Probation and Second Chance Probation below). 

Subsequent convictions:  A person may seek to have multiple convictions sealed in the same proceeding. However, any felony offense committed after the date of the sealing may not be sealed.  In addition, the court may, upon conviction for a subsequent felony offense, order the unsealing of prior felony conviction records previously ordered sealed by the court. 2630/5.2(c)(4)

Notice of eligibility for sealing:  Notice of eligibility for sealing. Upon entry of a disposition for an eligible record under the sealing authority, the petitioner shall be informed by the court of the right to have the records sealed and the procedures for the sealing of the records. 2630/5.2(c)(5).

Procedure and standards

The same procedure applies to expungement and sealing. 20 Ill. Comp. Sat. 2630/5.2(d).  Procedure for sealing includes notice to DA, and a hearing upon objection filed.  In deciding whether to seal or expunge records, judges may consider specific collateral consequences the individual is facing, the person’s age and employment history, and the strength of the evidence supporting the conviction.  2630/5.2(d)(7).

Employment effect of expungement and sealing

With certain exceptions, an expunged or sealed record “may not be considered by any private or public entity in employment matters, certification, licensing, revocation of certification or licensure, or registration.”  20 Ill. Comp. Stat. 2630/12(a).  Exceptions are law enforcement agencies, State’s Attorneys, prosecutors, Department of Corrections.  Id.  Applications for employment “must contain specific language which states that the applicant is not obligated to disclose sealed or expunged records of conviction or arrest,” and “[e]mployers may not ask if an applicant has had his/her record expunged or sealed.”  Id.  Sealed records must be retained by the state police, and may be disseminated only to law enforcement, or (for felony convictions only) “as otherwise specifically required or authorized by a federal or State law, rule, or regulation that requires inquiry into and release of criminal records.” 2630/13(a). This includes hospitals, schools, and other agencies dealing with vulnerable populations.  (Since expungement results in destruction of the record, provisions limiting their use seem redundant.) 

2.  Judicial Certificate of Discharge

Upon discharge from incarceration or parole or probation, “or at any time thereafter, the committing court may enter an order certifying that the sentence has been satisfactorily completed when the court believes it would assist in the rehabilitation of the person and be consistent with the public welfare.”  730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5-5(e).  Such order “may be entered upon the motion of the defendant or the State or upon the court’s own motion.”  Id.  “Upon entry of the order, the court shall issue to the person in whose favor the order has been entered a certificate stating that his behavior after conviction has warranted the issuance of the order.” 5/5-5-5(f).

3.  Second Chance Probation

Effective January 1, 2014, a new provision 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-6-3.4 will permit persons charged with minor non-violent drug, fraud or theft felony offenses, who have not previously been convicted of a felony, or of a violent offense, to be placed on probation for a period of two years, under conditions intended to promote rehabilitation (seek employment, obtain education, perform community service, etc.). Both the individual and the prosecutor must agree. Upon successful completion of probation the charges will be dismissed and “a discharge and dismissal under this Section is not a conviction for purposes of this Code or for purposes of disqualifications or disabilities imposed by law upon conviction of a crime,” though it may be used in subsequent criminal proceedings.  5/5-6-3.4(g).  This disposition is a “qualified probation” for purposes of expungement under 20 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 2630/5.2(b)(1)(B)(i) and (iv) (eligibility after 5 years).

4.  Deferred Adjudication for First-Time Drug Offenders

Under 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 570/410 (formerly “section 1410”), the court may defer adjudication for first-time drug offenders, and place them on 24-months probation with various conditions of reporting and treatment.  Upon successful completion of probation, the person is discharged and the proceedings dismissed.  570/410(f).  “[D]ischarge and dismissal under this Section is not a conviction for purposes of this Act or for purposes of disqualifications or disabilities imposed by law upon conviction of a crime,” though it may be used in subsequent criminal proceedings.  570/410(g), (i).  However, the provisions governing resentencing after revocation of probation apply to revocations under this section even though revocation occurs prior to conviction, as the criminal code’s reference to “conviction” is not simply to the entry of a record judgment but to a determination of guilt.  People v. Goetz, 327 N.E.2d 516, 518 (Ill. App. Ct..1975).  Other deferred adjudication provisions for marijuana are in 550/10 (formerly “section 710”).  Dispositions under both sections shall be treated as a “qualified probation” for purposes of expungement under 20 Ill. Comp. Stat. 2630/5.2(b)(1)(B)(i) and (iv) (eligibility after five years).

5.  Juvenile Adjudications

Expungement and sealing of juvenile records are governed by 705 Ill. Comp. Stat. 405/5-915.  Juveniles must be informed orally and in writing of their right to expunge records if they are released without charges filed or during sentencing for an expungement-eligible offense.  405/5-915(2.5)–(2.6).  To expunge, the youth must complete and file a petition with the court clerk in the county of arrest.  Dorene A. Kuffer, Juvenile Expungement in Illinois Criminal Records and other Relief, § 3.15 (Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, 2007).  Following the filing of a petition, the juvenile or his attorney must attend a hearing, even if there is no opposition to the petition.  Id. § 3.18.  If there is no objection, the court will order expungement; if there is an objection, the court will conduct a hearing and weigh evidence of the juvenile’s offense, criminal history, and character.  Id. § 3.19.  Juveniles have a right to records sealing, and any records that are not expunged are deemed to be sealed. 705 Ill. Comp. Stat. 405/5-915(5).

Reporting and disclosure of juvenile records to school authorities: “All courts and law enforcement agencies of the State of Illinois and its political subdivisions shall report to the principal of any public school in this State whenever a child enrolled therein is detained for proceedings under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, as heretofore and hereafter amended, or for any criminal offense, including illegal gang activity, or any violation of a municipal or county ordinance. The report shall include the basis for detaining the child, circumstances surrounding the events which led to the child’s detention, and status of proceedings. The report shall be updated as appropriate to notify the principal of developments and the disposition of the matter.”  105 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/22-20.   Law enforcement authorities may share juvenile records relating to criminal activity by students with school authorities, but the records cannot otherwise become a part of the public record, or part of the student’s file.   Authorities may provide information to schools “only if the agency or officer believes that there is an imminent threat of physical harm to students, school personnel, or others who are present in the school or on school grounds.”  405/1-7, 405/5-905.

C.  Judicial Certificates

Certificate of Relief from Disabilities (“CRD”) and Certificate of Good Conduct (“CGC”), 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5.5-5 et seq.  The purpose of the CRD is to facilitate licensing in 27 specified areas.  Like the New York CRD, on which it was modeled, it creates an enforceable “presumption of rehabilitation” that must be given effect by a licensing board.  Id.  The purpose of the CGC is to evidence an offender’s rehabilitation, and to lift bars to employment and other benefits.  5/5-5.5-25.  The certificate process and its effect are described in Margaret Colgate Love, Paying Their Debt to Society: Forgiveness, Redemption, and the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act, 54 How. L.  J. 753 (2011).


Persons with out-of-state or federal convictions are eligible for relief from licensing restrictions through a CRD, but are not eligible for a CGC.  For CRDs, see 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5.5-5:

“Eligible offender” means a person who has been convicted of a crime in this State or of an offense in any other jurisdiction that does not include any offense or attempted offense that would subject a person to registration under the Sex Offender Registration Act, the Arsonist Registration Act, or the Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registration Act. “Eligible offender” does not include a person who has been convicted of arson; aggravated arson; kidnapping; aggravated kidnapping; aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds, or any combination thereof; or aggravated domestic battery. 3

For CGCs, see 5/5-5.5-30 (describing procedure in circuit court for issuing CGC to “any eligible offender previously convicted of a crime in this state”).    

1.  Certificate of Relief from Disabilities

The sentencing court may issue a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities (CRD) to eligible offenders, either at the time of sentencing or upon satisfactory completion of sentence, when the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that it is “consistent with the rehabilitation of the eligible offender” and with “the public interest.”  730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann.  5/5-5.5-15(b).4  A CRD does not prevent any court or administrative body from considering the conviction, nor does it preclude its use for impeachment.  5/5-5.5-10.  The court may issue order at time of sentence, or at any time thereafter.  The court may also request investigation by probation or court services, and may hold a hearing.  5/5-5.5-15(c), (e).

CRD Effect on licensing

The CRD authorized by 5/5-5.5-15 is given legal effect in 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann.  5/5-5-5 (Loss and Restoration of Civil Rights).  Under 5/5-5-5(h) and (i) a person who has been awarded a CRD may not be denied a license in 27 different fields “by reason of” conviction, or based on a finding of lack of good moral character based upon the fact of conviction unless:  (1) there is a direct relationship between one or more of the previous criminal offenses and the specific license sought; or (2) the issuance of the license would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.  In making a determination whether to award a license, the licensing agency “shall consider” the following factors:

(1) the public policy of this State, as expressed in Article 5.5 of this Chapter [730 ILCS 5/5-5.5], to encourage the licensure and employment of persons previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses;
(2) the specific duties and responsibilities necessarily related to the license being sought;
(3) the bearing, if any, the criminal offenses or offenses for which the person was previously convicted will have on his or her fitness or ability to perform one or more such duties and responsibilities;
(4) the time which has elapsed since the occurrence of the criminal offense or offenses;
(5) the age of the person at the time of occurrence of the criminal offense or offenses;
(6) the seriousness of the offense or offenses;
(7) any information produced by the person or produced on his or her behalf in regard to his or her rehabilitation and good conduct, including a certificate of relief from disabilities issued to the applicant, which certificate shall create a presumption of rehabilitation in regard to the offense or offenses specified in the certificate; and
(8) the legitimate interest of the licensing agency in protecting property, and the safety and welfare of specific individuals or the general public.

5/5-5-5(h).  At the same time, the fact that an individual has received a CRD does not preclude a licensing board from relying on the conviction “as the basis for the exercise of its discretionary power” to suspend or deny any license.  5/5-5.5-10.

CRD Effect on Employer Liability

730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5.5-15(f): “An employer is not civilly or criminally liable for an act or omission by an employee who has been issued a certificate of relief from disabilities, except for a willful or wanton act by the employer in hiring the employee who has been issued a certificate of relief from disabilities.”

Reporting Obligation

The Department of Professional Regulation is required to report to the General Assembly each year the number of people with criminal records who applied for licenses, both with certificate of relief from disabilities and without, and the numbers of licenses granted and rejected. 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5.5-50.  In lifting occupational bars, the law gives felony offenders access to licenses in fields which current legislation presumes denial of licensure, including those related to animal welfare, athletic training, cosmetology, boxing, interior design, land surveying, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, real estate, and roofing.  “Certificate is not to be deemed a pardon.”  5/5-5.5-45.

2.  Certificate of Good Conduct

A court may issue a CGC to eligible offenders “to relieve an eligible offender of any employment bar.  The certificate may be limited to one or more disabilities or bars or may relieve the individual of all disabilities and bars.” 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5.5-25(a).  The court must determine by clear and convincing evidence that the offender “has demonstrated that he or she has been a law-abiding citizen and is fully rehabilitated.”  Id.  A CGC does “not relieve an offender of any employment-related disability imposed by law by reason of his or her conviction of a crime that would prevent his or her employment by the Department of Corrections or the Department of Juvenile Justice, or any other law enforcement agency in the State.”  Id.  Eligibility criteria for in-state convictions are the same as for a CRD, see 5/5-5.5-5, except that there is a “minimum period of good conduct” that the individual must establish before a court may grant this certificate.  See infra.

A CGC does not prevent any court or administrative body from considering the conviction, does not preclude use of the conviction for impeachment, and does not expunge or seal the record.  730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5.5-25(b).  “An employer is not civilly or criminally liable for an act or omission by an employee who has been issued a certificate of good conduct,” unless the employer’s actions were “willful or wanton.”  5/5-5.5-25(c).


After a “minimum waiting period” of good conduct, the court must hold a “rehabilitation review” (“in a manner designated by the chief judge of the judicial circuit in which the conviction was entered”) and may issue a certificate after making “a specific finding of rehabilitation with the force and effect of a final judgment on the merits.”  730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5.5-30(a).  The “minimum waiting period” for misdemeanors is one year for misdemeanants and two years for felonies, and it begins to run upon release from custody or payment of fine, whichever is later.  5/5-5.5-30(c).  The court must find that the relief to be granted by the certificate “is consistent with the rehabilitation of the applicant” and “consistent with the public interest.”  5/5-5.5- 30(a)(2), (3).  The court may enlarge relief, and may also revoke the certificate upon a violation of supervision or a subsequent conviction.  5/5-5.5-30(d)-(f).

Out-of-state offenses

The court may issue a certificate to an applicant convicted in another jurisdiction if the applicant demonstrates that “there exist specific facts and circumstances and specific sections of Illinois State law that have an adverse impact on the applicant and warrant the application for relief to be made in Illinois.”  730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5.5- 30(b)(1).

III.  Nondiscrimination in occupational licensing and employment
A.  Ban-the-Box in employment

820 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 75/15.  Effective January 1, 2015, private employers with more than 15 employees will be prohibited from asking about an applicant’s criminal record until the first interview, or at the point of making an offer if no interview, with the exception of certain jobs.  On October 3, 2013, Illinois governor Pat Quinn issued an administrative order removing inquiries into applicants’ criminal history on state employment applications. The order directed each state agency to establish a “documented review process” to ensure that any exclusion related to a criminal record is “job-related and consistent with business necessity,” considering the nature of the offense, the passage of time since conviction, and the nature of the job sought.

B.  Nondiscrimination in employment and licensing

In general, Illinois limits consideration of conviction in connection with occupational licensing only for certain employments, and only where a person has received a certificate of rehabilitation.  See Part IIC, supra, for Certificates of Rehabilitation, 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5-5.  In addition, the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits employment inquiries about, or discrimination based on, criminal history records that have been ordered expunged, sealed or impounded.  775 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/2-103(A).  A claim of racial discrimination has also been sustained under this law where a criminal conviction was the articulated basis for a refusal to hire.  See Bd. of Trs.  v. Knight, 516 N.E.2d 991, 996-97 (Ill. App. Ct. 1987) (no business necessity justified denial of employment as university police position to person convicted of single misdemeanor weapons charge; mitigating circumstances existed including time passed since conviction and record of responsible employment).  Moreover, this provision allows the consideration of such records where “authorized by law,” and thus background check laws and laws barring those convicted of offenses from employment trump the protections of this act.  775 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/2-103.  Finally, this act specifically allows employers to obtain and use “other information which indicates that a person actually engaged in the conduct for which he or she was arrested.”  Id.

Several licensing schemes incorporate a “direct relationship” test.  See Public Accounting Act, 225 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 450/20.01 (“The Department may refuse to issue or renew, or may revoke, suspend, or reprimand any license or licensee . . . [for] (4) being convicted or found guilty, regardless of adjudication, of a crime in any jurisdiction which directly relates to the practice of public accounting”); 335/9.1(b) (roofer’s license) (The Department may refuse to issue or revoke license for “conviction . . . of any crime under the laws of the United States or any state or territory thereof that is (i) a felony or (ii) a misdemeanor, an essential element of which is dishonesty or that is directly related to the practice of the profession”).  The latter formulation is also used for acupuncturists, 2/110(a)(2); collection agencies, 425/9(a)(2); and marriage/family therapists, 55/85(b); and many other professions.

Public Act 99-876 (HB-5973), enacted in 2016, expands upon the “direct relationship” tests for initial applicants for roofing (225 ILCS 335/7.1), cosmetology (225 ILCS 410/4-6.1), funeral director (225 ILCS 41/15-72), and related licenses.  Under the expanded tests a license may only be denied for “a felony directly related to the practice,” and only after the consideration of mitigating factors that include “the bearing, if any, the criminal offense … will have on his or her fitness or ability to perform one or more responsibilities,” age at the time of conviction, and time elapsed since conviction.  Listed violent offenses and offenses that requires sex offender registration are “directly related to the practice” per se.

The laws governing licensing for health care workers have undergone significant changes since 2011, and have tightened restrictions on convicted individuals seeking to pursue a variety of health related licenses.  See Ina Silverglide, Illinois health care licenses elude those with records, CCRC, October 16, 2016.  These additional restrictions have been steadily broadened, subsequently challenged, and are presently in an uncertain state of flux.  At the same time, waivers may be permitted under the Illinois Health Care Background Check Act, 225 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 46/40.  The law governing the hiring of health care workers who are not subject to other licensing requirements requires criminal background checks, and while it disqualifies individuals from employment upon conviction of a long list of crimes, it permits a waiver by the agency that oversees the type of facility applicant is interested in working, and requires action on the waiver application within 30 days.  Id.  The statute sets forth nine mitigating circumstances (e.g., the age of the person when the crime was committed, the circumstances surrounding the crime, the length of time that has passed since the crime, the person’s work history and references) for the agencies to consider in granting a waiver, and each agency sets it own procedures for granting waivers.  Id.  At least two health care licensing agencies have adopted a two-tiered procedure for reviewing waiver applications.  See Linda Mills, Illinois Prisoner Reentry: Building a Second Chance Agenda, 141-145 (Annie E. Casey Foundation ) (July 2004).  Agency staff are authorized to grant waivers that apply to the less serious offenses listed in the act, and the agency director reviews applications involving the most serious violent offenses (including murder).  Id. at 141-43.  Neither the state law nor agency rules set forth any offense that bars a waiver.  Id. at 141.  However, a waiver does not guarantee employment; it only allows the employment of an individual with a waiver by any of the facilities regulated by the agency that issued the waiver.  Id. at 143.

Two agencies released their records of actions taken on waiver applications in connection with a 2004 request made by Linda Mills for her study of prisoner reentry issues for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Department of Human Services granted 77% of waiver requests received over an eight-year period between 1995 and 2003, including at least one waiver to an individual convicted of murder.  Id. at 144.  Of the 289 waivers granted by DHS over that period, only one person was later charged with abuse of a patient – and that person had only a conviction for retail theft.  Id. The Department of Public Health (“DPH”) received 6,581 waiver requests from 1996 through 2003.  Of those, 875 had no disqualifying convictions (this is due, according to the DPH to name matches that are not actual person matches).  Of the 5,706 with actual convictions, 4,130 (72.4%) were granted waivers.  Of those, 97 (2.3%) waivers were later revoked, with 38 of the revocations due to a subsequent finding of patient abuse, neglect or theft, and 59 due to a subsequent disqualifying conviction.  DPH also has been generous with its waivers of the most serious, recent or violent offenses that need director approval.

NOTE:  This data on waivers is dated (2004) and its present reliability is therefore questionable.  

C.  Chicago Reentry Initiative

In May 2004, Mayor Richard Daley created the Mayoral Policy Caucus on Prisoner Reentry, bringing together government and community leaders to address the challenges facing 20,000 people each year who return to Chicago after being released from prison.  In January 2006, the Caucus issued a major report calling for broad ranging reforms of City policy.  With regard to city hiring, the report recommended that the Mayor “[a]dopt internal guidelines for the City of Chicago’s personnel policies regarding criminal background checks, and advocate for fair employment standards.”  Recommendations from the Final Report of the Mayoral Policy Caucus on Prisoner Reentry, available at  At the same time that the report was released, Mayor Daley announced several major “reentry” initiatives, including reform of the City’s hiring policies as recommended by the Caucus.  The Mayor’s press release described a new hiring policy requiring the City to “balance the nature and severity of the crime with other factors, such as the passage of time and evidence of rehabilitation . . . Put more simply, this change means that City hiring will be fairer and more common sense.”  Mayoral Task Force Releases Recommendations on Prisoner Reentry, available at  The Mayor added, “[i]mplementing this new policy won’t be easy, but it’s the right thing to do . . . We cannot ask private employers to consider hiring former prisoners unless the City practices what it preaches.”  Id.  Implementing the Mayor’s new hiring policy, the City Department of Human Resources has issued guidelines imposing standards on all city agencies regulating hiring decisions related to people with criminal records.  For the first time, the City of Chicago now requires all agencies to take into account the age of an individual’s criminal record, the seriousness of the offense, evidence of rehabilitation, and other mitigating factors before making their hiring decisions.

Additional Contact: Beth Johnson, Cabrini Green Legal Aid,

  1. See Delgado v. Bd. of Election Comm’rs, 865 N.E.2d 183, 185 (Ill. 2007) (holding that convicted felon, whose right to hold municipal office had not been restored by pardon under 10 ILCS 5/29-15, was ineligible to hold elective municipal office); Bryant v. Bd. of Election Comm’rs, 865 N.E.2d 189, 191  (Ill. 2007) (same); see also People v. Hofer, 843 N.E.2d 460 (Ill. App. Ct. 2006) (reviewing under a rational basis standard the Illinois statutory scheme that allowed a person convicted of a felony to run for constitutional office merely by completing his sentence, but did not restore the rights of such individuals to seek non-constitutional elective office without a pardon from the governor; therefore, removal of a trustee from his office pursuant to 65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(b) did not violate the equal protection clause).
  2. See Beth Johnson, Expungement and Sealing:  A Lawyer’s Guide, Criminal Records: Expungement and Other Relief (Ill. Inst. for CLE, 2010 Supp.):

    Prior to 2004, the only remedy of any sort for a conviction was to receive a gubernatorial pardon authorizing expungement. Whether it was a felony conviction or an ordinance violation, a pardon was the only way to obtain relief. Absent that extraordinary remedy, a person could never remove a criminal record and the stigma surrounding it from public view. The sealing law now authorizes the courts to make decisions on whether to seal minor misdemeanor offenses and limited felony offenses.

  3. As originally enacted in 2004, eligibility was restricted to first felony offenders convicted of non-violent offenses.  The eligibility criteria have been expanded several times over the years.
  4. Between January 2004 and January 2010, the Prisoner Review Board also had authority to issue certificates of relief from disabilities and certificates of good conduct.   During this period the Board issued 44 certificates of good conduct and 121 certificates of relief of disability.

Copyright © 2017