Fewer People in Illinois Need to Apply for Clemency

Only Select Few Still Need A Pardon from Gov. Rauner

Due to House Bill 2373, far fewer people in Illinois need to apply for clemency to eliminate their criminal history.

Today, there are only three reasons why someone still needs to petition for clemency or a pardon from Illinois' governor:

  • You have an unsealable Illinois criminal conviction;
  • You want to reinstate your F.O.I.D. card rights; or
  • You want to overcome a lifetime (or discretionary) bar to obtaining a professional/occupational license in Illinois.

Today, domestic violence, DUI/reckless driving, crimes involving cruelty to animals, crimes requiring registration as a sex offender or violent offender remain unsealable.

Illinois, unlike other states (e.g., Georgia, Maryland, New Mexico, Vermont), has no pardon eligibility guidelines. However, that does not mean everyone is a good candidate in the absence of guidelines.

A short list of factors that determine someone’s chances of obtaining clemency:

1) the crime,

2) age of case;

3) why you need clemency.


Sex, Violent, Criminal Traffic Offenses Face Long Odds

Historically speaking, certain crimes face considerable odds to obtaining a pardon: violent crimes, sex offenses, and criminal traffic violations.

Governor Rauner has never granted clemency to someone convicted of a sex offense. He has granted clemency for certain violent offenses. Of the 27 petitions granted in this category, the majority (18) were for misdemeanors offenses (battery, domestic battery).

Two years ago, I represented a client who pled guilty to a sex offense. I represented the individual because he was facing deportation and certain death if he returned to his homeland. Despite these circumstances, Governor Rauner denied my client’s petition.

Criminal traffic violations, such as driving while intoxicated (DUI), reckless driving, or driving on a revoked or suspended license, also rarely receive a pardon. Governor Rauner has only once granted clemency to each of the following misdemeanor traffic offenses: DUI (supervision sentence), reckless driving, and driving on a suspended license.


Timing is Everything

Deciding when to file a petition often turns on the age of the case. It is much easier to obtain a pardon for a conviction that is 15 or 20 years old than one only five years old. Proof of rehabilitation is easier to provide the longer someone remains crime-free.

If you are seeking clemency for a crime committed in Cook County, there is an unwritten rule that if it has been less than 10 years since you completed your last sentence (or were last arrested), the State’s Attorney will object to your petition.

Finally, a petitioner needs to articulate a compelling reason why he/she needs clemency: getting employment, obtaining a license, challenging a deportation order.


Clemency Filings Fall Under Governor Rauner

Today, the odds of obtaining clemency in Illinois hover around 5%, leading fewer people to apply. In 2017, there were 456 petitions  filed.  Nearly twice as many petitions were filed when Pat Quinn was governor.

Contact me if you're interesting in exploring your odds of obtaining clemency from Governor Rauner (or his successor).