How can I clean my criminal record?
We have often received calls from people who are under the impression that their misdemeanor or felony record will be cleared or somehow go away after a certain period of time. We have had several clients tell us that they thought that after seven years, a conviction would no longer appear on their criminal record. Unfortunately, criminal records have no expiration date—if you have a conviction in Connecticut, it will stay on your record forever.
Many people think that their criminal record has been “erased” because they have undergone a background check and the conviction failed to come up during the course of the investigation. The reason for this is that a background check is only as good as the background check company that searches for your records. Many background check companies only search for convictions dating back a certain period of time (oftentimes, that time period is seven years, which is why background check companies sometimes do not uncover convictions). The only way to clear your criminal record (other than through an appeal or habeas) is by obtaining a Pardon.
Technically, a Pardon clears your criminal record, and once you are granted a Pardon, it is as if you were never arrested. It is important to note, however, that the Pardon is a state action and even though your record has been expunged, we often advise our clients to disclose the fact that they were convicted and subsequently Pardoned when filing out certain applications. Often, candor and transparency are more important to the entity conducting the background check. For example, we advise clients applying to law or medical school to disclose the fact of conviction and Pardon. We have clients who have been hired by law enforcement, accepted to law and medical school and received job offers in the highly regulated financial industry after receiving Pardons.
Ways to Clear Your Criminal Record
The law provides many different opportunities to clean up your criminal record:
- Full or Provisional Pardon: We can help you file a petition for a provisional pardon or a full pardon with the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole. This will help you move forward with your life and allow you to pursue career opportunities without the impediment of a criminal record.
- Expungements: If you have not been convicted, we can work to get your fingerprint information and the arrest information returned.
- Appeals: We can help you appeal a conviction or a sentence if there are grounds to do so.
- Sentence modifications: When your situation changes and you need to move out of state, travel, or have your sentence modified in some way, we will file the applications and other forms necessary for you to apply for a sentence modification.
Your 3 options when applying for a Pardon:
- Full Pardon: A full Pardon results in a complete expungement of your criminal record. If the Board of Pardons grants a Full Pardon, your criminal record will be completely erased.
- Conditional Pardon: A Conditional Pardon is very similar to a Full Pardon in that your record will be expunged; however, the Board of Pardons will place a condition or requirement that you must abide by or fulfill. Failure to abide by this condition may result in the Pardon being revoked.
- Certificate of Employability: A Certificate of Employability is not the same as erasure of your criminal record. These types of Pardons are given to prevent employers or future employers from denying employment because of an applicant's criminal record.
Whereas a full pardon will completely erase your criminal record, a provisional pardon will not erase your criminal history and is used primarily for employment purposes. When a provisional pardon is issued, it serves to notify employers or licensing agencies that you cannot be denied employment or professional licensure due to your conviction. You may apply for a provisional pardon any time after a conviction.
Our attorneys will help you determine which pardon is right for your situation. If you were recently convicted of a crime and are seeking employment, then a provisional pardon could be right for you. We will provide an honest assessment of your situation so you can make the best decision possible for your future.
Pardons vs. Expungement
Oftentimes, these terms are used interchangeably. When submitting a Pardon application, you can request to be considered for a Certificate of Employability, but this is not the same thing as an expungement of your record. A Certificate of Employability is a certification from the Board of Pardons that directs an employer to not deny an employment application based solely on your criminal record. It is not an expungement and while it may qualify you to hold certain types of licenses, you will still have a criminal record.
An expungement of your record means that records of your conviction are erased from the criminal database and they can no longer be shared with any person or entity. It is important to understand that an expungement of your record is a state act and even after your record is expunged in Connecticut, there may still be a federal database containing records of your arrest. Connecticut has jurisdiction over state law and cannot dictate federal law. When someone is arrested in the state of Connecticut, they are often fingerprinted. Three sets of fingerprints are taken; one set gets sent to the Department of Public Safety, one stays in the local police department where the arrest occurred, and one goes to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (“FBI”). A federal agency such as the FBI is under no obligation to erase their database consistent with state law. Only the president of the United States can grant a pardon for a federal conviction, if you were convicted of a federal crime, you must submit a Presidential Pardon Application.
How to get articles about your case erased from the Internet
If you are arrested, notification of your arrest may appear in a police blotter, or in an article in the local - or even national - news. Oftentimes, your image or mugshot will also appear in the article. Once publication of your arrest appears on the Internet, anyone with Internet access can find out that you have been arrested and learn details surrounding your charges. This may cause a great deal of concern to you if you are a public figure, if you hold a job that requires security clearance, or if you simply wish to move on with your life after your case has been dismissed.
Connecticut General Statutes has an Erasure Statute, C.G.S. §54-142a, which provides that once a case has been dismissed (or 13 months after a nolle has been entered) it is as if you have never been arrested. Unfortunately, Connecticut General Statutes do not govern the press, and online news companies that publish these articles may continue to publish news about your arrest.
Many local news publications will agree to remove your article from their website upon confirmation of a successful disposition of your criminal matter. In other cases, publication companies may be willing to publish an update to the article confirming a favorable disposition and remove meta tags. A meta tag is a code word, or words, that describe the contents of the article. This information is used by search engines such as Google to index a page so that someone who searches for particular information will be able to find it. Once the publication company removes meta tags, the article detailing your arrest will no longer appear during a Google search.
The attorneys and staff at Koffsky & Felsen, LLC have helped many of our clients remove articles detailing their arrests from the Internet. Here at Koffsky & Felsen, LLC, we have the knowledge and experience to assist you in obtaining documentation confirming the disposition of your case and in contacting local news publications in order to have your article deleted or revised.
Am I eligible for a Pardon, and when can I apply?
If you have a conviction on your record for a misdemeanor or a felony in Connecticut, you might be eligible for an absolute (full) pardon, provided certain criteria are met. The criteria, according to the Connecticut Board of Pardons & Paroles, includes:
- You must not be on parole, probation or another form of supervised release.
- If you seek a pardon for a misdemeanor conviction, at least three years must have elapsed from the date of your conviction.
- If you seek to erase a felony conviction, at least five years must have elapsed from the date of your conviction.
Individuals may apply for a provisional pardon any time after their conviction, including individuals currently on supervised release.
You are technically eligible to apply for a full Pardon three years after being convicted of a misdemeanor and five years after being convicted of a felony. When considering a Pardon application, the Board takes into consideration (among other things) the seriousness of the offense, and the length of time between the commission of the offense and when the Pardon application is submitted. Each Pardon application is unique to the offense and individual offender. If, for example, you have a conviction on your record for a violent felony, the Board may determine that five years is not enough time to have passed before the Board would consider granting you a Pardon.
You cannot apply for a Pardon for one offense and not the other. Your entire criminal record will be considered by the Board of Pardons. You are not eligible for a Pardon if you are currently incarcerated or if you have any pending criminal matters in the state of Connecticut or in any other jurisdiction. If seeking a Pardon in the state of Connecticut, you are required to apply for a Pardon for all convictions. You cannot pick and choose convictions for which to seek a Pardon-it’s an all or nothing scenario.
The Pardons Board in Connecticut does not have any power to expunge out of state or federal convictions. If you have convictions in any other state, you need to identify those convictions on your application, and indicate when and in what state the conviction(s) occurred.
How to apply for a pardon in Connecticut
Once you determine that you are eligible for a Pardon, you can get your fingerprints taken at your local police department and begin the process of requesting police reports, criminal history records, and obtaining character letters from family and friends. It is important to keep track of and gather any credentials, degrees, certifications, awards, etc. that demonstrate your rehabilitation, contributions to the community, employment and education attained since your conviction.
How much does a Pardon cost?
It varies. We work closely with our clients to give them the best opportunity to get a Pardon. Should your initial application be denied, you can always reapply, but you will have to wait at least one year before submitting another application. Some of the reasons that Pardons are denied are that not enough time has elapsed since the date of the conviction, the seriousness of the offense, and concerns about safety to the community. We want to get it right the first time, and it is important to prepare an application that reflects everything you have done to change your life and better yourself since your arrest. We charge a flat fee for preparing Pardons, and our fee depends on the nature of the offense, the number of prior convictions, the complexity of the circumstances related to your case, and other factors which we are happy to discuss with you.
How long does the Pardons process take?
The Pardons process takes a long time. The Pardon application is lengthy and it is important to be thorough when filling it out. We usually advise clients that the process takes between 12-18 months from application to decision. This can vary depending on the complexity of the case, the number of applications that are being reviewed by the Pardons Board, and various other factors. Applying for a Pardon is a labor-intensive process, but since you are asking the Board of Pardons to expunge your criminal record, it is important for you to demonstrate to the Board why you are a good candidate for a Pardon and that it is in the interests of justice to grant you a Pardon. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, and once your application is screened, you will receive notice indicating whether any additional information needs to be submitted, whether your application is denied, or whether you will be required to appear at a hearing before the Board of Pardons. Sometimes Pardons are granted “on the papers” and you will receive notice of this by mail if that is the case.
You should receive a letter from the Board of Pardons approximately four (4) months after submitting your Pardons Application. You will be notified that the Board has granted a hearing, denied your application, or has granted a Provisional Pardon. If you are granted a Provisional Pardon, you will receive a Certificate of Employability in the same mailing.
How many Pardons hearings take place per year?
There are currently eight (8) hearings per year. Before each hearing, there is a pre-screen session at which the Board reviews all of the cases submitted for Pardon consideration for that particular hearing session. Pardons hearings are open to the public.
Do I need to appear at the Hearing?
Yes, the Board may require your appearance at your hearing. You will receive a letter notifying whether you are required to appear at your hearing and you may be required to do so even if you are no longer a resident of Connecticut.
Is there a deadline to apply for a Pardon?
No, there is no deadline. Pardons are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Can I seek a Pardon for any crime?
Technically, yes. However, certain crimes, especially crimes of violence, are very difficult cases. The Board considers the need to protect the public when making decisions regarding expunging an applicant's criminal history.
Can I apply for a Pardon by myself?
Some individuals choose to apply for Pardons on their own though we advise potential clients to have an attorney assist in the preparation of their Pardon application in order ensure that their application is thorough and accurate. A copy of the Pardon application can be obtained here. If you need assistance or have any questions about the application, you may call the Pardons Unit of the Board of Pardons and Paroles at (203) 805-6643. If you want to retain an attorney to assist you with the Pardon Application, you can contact our office at (203) 327-1500.
How can I improve my chances of being granted a Pardon?
It's never too early to start thinking about the Pardons process! Although you have a criminal conviction, you can start making positive contributions to the community - by furthering your education, seeking and maintaining employment, getting mental and/or substance abuse treatment if needed, performing community service and/or other charitable works, and saving documentation confirming your efforts to be a contributing member of society.
The Pardons application is comprehensive and care should be taken when preparing your application package. The Board needs to have a clear picture of each applicant's background and character. It is important that you are accurate and thorough when providing information regarding your employment history, educational background and/or training, mental health or substance abuse treatment, contributions to the community, why you want a Pardon, and how you have changed and what you learned since you committed the offense/offenses for which you are seeking a Pardon. The granting of a Pardon is in many ways an act of mercy - you are not entitled to it, but have the opportunity to demonstrate, through your application, why you merit a Pardon.
What factors are considered when reviewing a Pardon application?
The Board takes into consideration many different factors, including the nature of the offense, the amount of time that has passed since the commission of the offense, whether there are any identifiable victims of the offense and the impact on the victim(s), the nature and characteristics of the applicant, including their employment, educational, medical and social history, and the steps they have taken to become a contributing member of society. If you have been battling mental health or substance abuse issues, you should provide confirmation of consistent treatment. If you have performed community service, you should provide documentation of your efforts. Rehabilitation is a significant factor that the Board considers.
What if I get arrested while my Pardon application is pending?
You cannot have any pending state or federal criminal cases at the time you submit your application. We have come across situations where we have filed a Pardon application on behalf of a client and that client then got arrested. We recommend disclosing the arrest, withdrawing the application, and then resubmitting it after the matter has been resolved. If you get arrested while your application is pending and your case gets nolled (the charges against you get dropped), you must wait until thirteen (13) months have elapsed and the nolle turns into a dismissal before resubmitting your application. However, if you are convicted of the crime for which you were arrested, you will then have to wait three years before applying for a Pardon if the conviction was for a misdemeanor or five years if the conviction was for a felony.
Do I have to disclose my entire criminal history to the Board of Pardons, even if it does not appear on my criminal history report?
Yes! You must be completely candid with the Board of Pardons about any and all prior offense conduct that resulted in an arrest, including DUIs and other serious motor vehicle offenses, and out of state and/or federal convictions. It is your responsibility to identify all prior involvement with the criminal justice system, and we work closely with our clients to ensure that we provide accurate information when filling out their Pardon Application. We contact the DMV, local police departments and the Superior Court Records Center to obtain this information in an effort to be fully candid with the Board. Failure to identify prior criminal history, even if it does not appear on your criminal history report, may result in the Board’s denial of your Pardon application. It is always better to be candid in your responses. Omissions are regarded as untruths, and it is not advisable to fail to mention something in the hopes that the Board will not find out about it. The Board considers your entire background when making a determination on whether to grant you a Pardon, and it is imperative that you are accurate and candid in your representations, especially regarding your offense history.
How do I know if I have been granted a Pardon?
The Board of Pardons sometimes determines whether to grant a Pardon “on the papers.” In that case, the Board will notify you and your attorney of the decision by mail. Many applicants are required to appear at a hearing although you may be granted a Pardon without needing to attend a hearing. You will be notified as to whether your appearance is required via mail. If you live out of state at the time of the hearing, you will have to make arrangements to travel to Connecticut to attend your hearing. Even if you have an attorney who has helped you prepare your Pardon application, and even if that attorney accompanies you to your hearing, the Board will have questions for—and will want to hear directly from—you.
If the Board denies my application for a Pardon, can I reapply?
Yes, you can reapply, but you should wait at least one (1) year from the date of denial before you can reapply. Under certain circumstances, the Board may require that you wait a longer period of time before reapplying. You should make a copy of and save every Pardon application that you submit so that you can reference it in the future in the event you need to fill out another application.