March 20, 2002
ERASURE OF A CRIMINAL CONVICTION
By: Christopher Reinhart, Associate Attorney
You asked how someone convicted of a crime can get his criminal record erased.
The only way someone with a criminal conviction can get his record erased is by getting an absolute pardon. Once the pardon is granted, the conviction is automatically erased (CGS § 54-142 a (d)).
The Board of Pardons has the exclusive authority to grant pardons for any crime (CGS § 18-24 through § 18-30). We have summarized these laws below and we have enclosed a copy of the rules for petitioning the board of pardons.
BOARD OF PARDONS
The board, an autonomous body within the Department of Correction for administrative purposes, is composed of five members, appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of either the House or the Senate. The board must have one member "skilled in one of the social sciences," one physician, and three attorneys. No more than three can be from the same political party. The board elects its chairman biennially.
BASIS FOR BOARD'S DECISIONS
The general statutes vest in the Board of Pardons broad discretion in making its pardon and commutation decisions. To obtain a pardon, the person seeking it must submit a petition setting forth the crime he was convicted of, the sentence imposed and time served, and why he should be pardoned. Additionally, the petitioner must submit a sworn statement setting forth in his own words how the crime occurred, what he has been doing from the time of the crime to the present, and why he wishes to obtain a pardon.
A decision requires a four-fifths vote to be effective. There are no statutory criteria for granting or denying a pardon-the board is authorized to grant pardons, absolute or conditional, for any offense at any time after a person is sentenced. Each case is looked at individually.
The U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Connecticut Board of Pardons did not violate a prisoner's due process rights when it failed to give him reasons for not commuting his sentence (Connecticut Board of Pardons v. Dumschat, 452 U. S. 455 (1981)). The Court held that a decision on whether to commute a long-term sentence generally depends not simply on objective fact-findings, but also on purely subjective evaluations and on predictions of future behavior by those entrusted with the decision. It noted that the statutes governing the board impose no limit on the procedure to be followed, the evidence to be considered, or the criteria to be applied. According to the court, a state cannot be required to explain its reasons for a decision when it is not required to act on prescribed grounds.
The board must allow crime victims to testify at a session where the board will consider granting a pardon, reducing a prisoner's sentence, or releasing him. The victim of an offender's crime may make statements regarding release, sentence reduction, or pardon. The statements may be presented orally or in writing and must be made a part of the record.
The board has adopted rules regarding the eligibility of people to seek pardons and sentence reductions. However, they are not formal regulations and have not gone through the regulations review process. Under these rules, if a sentence is for eight years or more, a prisoner must serve at least four years before he can apply. In sentences of less than eight years, the prisoner must serve at least one half of the term, but in no event can the actual time served be less than 18 months. The board does not count presentence incarceration time.
Someone who is not in prison cannot apply for a pardon until five years after completing his sentence, including a suspended sentence with a term of probation. In extraordinary cases, the board will hear a petition if it is recommended by the chairman and two members of the board.
DEPORTATION OF INMATES WHO ARE ALIENS
The board must enter into an agreement with the U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) for INS to deport aliens incarcerated in state correction facilities whose sentences the board has conditionally commuted. The board may revoke the remainder of an incarcerated alien's punishment and transfer him to INS for deportation in accordance with this agreement, on the condition that he agrees not to contest his criminal conviction or deportation.