September 21, 2007
PARDONS AND PROVISIONAL PARDONS
By: George Coppolo, Chief Attorney
You asked (1) when does someone becomes eligible to apply for a pardon, (2) whether the legislature recently changed the law, and (3) what is a provisional pardon.
The current law authorizes the Board of Pardons and Parole to grant pardons, conditioned, provisional, or absolute, for any offense against the state at any time after the imposition, and before or after the service, of any sentence (CGS § 54-130a(b)). Although the current law is silent as to when the board may accept an application, under the board's current policy, someone sentenced to a prison term of eight years or more cannot apply until four years have gone by. A person sentenced to a term of less than eight years is eligible to apply after serving 50% of his sentence. But the board's policy also specifies that it may waive the eligibility requirements for compelling reasons.
Legislation enacted this year, which is scheduled to become effective October 1, 2007, specifies that the Board of Pardons and Parole may accept an application for a pardon three years after an applicant's conviction of a misdemeanor or violation, and five years after an applicant's conviction of a felony. But this legislation authorizes the board, upon a finding of extraordinary circumstances, to accept an application for a pardon before these time-frames have expired (PA 07-57).
A provisional pardon is a type of a pardon that is meant to relieve an eligible offender of barriers or forfeitures because of his conviction of the crime or crimes specified in the provisional pardon (CGS § 54-130e). It prohibits employers from denying employment to someone or discharging or discriminating against an employee solely because of a conviction that occurred before he started a job for which he received a provisional pardon.
The provisional pardon may be limited to one or more specified barriers or forfeitures or it may relieve the eligible offender of all barriers and forfeitures. But the law specifies that a provisional pardon cannot give the person the right to retain or be eligible for public office. The law also specifies that the granting of a provisional pardon does not erase the person's record of the conviction of the offense, or relieve him from disclosing the existence of such conviction as may be required. (We have enclosed a copy of a recent OLR report that specifies some of the barriers, forfeitures, and other consequences of a felony conviction (2005-R-0311).
The law authorizes the Board of Pardons and Paroles to issue provisional pardons to remove certain barriers or forfeitures to offenders obtaining employment or an occupational license due to the conviction of crimes named in the provisional pardon (CGS § 54-130e). The board may issue a provisional pardon any time after sentencing to a person who applies for one or who is under the board's jurisdiction if (1) the person was convicted of a crime in Connecticut or another jurisdiction and resides in the state and (2) the relief in the provisional pardon may promote the public policy of rehabilitating ex-offenders through employment and is consistent with the public's interest in safety and protecting property.
The law prohibits employers from denying employment to a prospective employee or discharging or discriminating against an employee solely on the basis of a conviction that occurred before his employment for which the person received a provisional pardon.
Barriers and Forfeitures
A provisional pardon can apply to all of the eligible barriers or forfeitures or it can specify particular ones. It can limit the provisional pardon to specific types of employment or licenses for which the offender is otherwise qualified.
A “barrier” is the denial of employment or a license because of a criminal conviction without considering whether the nature of the crime bears a direct relationship to the employment or license. A “forfeiture” is a disqualification or ineligibility for employment or a license by reason of law based on the offender's criminal conviction.
“Employment” is any remunerative work, occupation, vocation, or any form of vocational training, but not employment with law enforcement.
A “license” is any license, permit, certificate, or registration the state or any of its agencies require to pursue, practice, or engage in an occupation, trade, vocation, profession, or business.
The provisional pardon cannot apply to eligibility for or the right to retain public office.
Issuing Provisional Pardons
The law authorizes the board to create the forms and prescribes the contents for provisional pardons and their applications, investigative reports, and revocations. The board must verify the person's application. Board staff can investigate an applicant and submit a report. If written, the report is confidential and cannot be disclosed except as required or permitted by statute or on the board's specific authorization.
When it grants a provisional pardon, the board must provide written notice to the clerk of the court where the person was convicted. This does not erase the conviction record and the person must disclose the conviction if required.
The board may enlarge the relief granted to a person in a provisional pardon by issuing a new one under the same procedures as for granting original provisional pardons.
A provisional pardon is considered temporary any time that the offender is on probation or parole, and the board can revoke it for a probation or parole violation.