Our last blog post dealt with Legislative Document 573 (LD 573), which is a proposed law, currently in front of the Maine legislature, that would allow for certain arrest records and criminal history to be sealed from public record: A process called “expungement.” While this law would be a great thing to have in the state of Maine – it would allow people to finally move on from minor convictions that happened years ago – it is still not the law, right now.
Currently, Maine does not allow for the expungement of adult criminal records, so the only way to make your criminal history a thing of the past is to get the Governor of Maine to officially pardon you for your crimes. This process, called “executive clemency,” is a part of the Maine Constitution (Art. V, Part First, Section 11), and can come in two forms: Commutation or Pardon. A commutation is a partial or a full reduction of a sentence for someone currently in jail. Commutations are only available if an inmate is still in jail, and has been there for at least a year, and so is only a possibility for those convicted of relatively serious crimes. A pardon, on the other hand, officially forgives someone for their crime by sealing their criminal record from the public eye. However, even a pardon might not cover all of a person's criminal history, as there are a handful of exceptions to what the Governor will pardon:
- The Governor won't issue a pardon that is sought solely to carry a firearm or hunt, or to have your name removed from the Sex Offender Registry, or to move to Canada
- The Governor won't pardon one crime when there are other, serious, convictions on your criminal history
- The Governor won't hear a pardon request for a conviction of operating a vehicle under the influence (OUI)
For other convictions, however, a pardon might still be an option. Needless to say, getting an official pardon from the state Governor is a lengthy and complex process; you can't even start it until five years have passed since the sentence, and any included probation period. The full process, detailed on the required Petition for Executive Clemency Form, puts a lot of responsibility on the person making the petition, who has to find and attached numerous court documents, detailing every conviction the petitioner wants pardoned by the Governor, attend a hearing by the Governor's Board on Executive Clemency, and publish notifications of this hearing beforehand in local newspapers. Because the Board on Executive Clemency only meets three times a year, this process usually takes at least six months to complete.
If you or a loved one are interested in pursuing executive clemency for a prior conviction, having an experienced attorney on hand can make all the difference, as the process can be overwhelming to those who are unfamiliar with it. Call the law office of William T. Bly today at (207) 571-8146.