Do Criminal Convictions Have to Stay on Your Records Forever?

HARTFORD, CT July 11, 2012 — What do Sir Paul McCartney, Haley Joel Osment and Queen Latifah have in common? All were arrested before they were 30. And, although their youthful indiscretions haven’t kept any of them from getting a job, that’s not the case for many others. One criminal conviction can ruin your ability to get a job, apply for student aid and even get a license to practice certain professions. But that isn’t inevitable, according to an attorney who has successfully worked with clients to erase convictions from their records.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there about if and when a conviction can be erased from someone’s record,” says Jeremy Weingast, a Hartford-based attorney who practices criminal defense and family law. “There is a misconception about how long a conviction stays on your record. On one hand, many clients think a conviction gets automatically erased after seven or ten years. On the other, some believe that it’s there for life. The truth lies somewhere in between. A conviction doesn’t get erased after a period of time, nor does it have to stay on your record forever if you can obtain a pardon. In Connecticut, you can erase a state conviction with a pardon from the Board of Pardons and Paroles. There is a separate procedure to obtain a pardon for federal convictions, but that’s also a possibility.”

For those looking for a pardon of a state conviction in Connecticut, the process includes the Board of Pardons and Paroles looking at the nature and seriousness of the crime, when it was committed and how many other crimes of which you have been convicted. “Obtaining a pardon is cumbersome, but it can be done and it’s well worth the trouble,” he says, pointing out that having an attorney with experience in these matters is helpful. “If you’ve committed a felony, you can’t file an application for at least five years after the conviction. For a misdemeanor, the application cannot be filed until three years after the conviction,” Atty. Weingast says. He points out that the longer the time from the offense to the time of application, the better “The application has to include all convictions and the board will either grant a pardon for all of them or none of them,” he adds.

The board will take a good, hard look at your life today. “They will want to know what you have been doing since the conviction to demonstrate that you are worthy of a pardon,” Weingast says. In addition to providing the board with a great deal of personal information, the application must include three reference letters, a personal statement from the applicant and various other records. “The board will consider your employment history, your involvement in the community, any counseling in which you engaged to insure that you won’t re-offend, as well as family history,” he points out.

There is also something called a “provisional pardon.” Since 2006, the board has been able to grant this kind of pardon. While it doesn’t erase the conviction, it does allow you to tell a potential employer that you have received it. Also, it allows you to get a state license for a profession that doesn’t allow its members to have any convictions on their records. “The board gives a conditional pardon when it wants to encourage you to continue on your path to good citizenship,” says Atty. Weingast, pointing out that you can re-apply for a full pardon at some point in the future with this kind of pardon on your record.

There is no doubt that obtaining a pardon is a burdensome process, but Atty. Weingast points out it is well worth the time and effort if you are successful. “I’ve worked with many clients who told me going through the process, including gathering all the necessary records, reports and letters for the application was tough, but that they were glad they did it. When we go before the Board of Pardons and Paroles together and make our case, it lifts a burden off of them and it opens up a new future. That’s when they tell me it was worth all the hassle and heartache.”