Ohio Pardon Information

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Authority

The Ohio Constitution gives the Governor the power to “grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, for all crimes and offenses, except treason and cases of impeachment.”[1] The Governor may grant an absolute or partial pardon, and may place any conditions, limitations, or restrictions on a pardon as he deems proper.[2] The Ohio Legislature has the power to regulate the manner in which a person applies for a pardon.[1]

The Legislature has created a body within the Department of Corrections called the Adult Parole Authority. Within the Adult Parole Authority is a smaller body called the Parole Board, whose job is to receive, investigate, and make recommendations to the Governor on all pardon applications.[3] The Governor is not bound by the Parole Board’s recommendation.

Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we will not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, amnesty, parole, or other types of clemency that may be available in Ohio here. We will also not discuss judicial alternatives such as record expungment, record sealing, setting aside or dismissal of convictions. You should talk to an attorney if you think any of these alternative options may be more appropriate for you.

Eligibility

The Governor can only grant a pardon to you after you have been convicted.[4] If your case was dismissed or you are still being charged or tried for the particular crime, then you are not eligible to apply for a pardon. Only you or your legal representative can apply for a pardon/clemency.

Traditionally, a pardon is not granted to a person who is still serving his or her sentence (including those still on probation or parole). A pardon is typically granted to a person who has successfully completed his or her sentence and has spent several years as a law-abiding citizen (no criminal activity).

The Governor can only grant a pardon for an Ohio State conviction.[5] If you want a pardon for a federal conviction, you must do that through the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Pardon Attorney (see our page on this site on federal pardons). If you want to pardon for an out-of-state conviction, you should find the appropriate page on this site dealing with pardons in that particular state.

If you have already applied for a pardon and have been denied less than two years before you apply again, the Parole Board will forward your application to the Governor with a recommendation of denial without any further investigations if it does not think that there is anything in your second application that was not or could not have been presented in the first application. If, however, your second application comes two years after your first application was denied, by law the Parole Board must process it like a brand new application.

Getting a pardon/clemency is very difficult in Ohio, as is in most other states. The Governor receives a lot of applications but grants very few.[6] In 2012, 497 pardon applications were received. 77 pardons were granted and 203 applications were denied.[7] Your chance of getting a pardon largely depends on your individual circumstances. Naturally, the older and less serious your conviction, and the more compelling your life story, the higher your chance of getting a pardon. Your chance of getting a pardon can also depend on who is serving as Governor at the time your application is reviewed; some Governors are simply more lenient than others in handing out pardons.

The Application Process

There are no application fees to apply for a pardon in Ohio.

The Parole Board has conveniently placed its application form for you to access on the Internet at http://www.drc.state.oh.us/web/ExecClemency.htm. There is also a separate instructions/guidelines sheet that you should read as you fill out the application. If you cannot access the website or the forms, you can call the Parole Board at 614-752-1200 to have them mailed or possibly emailed to you. You can also email the Board at drc.clemency@drc.state.oh.us or write to:

Ohio Parole Board
770 West Broad Street
Columbus, Ohio 43222

The application form should be quite simple and self-explanatory, as it was created for the non-lawyer to use. You will be asked basic information such as your name, any aliases you’ve ever used, your date of birth, marital status, and the type of clemency you are seeking (pardon, commutation, or reprieve).

You will be asked to list information about each conviction for which you are seeking a pardon. For each conviction, you will need to know the city or county you were convicted in, the case number, the name of the offense, the date you were convicted, and the date you were sentenced. If you are missing information about any particular conviction, you should contact the law enforcement agency involved in the case and/or the court where you were convicted.

Additionally, for each of those convictions, the Board requires that you provide copies of:

  • The indictment or bill of information; AND
  • The judgment entry of conviction and sentence.

You should be able to obtain both of those things from the clerk’s office of the court where you were convicted. The court will typically charge a small fee for this service.

You will also be asked to list all of your arrests, even if they did not result in a conviction. Include all arrests—state and federal. You will need to know the county where you were arrested, the case number, the offense, the date convicted (if applicable), and the sentence (if applicable). Again, you can obtain this information from the law enforcement agency and/or the court where you were charged/convicted.

If you do not remember all of your arrests and convictions, you may need to obtain your criminal history report from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation, Identification Section, by calling (740) 845-2000. You can also make an online request at http://www.webcheck.ag.state.oh.us. Your criminal history report should list all arrests, charges, and convictions you have received in Ohio.

If you have arrests/convictions in other states, you can obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal history report from the FBI. You can find out how to do this by calling the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., at (202) 324-3000, or logging onto its website at http://www.fbi.gov. The FBI’s website also has a list of local FBI offices you can call. Alternatively, you can contact the criminal history record repository (which keeps a record of all criminal activity in a state) in each state where you have arrests/convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.

You will also be asked to explain why you are seeking clemency (pardon). This is perhaps the most important section of your application. We highly suggest that you submit, on a separate sheet of paper, a detailed and genuine personal statement.

In your personal statement, do not simply say you want a clean criminal record. Tell the Parole Board/Governor how your conviction has negatively affected you and/or your family. For example, explain how you have been denied housing or employment opportunities because of your conviction, and how this has prevented you from providing your family and you an adequate standard of living. Submit any proof you may have (such as denial letters) to support your claims.

If you are facing deportation because of a conviction, explain how being separated from your family will negatively affect you as well as them. If you are pursuing a career in a field that requires you to obtain a pardon, submit documents, letters, or other proof from a prospective employer, licensing agency, or attorney verifying this necessity. If you need to regain your gun rights, explain why you need this—for example, you are pursuing a career that requires the use of firearms, or you want to take part in your family hunting traditions, or you simply want to feel more secure and able to defend yourself and/or your family after a recent traumatic event.

Also indicate in your personal statement all the positive things that have occurred in your life—for example, educational achievements, new or stable employment, marriage and children, community involvement, charitable services or donations, law-abiding behavior, etc. Submit copies of your college transcript, high school diploma or GED, military certificates, marriage certificate, honors and awards, and other proof of your rehabilitation and good character. Explain what your future plans are and how a pardon would you.

In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Parole Board/Governor will not be retrying you for the offense. Although you may want to explain the facts of the crime from your perspective, avoid trying to make excessive excuses for your crime and arguing away your guilt. However you feel about the crime, you have already been found guilty. The Parole Board/Governor is probably more interested in seeing your remorse for the crime, and your understanding of its effects on the victim and society, than anything else.

Also, although not required, we suggest that you submit a few letters of recommendation from credible people (such as your boss) who know you well and can say good things about you. These letters should indicate to what extent the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you should be granted a pardon. The letters should also indicate the writer’s contact information for verification purposes. If possible, you should choose individuals who are not related to you, in order to avoid the appearance of bias. These letters must be sent along with your application or they will not be considered.

Your application form must be notarized, which means it must be signed in front of a notary public. You can find a notary public in most banks. They may charge a small fee, usually depending on whether you have an account with that particular bank. If you have an attorney prepare the form for you, the attorney must also sign and date the application.

You will need to submit two copies of your application (both notarized) and two copies of everything else (documents, letters, etc.) to the Parole Board. You should also keep a copy of everything you send for your records. Your completed application, along with all supporting documents and letters, should be mailed to:

Ohio Parole Board
Clemency Section
770 West Broad Street
Columbus, Ohio 43222

If you have any questions about how to fill out the application form or the application process in general, don’t be afraid to call the Board at the above number. Again, refer to the instructions/guidelines sheet for step-by-step instructions.

Once the Parole Board receives your application, it will conduct a thorough investigation into your application. As part of the investigation, the Parole Board may look at any pre-sentencing reports and other background information about you. A Parole Officer may even contact you to conduct an interview or ask you to complete a questionnaire. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Board at all times.

The Parole Board may also have a Parole Officer contact the sentencing judge, the prosecuting attorney, and the arresting agency in the county/city where you were convicted in order to solicit their opinions/recommendations regarding your application. The victim of your crime may also be notified and given an opportunity to submit a written opinion on your application.[8]

Once investigation is complete, the Parole Board will vote whether to hold a hearing on your application.[9] If less than a majority of the members vote to hold a hearing, your application will be sent to the Governor with a recommendation of denial. The Governor, however, is not bound by that recommendation.

If a majority of the Parole Board votes to hold a hearing, you will be notified of the date and time of the hearing so that you can attend. If you are still imprisoned, an interview will be conducted on you at your correctional facility prior to the hearing date.

You should attend the hearing, even if the Parole Board says you are not required to. If possible, have friends, family members, your pastor, a neighbor, a church member, your employer, co-workers, and others in your community be there to support you. They might even have an opportunity to speak out for you. The hearing is an excellent opportunity to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Parole Board not only see you in person but also see the amount of support you have in your community.

Needless to say, unless you’re a prison inmate, you must look and act your best at the hearing. Dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial (this means—for men—a suit and tie).

After the hearing (or after the review stage, if no hearing is held), the Parole Board will submit its recommendation to the Governor to either grant or deny your application, together with a brief statement of the facts, the reasons for the recommendation, and other relevant information.[10]

The Governor has the final say on whether or not you receive a pardon. You will be notified in writing of the final result. There is no timeframe within which the Governor must make a decision. The whole process, from beginning to end, can take many months.[5]

The Governor’s decision is final. This means you cannot appeal to a court if you do not like the decision.[11] However, you can reapply in two years, unless you are given permission to reapply sooner.[5]

The Effects

The primary effects of an Ohio pardon is that it forgives you of the crime you committed and relieves you of any further punishment for that crime. However, as in many other states, a pardon in Ohio “forgives but does not forget.” The pardon will not automatically erase, seal, or expunge your conviction from your criminal history record.

Nevertheless, once you receive a full, unconditional pardon, you are eligible to apply to a court to have your court records pertaining to that conviction sealed.[12] This means the general public cannot access it. Also, once your conviction has been sealed, all of the rights which you lost as a result of the conviction will be restored.[13] Additionally, private and public employers, and licensing agencies, are generally prohibited from questioning you about a sealed conviction.[13]

Even if you do not receive a pardon, if you are a first offender you may be eligible to apply to a court to have your conviction records sealed in the same way, although there is a one- or three-year waiting period (one year for misdemeanors, three year for felonies) after you complete your sentence before you eligible to apply.[14] Regardless of whether you are eligible for a sealing because of a pardon or because you are a first offender, the process of applying is the same. You will have to file a formal petition or motion with the court.[14] Because the procedure may be more formal and adversarial, you should probably retain an attorney to help you with this.

A full, unconditional pardon will restore your rights to vote, to serve on a jury, and to hold public office.[15] The pardon will also restore your gun rights (if you ever lost them at all).[5]

Remember, the Governor can place any conditions, limitations, or restrictions on a pardon as he deems just. For example, if you are given a conditional pardon and consequently released from prison early, a violation of any of the conditions of the pardon can cause you to be rearrested and thrown back in prison.[16]

A conviction that has been pardoned cannot be used to impeach you (attack your credibility) if you are ever a witness in a future court proceeding, provided you are not convicted of any felonies after you receive the pardon.[17]

Under federal law, if you have received a pardon from any state, the pardoned conviction cannot be used by federal authorities to prosecute you for “unlawful possession of a firearm” under federal law, unless the pardon specifically says you cannot possess a gun.[18] However, just because you cannot be prosecuted under federal law does not mean you cannot be prosecuted under state law. Some states have stricter gun laws than federal law. Thus, if regaining your gun rights is important to you, make sure you make you desire known during the application process.

In most cases, federal immigration authorities cannot rely solely on a conviction that has been subject to a pardon for the purpose of deporting you from the country. If immigration is not an issue for you, this benefit is obviously irrelevant.

Finally, keep in mind that the effects of a pardon can vary from one state to the next. For example, if you receive a pardon in Ohio and then move to another state, that other state might take away your gun rights or require you to register as a sex offender again even if the pardon listed these restrictions on you while you were living in Ohio. Thus, you should always check with the laws of the state you move to rather than just assume that the benefits of the pardon moves with you across state lines. Fortunately, states tend and honor each other’s pardons.

External Links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Ohio Const. art. III, § 11
  2. Ohio Const. art. III, § 11 see also Ohio Rev. Code § 2967.02(B) and § 2967.04
  3. Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2967.03 & 2967.07
  4. Ohio Const. art. III, § 11; see also Ohio Rev. Code § 2967.02
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 The Sentencing Project, Ohio, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Ohio.pdf
  6. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Executive Clemency, http://www.drc.state.oh.us/web/ExecClemency.htm; see also The Sentencing Project, Ohio, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Ohio.pdf
  7. http://www.drc.ohio.gov/web/Reports/ParoleBoard/Fiscal%20Year%202012%20Report.pdf
  8. Ohio Rev. Code § 2967.12(B)
  9. Ohio Admin. Code § 5120:1
  10. Ohio Rev. Code § 2967.07
  11. See State ex rel. Maurer v. Sheward (1994), 71 Ohio St.3d 513, 644 N.E.2d 369 (“The Governor’s exercise of discretion in using the clemency power is not subject to judicial review.”)(citations omitted)
  12. See State v. Cope, 111 Ohio App.3d 309, 676 N.E.2d 141 (Ohio Ct. App. 1996)(“[T]he pardon places the recipient, from a legal standpoint, in the same condition as if the crime had never been committed. . . . We hold that a trial court may exercise its jurisdiction to seal the record of a conviction which has been erased by a pardon, regardless of whether the petitioner has other offenses on his record. ‘A pardon without expungement is not a pardon.’”)(citation omitted)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ohio Rev. Code § 2953.33
  14. 14.0 14.1 Ohio Rev. Code § 2953.32
  15. Ohio Rev. Code § 2961.01; see also Ohio Rev. Code § 2967.04
  16. See Ohio Rev. Code § 2941.46
  17. Ohio Rules Evid. 609
  18. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33)