Q: I just learned that I cannot ask the court to seal my convictions because I have more than one. Do I have any other options?
A: Yes. You may seek a pardon from the governor of the state of Ohio.
Q: What is a pardon?
A: A pardon is one type of executive clemency that the governor of the state of Ohio has the power to grant. A pardon forgives your crime, and if granted, puts you in the same position as if the crime had never occurred. This means that you may answer “no” when asked if you have been convicted of a crime.
Q: How do I apply for a pardon?
A: You may obtain an application and instructions from the Department of Correction website: www.drc.state.oh.us/web/ExecClemency.htm, or by writing to the Ohio Parole Board, Clemency Section, 770 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43222. When completing your application, pay close attention to questions ten and eleven. Be sure to check one of the boxes in question ten. In addition, you should attach a separate letter to your application. The letter should explain the circumstances of your convictions and what you have done since your convictions to change your life. For question eleven, you should send as many letters of support as you can collect.
Q: What happens after I return my completed application to the Ohio Parole Board?
A: The Parole Board investigates all clemency cases for the governor. It will conduct an investigation in your case. Once it concludes its investigation, the Parole Board will make a recommendation to the governor either for or against the pardon.
Q: Will I be contacted by the Parole Board during the investigation?
A: Maybe. The Parole Board makes its decision based upon your submitted application. The Parole Board investigator may contact you by telephone or the investigator may come to your home to speak with you. The Parole Board also may schedule you for a clemency hearing. You should attend this hearing.
Q: Will anyone else be contacted as part of the investigation?
A: Yes. The Parole Board will contact the prosecuting attorney and judge who were involved in your case to ask if they believe you should be given a pardon. In addition, the Parole Board may contact the victim of your crime.
Q: Will I be notified of the Parole Board’s recommendation?
A: The Parole Board may send you a notice containing its recommendation. You will not receive a copy of the full report the Board sends to the governor.
Q: How long will the process take once I have applied for a pardon?
A: It will take at least six to eight months, and possibly longer.
Q: What happens if the governor grants the pardon?
A: If the governor grants you a full pardon, the governor will send you a copy of the “warrant of pardon.” The law also requires the warrant of pardon to be filed with the court where you were convicted. The governor also may grant you a conditional pardon requiring you to do certain things before the pardon is effective. For example, the governor may require you to pay any fines or costs that you still owe on the case.
Q: Does the pardon automatically seal my convictions?
A: No. You should take your “warrant of pardon” to the clerk’s office of the court in which you were convicted and ask for your criminal record to be sealed.
Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was prepared by attorney Joann Sahl of the University of Akron School of Law.