Free Pardon Applications

In Maine, a state that provides limited relief to those with a criminal history, many are undergoing the grueling and costly process of obtaining a pardon so that they can live their lives without being affected by the mistakes they made in their youth. Hundreds of people seek pardons through the Governor’s office and the clemency board, but few are granted. In the past year, Governor LePage granted only four pardons.

The majority of requests that come before the clemency board are made by people that committed minor indiscretions in their youth. Many plead guilty to avoid jail time and were allowed to pay a fine and move on with their lives. While it may be a relief to end a criminal case as quickly and quietly as possible, that guilty plea can have lifelong repercussions. Many are finding that their guilty pleas for minor offenses such as shoplifting, vandalism, and other youthful transgressions are affecting their ability to function in their adult life. A criminal conviction can be considered while seeking employment, housing, education, and even professional licensing. There have even been instances where new legislation has passed that has caused individuals to be fired from long term jobs for past convictions, despite the conviction never having caused an issue previously.

Presently, the only form of relief available in Maine a pardon, but even a pardon is a long shot. Not only is the margin of success a slim one, the procedure itself is intensive and tedious. The process involves submitting to a full background check, writing an autobiography to include in the application, and posting four separate legal notices in newspapers to make the public aware that a pardon is being sought. Many state that the sheer amount of paperwork that must be completed can take up to two weeks to finish in their entirety. In addition, a person must also meet a five- year waiting period before an application can be submitted. Many seek the counsel of a lawyer during the process, and attorney fees combined with the application fee can make the procedure rather expensive.

The clemency board only considers granting pardons for “extraordinary and exceptional reasons,” and they make their decision solely on why the petitioner believes that they deserve a pardon. Petitioners mainly are seeking pardons in order to qualify for a job or license, and some are seeking admittance into a program or seeking a service. The board grants pardons for those who are sincere and genuinely need a pardon so that they may move forward with their lives. Despite many truly being in need of a pardon they are still a rare occurrence, because most feel that a conviction should remain on one’s record because judges prefer transparency and want people to know when a person was convicted of a crime.

The scarcity of pardons have spurred the state’s legislature to draft a new bill that would introduce the option of expungement in Maine. LD 549, introduced by Representative Joan Welsh, would allow for the expungement of a single misdemeanor conviction that was committed while the individual was between the ages of eighteen and twenty. The conviction must be the only one on the individual’s record, and the conviction must be nonviolent. An additional amendment has been requested by the Judiciary Committee to also exclude all sex crimes from eligibility.

While Governor LePage rarely grants pardons, he supports the idea of the LD 549 but is waiting until the final version is drafted before he will take a position on it. Several House Representatives are hoping to amend the legislation to broaden eligibility to anyone that is over twenty-one that has obeyed the law consistently for over ten years. The ten year waiting period would serve as proof that the applicant has been rehabilitated and is unlikely to resume engaging in criminal activity.

LD 549 is promising, and it would provide a more attainable form of relief for those in Maine that are being held back by their criminal history. The bill will soon be brought to the floor for vote.

Written by the RecordClearing Team

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2 Responses Leave a comment

  1. Sandy says:

    Good Day,
    Would it be possible to get an update on the status of this? I am at a loss and I really need a job. My unemployment runs out next week and I have been unable to find a job. I do not want to become a welfare case. I have always worked and I am an asset to any employer. Now I am recently widowed and I no longer have the means to support myself. I am so lost…
    Thank you in advance for any help you can give.


    • Jenna Thorne says:

      Hello Sandy. Unfortunately, the expungement bill LD 549 has not seen much progress in the Maine legislature since this original article was posted. It was amended from its original version to only provide for expungement of Class E Theft convictions that were committed between the ages of 18 and 21. This extremely limits the number of people this bill would help, but it is still a step in the right direction for Maine. The amended bill had passed a vote in the Senate but is still pending a vote in the House. After the bill, in identical form, passes both chambers it still must be signed by a governor. At this time, it is unclear if or when this bill will be passed, but as soon as we have any additional information we will post it here.

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