Illinois Pardon FAQ Frequently Asked Questions

This page was designed to help our clients better understand our Illinois Pardon service. You will find answers to the questions we are most frequently asked. If your question is related to eligibility requirements please take the free online eligibility test.

What is required in the application?

The application will include: a completed application form, a personal narrative history, a copy of your criminal record, and any supplemental documents such as a personal statement or letters of recommendation. Supporting documents are key to pardon application success and the types of documents which should be provided will vary based on what you have available and based upon your personal narrative history.

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What types of pardons are available?

There are five types of executive clemency pardons that you can apply for. We can help you decide which type best suits your individual needs and is more likely to be successful. 1. Commutation of Sentence: This is to get you out of prison before the end of your sentence. 2. Pardon: This enters a pardon on your criminal history record and removes the disabilities which generally accompany a conviction. 3. Expungement Authorization to File in Circuit Court: This does exactly what it says by allowing you to file for expungement in the Circuit Court.
4. Pardon and Expungement Authorization to File in Circuit Court: This combines types 2 and 3. 5. Firearm Rights Restoration: This combines types 2 and 3 but also adds restoration of potential firearm privileges with the authority to apply for a Firearm Owners Identification Card.

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What happens after I file the application?

After filing the application, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board reviews your application for completeness. This review can include an investigation into the truthfulness of your application. Once your filing is deemed complete, the Board will then assign you the next available hearing date. Hearing dates are set in advance and are generally available within 6 months of filing.

The hearing can be either a public or nonpublic hearing. A public hearing is when you, your attorney, and any witnesses can appear on your behalf to argue in front of the Board. A nonpublic hearing is conducted by the Board without anyone else present.

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How long does the process take?

The process can be completed in as little as one year. However, currently, it is taking between 3 and 4 years from the time an application is submitted until a decision is rendered on your pardon application. There are no guarantees however. While the Board will hear your case within 6 months, the Governor has full control over when your application is considered.

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What does a pardon do?

A full pardon relieves any legal disability resulting from a conviction. However, voting and public office rights are automatically restored upon completion of sentence in Illinois and juror rights are never lost. Therefore, the benefits of a pardon are best used when you wish to restore your gun rights or obtain a court expungement which you would not otherwise be eligible for. A pardon also acts as a powerful benefit when applying for employment and limits exposure from the case.

There are different types of pardons. Some pardons do not relieve any legal disability but merely make you eligible to apply for expungement in the court. Other pardons restore your gun rights, while a standard pardon does not. Some pardons also allow you to terminate a prison sentence early.

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Will my record be cleared if I’m granted a pardon?

No, a pardon does not remove, expunge, or clear the conviction from your criminal record, but it does make you eligible to have your record expunged in some cases. Note that this is only the case when the pardon specifically authorizes expungement.

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How can I get my record cleared?

The only way to remove the pardoned conviction is to file a petition for expungement in the court where the conviction occurred. If your pardon grants this authorization to file for expungement, we can assist you.

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Do I ever have to disclose my conviction if I receive a pardon?

Generally no, depending on the type of pardon you receive. After you receive a pardon, you can generally say that you were never convicted of that crime because it relieves you of the legal disabilities. However, you technically are being forgiven of the crime, NOT found innocent of the crime committed. Also, your pardoned record is still public record unless you receive authorization to obtain an expungement and receive one from the court.

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Can I become a schoolteacher, nurse, or other occupation?

Yes, depending on the type of pardon you are granted. A traditional pardon removes any legal disability. Your record may still be visible unless you receive a pardon which authorizes an expungement and then get the case expunged through a court.

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Do I need to hire an attorney or can I proceed with the pardon on my own?

You have an attorney to (1) obtain the application material for you and assist in the completion of the application (2) make sure the process is done right the first time so your case does not get rejected or cost you months or years of delay (3) send an attorney to the hearing to aid in the presentation if you choose and (4) write letters to potential employers letting them know that the application to receive a pardon has been filed and you are working to remove it from your record.

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What is the difference between a public and a non-public hearing before the Prisoner Review Board?

On your pardon application, we can request a public or a non-public hearing before the Prisoner Review Board.

If granted a public hearing, you appear before the Board along with any witnesses you are able to present to the board and answer any questions that the Board has. The Board will then factor this into its confidential recommendation to the Governor.

If granted a non-public hearing, the Board takes your petition and reads it at “face value” and makes recommendations to the Governor. For a non-public hearing, neither you nor any of your witnesses will need to appear before the Board.

If you choose to have a public hearing, the hearing dates are published generally at least 1 year in advance, meaning that you should make sure your schedule is open and that you are able to attend the hearing. There is also an additional fee if you choose to have a public hearing and would like an attorney to appear with you.

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Do I ever have to appear at a hearing to receive a pardon?

Yes, if you or the Board requires a public hearing.

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How does the attorney know about my case details?

Once you sign up we have you fill out a questionnaire on your personal online account. The questionnaire asks you the questions that appear on the application as well as additional questions that will influence the outcome of the application and allow us to make sure the important information is presented on your application. Although some of the questions seem simple, if you provide more information and detail in your answers then we are better able to present to the Board and the Governor that they should grant your pardon. We also will complete case research and ask for anything additional that we believe would be helpful in your case.

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Can the pardon process be done faster?

The Board works on a first come, first serve basis. Therefore, the sooner you begin the application process the sooner the Board will make a decision on your case. There is no way to control when the Governor considers your case, so you want to submit as soon as possible.

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How do I know what is going on with my case?

We have an online tracking system that is just for your case or cases. You will have a username and password for the account and it will have the information specific to the case. Whenever anything happens in your case we post it in your online account so that you can view the status of the case and the progress that is made. If there is no post on your online account then that means that there is no update in the case. For example, once we update your online account to reflect that we have filed the application with the Board we will update the notes when we hear a response from the Board.

As mentioned above, we generally get a hearing within 6 months and then there is a period in which we wait for up to several years for a decision. If something is taking longer than usual, we will call to obtain the status of the application and update your online notes. In addition to posting the status updates in your online account, we will post your case information so you are aware of the case and future hearings. Moreover, we post your contract and payment plan information on the online account for you so that you can view all the information and print it.

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Do you have payment plans?

We can create a payment plan that meets your needs. Please view the pricing for details regarding the payment plans.

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What if I don’t know exactly what is on my record?

We will be glad to work with you to get a copy of your criminal records (which are required by the Prisoner Review Board) and to review what can be done in terms of seeking a pardon and/or to determine if you are eligible for expungement. We charge a researching fee and we apply that to the cost of any service that you hire us to perform.

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What happens after my case is pardoned?

You will be legally forgiven for your crime. Notice is given to all interested parties after they receive notice of the Governor’s decision. The conviction may also become eligible for judicial expungement. After an expungement is granted, the general public will no longer have access to the records.

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What factors are considered by the Governor and Prisoner Review Board when deciding to grant or deny executive clemency?

There is no rule about what may or may not be considered by the Governor or the Board when deciding to grant or deny your pardon. In fact, the Governor and Board can consider anything that they believe is important in making their decisions.

There are certain factors which are generally considered in the process including the circumstances of the offense; your criminal history record; your employment and education history; your marital status and number of children (and whether or not you support them); your substance abuse and mental health history; your military record; your involvement in charitable and community activities; awards or commendations you have received or other achievements; any counseling and rehabilitative programs that you have completed; any life changing events and your reasons for seeking a pardon including opportunities denied because of your criminal record; whether or not your case is eligible for court relief; and the reasons you wish to have your firearm rights restored (if applying for gun rights).

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What if my case is denied?

We will consider the reasons for which your pardon may have been denied and ways that you can strengthen your application in the future. You must wait one (1) full year from the date of denial before you can re-file the application unless given permission from the Chairman of the Board to re-file sooner.

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What is the main reason that a pardon is denied?

There are many factors that are considered when granting or denying a pardon and the governor is not required to provide a reason and is able to grant or deny entirely in his discretion. By having an experienced attorney assist you in the pardon process, you reduce the chances of denial due to a mistake or omission which could have been avoided.

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Will a pardon relieve me of the requirement to register?

Possibly. Please consult our office if this situation applies to you.

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Can I vote after the pardon is granted?

In Illinois, a person can register to vote the moment he is discharged from their sentence. Pardons do not assist with voting rights unless the pardon terminates your sentence early, thus restoring your voting rights early.

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Will a pardon help with immigration?

Criminal violations may have severe consequences for immigrants, even if the crime is expunged/vacated/sealed. Even minor offenses such as petty theft can make someone deportable or inadmissible, while more serious offenses such as burglary may not have the same consequences. Since each case is unique, getting a case-by-case analysis tailored to your specific facts is imperative. To find out if your criminal conviction will impact your immigration case and if a pardon would assist you, contacting a qualified immigration attorney is vital. Our in-house immigration attorney is available to answer questions at 714-617-8395.

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Can I clear my federal conviction?

A person can apply for a pardon through the President of the United States for a federal conviction. A person with a federal conviction cannot apply for a Illinois Pardon. We do not currently offer federal pardon services.

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Will a pardon restore my right to own a firearm?

Yes, if the pardon specifically restores your gun rights. There are various types of pardons in Illinois and only one type can restore gun rights. If you are seeking a pardon specifically for firearm purposes, please let your Case Manager know right away.

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Will my conviction still show up on my background check?

A pardoned conviction will show up on some background checks; however, a pardoned conviction may be eligible to be expunged. Once expunged, neither the arrest nor conviction record will appear on your background check.

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Who can serve on a jury in Illinois?

You are not disqualified from serving on a jury even if you have a felony conviction in Illinois. Therefore a pardon is not necessary to restore your jury rights.

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The first step towards a better life begins with finding out if you are eligible for Illinois Pardon.

FREE Eligibility Test


Call us at 312-281-1584 or Toll Free (877) 573-7273
Please take the free online eligibility test before calling.

Law Firm of Higbee & Associates
939 W. North Avenue, Suite 750
Chicago, Il. 60642
*By Appointment Only