How to File for Clemency in Illinois

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Clemency is a pardon from the governor that clears your criminal record. In Illinois, you can file for clemency if you are not eligible to expunge or seal your record. You may be able to expunge your record if you had never been convicted of a crime before and have one misdemeanor conviction. You can’t seal your record if you have been convicted of a felony. However, certain Class 4 felony offenses may be sealed, such as prostitution or a drug offense. Pursue avenues for clemency if neither of the other options work for you.

Wait five years prior to filing your petition. While there is no waiting period in Illinois to file for clemency, Illinois Legal Aid suggests you have no criminal offenses for a period of five years before you file.

Type your petition for clemency. Provide detailed information as to why you are requesting clemency and how it will improve your life. Explain background such as your work history, complete criminal history, education and positive changes you have made to turn your life around. With your petition, include your Illinois rap sheet and, if you have them, copies of diplomas or certificates you have received during your incarceration and letters of recommendation. If you served in the military, include your DD214, which is the official documentation of your discharge.

Request a public hearing. While a hearing is not necessary, it can benefit you. You will be able to have others speak on your behalf as well as speak for yourself. Speaking in person at the hearing allows the review board to see sincerity in your request and connect a face to your name.

Mail your petition to the Illinois state’s attorney’s office, the judge who sentenced you and the review board for the prison where you served your sentence.

File an expungement. If you are granted clemency, your record is not cleared automatically. After being granted clemency, you are able to file for expungement. You must file for expungement in the court where you were originally convicted and sentenced.


  • If your clemency petition is denied, you must wait a year to petition again.


About the Author

Maria Lassen has many years experience in the legal field. She was a practicing hair and nail technician for 10 years and has been a freelance writer since 2010. Lassen studied creative writing at Bowling Green State University and holds a certificate in paralegal studies.

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