“Yeah, but that wasn’t a conviction.”
Posted by Bryant Chavez:
Yesterday was the day for the Chicago hearings for the pardon petitions filed in July. The hearings are held before the Prisoner Review Board, who then make a confidential recommendation to Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn as to whether he should grant the petition or not.
At the hearings, the board will ask all sorts of questions delving into the life of the petitioner, especially when it comes to criminal history. One of the frustrating things I see at these hearings is when petitioners aren’t prepared for these types of inquiries. Usually the unprepared are the ones filing without an attorney. People seem to believe that pardon consideration will only apply to the particular cases that require pardoning. It doesn’t.
I watched one hearing for a woman that filed without an attorney. She apparently did not disclose in her petition an arrest for a DUI that occurred later in life. Her original crime that she requires the pardon for was a possession of a controlled substance. While these aren’t necessarily the same crime, they both suggest the same inability to manage one’s life in relation to recreational drugs. This is definitely something that the Review Board considers, and takes very seriously.
So when this petitioner was making the argument that she is now a good person, the board cut her off to ask about “hidden” DUI. Of course, her response was, “Yeah, but that wasn’t a conviction.” I cringed as soon as I heard that. First of all, by not disclosing the arrest the Board is probably already suspicious of her entire petition. Second, the lack of conviction does not exclude consideration. There is no “innocent until proven guilty” here. The board members are humans and all humans will make presumptions in that situation.
For me, this was just another example of a pardon petitioner that really could have used an attorney. She actually would have had a pretty good case if someone with experience could have framed her argument properly. An attorney would have also known that it is always better to err on the side of disclosure.