The decision to apply for a pardon is not always easy. Very few people seek a pardon twice, and thus the entire procedure is practically unknown to the applicant. So how do you prepare yourself for seeking a pardon?
First it is important to understand the procedure for a Pardon in South Carolina. Unlike other states, and classic depictions, pardons in South Carolina are not issued by the Governor. Instead, pardons are issued by the SC Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services. The SCDPPPS administers a Parole and Pardon Hearing process for all pardon applicants.
To have a hearing, a pardon seeker completes an application and submits it to the SCDPPPS.
The application includes identifying information, such as your name, address, and social security number, and employment and residence history for the past five years. Unless specifically requested, the SCDPPPS will contact your employer to verify your employment. (This can be worked around if your situation requires caution to continue your employment.)
You must provide a listing of all past criminal convictions, but should exclude minor traffic violations. It is important to list all SC convictions, and failure to do so could result in an incomplete pardon or a denial. This is also the place to disclose pending convictions.
Because not everyone can seek a pardon at any time, you must show the SCDPPPS that you qualify for a pardon. There are multiple qualifications, and you must identify the qualification under which you may seek a pardon.
The application is not everything. Your application must be accompanied by three letters of recommendation. The writers must know you were convicted, that you seek a pardon, and must address why they believe you are fit for a pardon.
This is a critical step, and selecting the right references can greatly influence the success or failure of your application. It is also important that your references effectively communicate their thoughts and reasonings in writing.
Upon receiving the application, the SCDPPPS begins to investigate your situation. They will verify your eligibility for a pardon and the information on your application. Finally, they examine your criminal history records.
As part of the application, you grant the SCDPPPS permission to examine all of your records for the purpose of the pardon application. All records include employment, military, school, and disciplinary records. (Note that the SCDPPPS will work with an applicant to prevent disclosing sensitive information to a current employer.)
A hearing will be scheduled after the SCDPPPS has collected and reviewed all of the necessary files and verified your eligibility for a pardon. Typically, the SCDPPPS will hear sixty some cases in a day, and no particular time is given for any specific case. You must be there at the beginning and wait until you are called.
When your case is called you will receive a hearing in front of the Parole and Pardon Hearing Board where you will be able to present your case for why you want a pardon. Here is where you can provide information on how a pardon will help you overcome your past and achieve your goals for the future. A compelling reason is an important ingredient in receiving a pardon.
And no hearing would be complete without questioning. The Board may ask questions based on your presentation, application, or any of your case files in their records.
If your conviction involved a victim, then the SCDPPPS will notify the victim that you are seeking a pardon. The victim will be given the chance to respond, and they may do so either in writing or at the hearing itself. If at the hearing, the SCDPPPS will take all steps possible to avoid any interaction between the victim and the applicant, and the applicant will be asked to leave the room prior to the victim testifying.
You do not have to go through this process alone. A lawyer familiar with this area of law can help evaluate your situation, identify weaknesses, and put together a solid application. When assisting clients I create a compelling statement for why the client seeks a pardon, and I work with the client’s references to ensure their letters are professional and beneficial. Finally, I accompany my clients to the hearing and ensure that key information is brought to the attention of the Hearing Board and the case is given a thorough review.
A pardon application is a bit of a mystery the first time you go through it. However, the procedure is much what you may expect for someone attempting to convince a board that they have moved beyond their past, reformed their life, and are worthy of forgiveness. I can lend a helping hand in making your case, presenting your references, and highlighting the important information. The SCDPPPS typically grants roughly 60% of pardon requests, and with an attorney your chances only increase. If you are ready to get your firearm rights back, and want to seek a pardon, do not hesitate to contact my office for help.