A criminal record can impact your employment opportunities, housing options, obtaining a loan, and immigration status. Fortunately, if you have a criminal record from a mistake made years ago or even recently, Connecticut law provides a way to clear your record. We've compiled some of that information into this article about expunging your Bridgeport criminal record.
The first thing you should know is the proper legal terminology. Each state has its own way of describing the legal process by which a conviction or plea of either guilty or no contest in a criminal case is set aside or erased from your record. In Connecticut, the process is actually known as a pardon or expungement.
If you are pardoned for your crime(s), you are relieved of penalties and disabilities, such as having to divulge your criminal record on employment applications or in other similar situations. If you want to see the actual language of the law, go to section 54-124a. Now that you enjoyed that reading (or hopefully skipped it), let's break it down for you in plain English.
What crimes can be pardoned?
Any crimes and offenses can be pardoned. This includes felonies, misdemeanors, and violations for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed.
What types of pardons are available?
There are two types of pardons you can apply for in Bridgeport -- an expungement pardon and a provisional pardon. The two are completely different, as we'll explain below.
An expungement pardon completely erases your criminal record. The public won't be able to see the arrest or conviction. Good deal, right? You'd be free to say you've never been arrested or convicted of a crime or offense in Connecticut and you don't have to disclose your pardoned criminal arrest and conviction record to employers or anyone else.
A provisional pardon will not expunge or erase the offense from your record. It's intended to remove barriers that might otherwise make you ineligible for or disqualify you from employment or a license, permit, or certificate. To be clear, a provisional pardon does not erase your criminal record from public view and you must disclose your criminal conviction record if an employer asks. However, it is illegal for the employer to deny you a job based on your criminal record alone.
When may I apply for a pardon?
What about cases or charges that were "nolled?"
If you have a case that was "nolled" or "nolle prossed," you are not eligible to apply for any type of pardon until the nolle has cleared. A nolle generally remains for a period of thirteen months after the date of disposition by the court.
What if I am serving a prison sentence, can I apply for a pardon?
If you're an inmate, it depends on the length of your sentence. If you're serving a minimum sentence of eight years or more, must have served at least four years; if serving a minimum sentence of less than eight years, must have served at least 50 percent of the minimum sentence.
How do I apply for a pardon?
If you meet the above criteria, here's what you can do. You'll have some paperwork to fill out and submit to the Connecticut Board of Pardons. They're the agency that'll decide your fate. Here's the application (PDF). It's long and very detailed.
The most challenging part of the application process is making sure you list all your arrests within the past ten years. Do not leave anything out. It could ruin your chances for a pardon. Here are some other requirements.
The Board of Pardons and Paroles
55 West Main St., Suite 520
Waterbury, CT 06702
Attn: Pardons Unit
The State Police criminal history report lists most of the convictions obtained in the state of Connecticut. It doesn't list out-of-state or federal charges. There may be other convictions that are not listed on the State Police criminal history report like certain Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Reckless Driving offenses. Also, some non-fingerprinted convictions may not be on the criminal history sheet. You're responsible for identifying and listing ALL of your previous convictions.
How long will the pardon process take?
It depends. Usually it takes approximately one year in order for The Board, the State Police, and the Judicial Department to review your criminal record and make a decision.
Will I have to appear at a pardon hearing?
It's up to the Board. They'll send you a prescreening letter with the answer. Depending on the type of conviction or convictions you have, the Board may grant your pardon without a hearing, but there's a chance you'll have to appear for the hearing. If there was a Victim in your case, he or she will get to testify, too.
How does the board decide who gets a pardon?
The Board uses a number of factors to determine if you should be granted a pardon. Here are some of them:
What if the board denies my request?
Well, if this happens, you don't have much recourse. You can't appeal the decision or file a lawsuit. In most cases you will have to wait one year to re-apply. It's possible the Board could make you wait longer if they feel it's in the best interests of the community.
The Bottom Line
This is a complicated process and you may want to talk to a Bridgeport criminal lawyer about your specific case and circumstances before filing any paperwork.
Contact a qualified attorney.