1. What are the differences between a pardon, commutation, and an expungement?
A pardon is an act of executive grace. Except as otherwise provided by the Delaware Constitution, or expressly by any provision of the Delaware Code or any court rule, an unconditional pardon fully restores all civil rights to the person pardoned. Such civil rights include, but are not limited to, the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury if selected, the right to purchase or possess deadly weapons, and the right to seek and hold public office. A pardon does not remove the historical fact of the conviction from the state’s official arrest and conviction records; it simply adds to the record that a pardon has been granted. Please be advised that the Governor has the authority to place lawful conditions upon the granting of a pardon. To remove the historical fact of a conviction, you may be able to apply for an expungement after a pardon has been granted for the conviction.
A commutation is a reduction of sentence for a person who is currently incarcerated. A commutation does not eliminate the consequences of a conviction but only reduces the time served or changes the terms of release specified in the initial sentence.
An expungement completely removes the history of the charge(s) from an individual’s record. Normally, an expungement can be granted if an individual is acquitted of a charge, a nolle prosequi is taken, or the charge is otherwise dismissed. If the applicant has a conviction and wishes to have it expunged, the conviction must qualify under Delaware code Title 11, § 4371 – 4375 or a pardon of the conviction must first be granted. If the above conditions have been met, an applicant is then eligible to apply for an expungement. Applicants should contact the State Bureau of Identification for more information.
2. Does a pardon restore an individual’s right to own a firearm?
A full, unconditional pardon restores all of an individual’s civil rights, including the right to own a firearm. However, please be advised that an individual’s juvenile, out-of-state, and/or federal criminal record may still prohibit certain civil rights from being restored. Also, if an individual has ever had a mental health adjudication or commitment in the past, that individual is considered a person prohibited from owning a firearm. Even if a full, unconditional pardon is granted, that individual will not be able to purchase or own a firearm. The individual may be eligible to submit a petition to the Relief from Disabilities Board
to seek further relief for any mental health adjudications or commitments which occur in the State of Delaware. For any further questions regarding this matter, please contact the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security – Relief from Disabilities Board
via e-mail at DSHSRelief@delaware.gov or by phone at 302-744-2680.
3. How long after I am convicted of an offense can I apply for a pardon?
There is no set rule, but generally, the Board of Pardons likes to see a period of good behavior of 3-5 years from the time the last sentence was completed (i.e., fines paid and probation completed). However, the Board will consider hearing an application if there is an extenuating circumstance. Examples of extenuating circumstances may include the need of a pardon for employment purposes, entrance into an educational program, or obtaining professional licenses.
4. When will I know when I am scheduled for a hearing?
Due to the overwhelming volume of applications, once an application is received, the normal wait before the petition is scheduled for a hearing could be up to a year for pardons. The waiting time for commutations of sentence is substantially longer since our staff has to obtain reports from the correctional institutions and the Board of Parole prior to scheduling a hearing. Applications are administratively reviewed and then scheduled for a hearing in the order in which they are received. Unless your application is incomplete and further information is required, you will not be notified until 3-4 weeks prior to your hearing date. Limited space is available, so it is advised that you send your petition as early as possible.
5. Can I staple or bind my papers to keep them in order?
No, but you may use paper clips. If submitted with staples or binding in any way, the packet will be returned.
6. What is a “Criminal History”?
A criminal history in the State of Delaware is an entire record of arrests(s)/fine(s) paid.
7. What if I only want my felonies pardoned and not misdemeanors?
The Board has to address all charges listed as guilty on the criminal history.
8. What if I don’t remember the details of my offenses?
It is important to make your best effort in describing the details of your offenses. Providing these narratives to the Board gives them the necessary information to consider when deciding on whether or not to recommend your pardon to the Governor. However, if you do not recollect the details of your cases, please write, “I don’t remember” as the history for the offense(s) in question, but describe any factors that may have affected your memory of the events (i.e. drug addiction, alcoholism, etc.).
9. Do I need to send my packet to the individuals who I am sending an affidavit of mailing to?
No, they only need to know your name, date of birth, offenses to be pardoned and your reasons for applying for a pardon. Essentially, they are given this TENTATIVE notice to allow them the opportunity to respond to our office regarding your request for a pardon.
10. What if I live far away and I cannot afford to attend my hearing in person?
11. How long will it take for me to get a pardon?
The pardon process can be lengthy. At the hearing you will be given auditory notice from the board if they will render a recommendation to the Governor that your file be pardoned. It does not mean that you were granted a pardon. Only the Governor has the executive authority to make this decision. Your file is then forwarded to the Governor’s Office for review and a decision will be mailed to you. The whole process varies from case to case, so please be patient.
12. If I receive a pardon, do I still have to answer “yes” if asked whether I have been convicted of a criminal offense?
Because a pardon does not remove the history of the offense, you must answer “yes” and explain the nature of the offense as well as note that you were granted a pardon. The only time a person who has been convicted for a crime can answer “no” is if the charge has been expunged from his or her record.
13. If the Board denies my request for a pardon or commutation, can I reapply?
Yes. However, you must wait 15 months from the date of the decision before you are eligible to reapply, and your petition cannot be heard before 18 months from the decision date. If your case is a capital offense, then you cannot apply before 33 months from the date of the decision, and your petition cannot be heard before 36 months from the decision date. In some situations, the Board may decide to shorten an applicant’s waiting period. This exception will normally be made at the hearing.
14. What if I don’t have a computer to download the forms?
Please call 1-866-276-2353 to obtain a list of locations which have computer access. You can also contact the following agency if you need assistance with filling out your application and cannot afford an attorney:
APEX (Advancement through Pardons and Expungements):
New Castle County: (302) 333-7605
Kent & Sussex County: (302) 233-6462
Note: If you are a client of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, your case worker may also be able to assist you in completing the application.
15. Can I include letters of reference and support with my application?
Yes, although not a requirement, you can submit letters of character reference and support with your application. We highly suggest that any letters be notarized; however, if unable to do so, all letters must include contact information for the writer (i.e., current phone number and address). Please be advised that the writer may be contacted to verify the validity of their statements. The application and any supporting documents are not publicly disclosed.