Expungement in Illinois does not follow automatically after a pardon. The trial court denied this petition for expungement after the defendant had been pardoned by the governour. No error here.
People v. Laguna, 2014 IL App (2d) 131145 (08/22/2014).
Did the trial court abuse its discretion in its balancing of factors when it denied defendant’s petition to expunge his convictions?
Defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle (625 ILCS 5/4-103(a)(1)), aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, and aggravated driving under the influence.
In 2013, he was granted a gubernatorial pardon “With Order Permitting Expungement.”
He then petitioned for expungement of these convictions so that he could avoid deportation.
Various character witness and Polish officials testified in his behalf. The State pointed out that Defendant had multiple DUI’s. In this case, Defendant drank and did drugs at a party. He stole a car, then ran from the police at high speed. Eventually, the crashed and blew up the stolen car.
He also was previously charged with criminal trespass to a motor vehicle, assault, and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.
The court ultimately stated that it considered the mitigating evidence but found that it was outweighed by the seriousness of the offenses and the public’s compelling interest in maintaining the records. Thus, the court denied the petition to expunge these convictions.
The power of the Governor to grant a pardon is found in the Illinois Constitution. It provides that –
“[t]he Governor may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, after conviction, for all offenses on such terms as he thinks proper. The manner of applying therefore [sic] may be regulated by law.”
Expungement in Illinois
“The power to grant or deny a petition for expungement is found in statutes created by the legislature.” People v. Howard, 233 Ill. 2d 213, 217 (2009).
A person who has been pardoned may file a petition for expungement. However, “a gubernatorial pardon alone does not entitle a petitioner to expungement.” Howard, 233 Ill. 2d at 218. See also Illinois Compiled Statutes the Criminal Identification Act section 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(e).
The use of the word “permitting” in a pardon implicitly acknowledges that a court has the power to grant or deny an expungement in Illinois. Id. at 222.
As always, it is a balancing test.
Illinois cases involving expungement set out a list of factors to be considered by the trial court when deciding the matter. These include:
- the strength of the State’s case against the petitioner
- the State’s reasons for wishing to retain the records
- the petitioner’s age, criminal record and employment history
- the length of time between the arrest and the expungement petition
- and the adverse consequences the petitioner may suffer if expungement is not granted
See Chesler v. People, 309 Ill. App. 3d 145, 151 (1999).
These factors must be balanced. The list is not exhaustive. These factors have been codified in 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(d)(7)
Trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's petition to expunge arrests for possession of stolen motor vehicle, aggravated driving under the influence, and aggravated fleeing and eluding.
True, defendant had been pardoned for those convictions by the governor. However, the trial court still had to examine the necessary factors applicable in ascertaining whether expungement should be granted.
Defendant suggests that the court should have relied on his age and good citizenship to expunge the convictions and that it placed too much weight on the seriousness of his crimes and the public interest in retaining the records. But those factors were particularly strong reasons to deny the expungement.
No error occurred in denying the petition to deny the expungement of these convictions.
The trial court’s ruling was not arbitrary, fanciful, or unreasonable, such that no reasonable person would take the view that it adopted. The court did not abuse its discretion.