The title of this post is a bit misleading. In general insolvency law there is a process wherein a debtor may opt to keep a vehicle or other asset that is acting as collateral for secured debt. This is not the ‘redemption’ I write about today. In fact, I even briefly depart from talking about Bankruptcy.
A lot of factors go into making the decision to ‘enlist’ in law school. Certainly, economics and career aspects play a role. That said, one way or another, most law students who start the journey through law school have more lofty aspirations on their mind and a strong desire to do some good, for someone, somewhere. This past Monday I was able to fulfill one of those aspirations- although, not in the way I expected when I was a first year law student.
About eight months ago a potential client came into my office who wanted to clean up her criminal record. She had about three felony drug convictions and several misdomeners. All of her convictions were over eight years old and she had been clean and sober for nine years. Because of the strict (and arcane) requirements of the Utah Expungement Act, she did not qualify to expunge any of her prior convictions. One of the most difficult parts of recovery for an alcoholic or an addict is obtaining and maintaining meaningful full-time employment. This problem is compounded when you also have multiple felony convictions on your record. My client was consistently passed over when she applied for jobs, because of her felony convictions.
What to do?
Article VII of the Utah Constitution allows offenders to petition the Board of Pardons for a “full and unconditional pardon” of their prior convictions. Once you obtain a pardon, the Utah Department of Public Safety (B.C.I.) is required to issue a certificate of eligibility for expungement. This was the only option available for my client and I decided to take on the challenge. We went through the difficult process of obtaining police reports, pre-sentence reports, and other paperwork that law enforcement agencies had in regards to her convictions. We then filled out a lengthy application, obtained letters from counselors, friends, family, prosecutors, judges, etc. who supported my client’s pardon application. After months of waiting, we finally heard that the Board of Pardons was going to hold a hearing on my clients pardon application. She (and I) were thrilled. We would soon learn that only 20 or so applications are granted a hearing, per year (out of about a thousand applicants).
The hearing was held last Monday and shortly after we found out that my client would be granted a full and unconditional pardon. Driving back from the hearing I had the unmistakable feeling that cases like these made me glad I went to law school.
Addiction is a disease that is choking the lives out of millions of Americans, young and old, rich and poor- its impacts do not pass by anyone. I have yet to meet a person that has not been personally affected by addiction. There are four certain ends that every addict or alcoholic will find themselves in- jails, institutions, death- or the preferable road of recovery. Recovery is not an easy road to tread down. Recovery is “dealing with life on life’s terms” is what an addict friend once told me. Certainly, being able to obtain and maintain a job is a huge part of recovering from alcoholism or addiction. The catch 22? How do you obtain a job when you have several prior felony possession convictions? The answer?- my client’s case.
After several (five-ten) years of being in recovery and keeping out of trouble, applying for a pardon may be an option for you. This experience has taught me that the law exists not only to punish offenders- but also to redeem them. I feel proud of my career choice today and hope to help many more people obtain the same goal.