Restoration of Rights, Pardon, Expungement & Sealing
Last updated: Aug. 27, 2013
I. Restoration of Civil/Firearms Rights
A. Civil Rights
Puerto Rico’s constitution provides that “[s]uspension of civil rights including the right to vote shall cease upon service of the term of imprisonment imposed.” P.R. Const. art. II, § 12. According to the Puerto Rico Board of Parole, the Governor of Puerto Rico has taken the position since the early 1980’s that the right to vote during imprisonment has not been suspended, so that prisoners may vote. In any event, all civil rights are automatically reestablished to a convict who has served his sentence, without any intervention on the part of the Governor being necessary; executive clemency remains limited to eliminating the collateral consequences that exist independently of the convict’s civil and political rights, including obtainment of a license to practice certain professions, driver’s license impairment, carrying of weapons, etc.. 1960 P.R. Op. Sec’y Justice No. 33.
Firearms rights are lost upon conviction of a felony. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 25, § 456j. Firearms rights may be restored through executive pardon, P.R. Const. art. IV, § 4 (local violations only); or judicial expungement (referred to as “elimination”), P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 34, § 1725a-1 et seq. (subject to waiting period and other conditions).
II. Discretionary Restoration Mechanisms:
A. Executive pardon
The governor alone has authority to pardon violations of local law. P.R. Const. art. IV, § 4. He is required to keep a record of all pardons and “official signatures and recommendations in favor of each application.” P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 3, § 10(1). The Parole Board may make non-binding advisory recommendations to Governor.
There are no formal eligibility restrictions, but informal policy of recent governors has imposed a five-year waiting period following completion of sentence. The governor’s pardon power does not extend to federal offenses. P.R. Const. art. IV, § 4.
A grant of full pardon “erases forever” a conviction. 1960 P.R. Op. Sec’y Justice No. 33. The pardon document by its terms “eliminates” the conviction from police and court records.
The pardon process is administered by the Puerto Rico Board of Parole. See http://www.jlbp.gobierno.pr/. See also http://www2.pr.gov/agencias/jlbp/Documents/Clemencias/PROCEDIMIENTO%20PARA%20SOLICITARCLE.pdf (Spanish-language description of the executive clemency process). An English-language application form can be found at http://www.cjpf.org/old/clemency/PuertoRicoApp2.pdf. The Corrections Department makes recommendation to the Parole Board, which in turn makes recommendation to the governor. See ; see also P.R Laws Ann. tit. 3, § 292n (Secretary of Justice must investigate and report to governor on all applications for pardon and commutation referred to him). There is no hearing and the process usually takes about one year.
Frequency of Grants
Fewer pardon applications have been filed since the expungement law was expanded in 2005. See Part IIB.
Pardon grants by year (Source: Parole Board)
|Year||Pardon applications filed||Pardons granted|
Ana T. Dávila Laó
Chair, Puerto Rico Board of Parole
P.O. Box 40945
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00940
PH: 787-754-8115, ext. 4232
B. Judicial sealing or expungement of adult felony convictions
Courts have broad expungement authority applicable to all misdemeanors and felonies under P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 34, § 1725a-1 et seq. (Chapter 118 is entitled “Criminal Records Certificates”).
Any person convicted of any felony (except “those subject to the Register of Persons Convicted for Violent Sexual Crimes and Abuse of Minors [or] to the Register of Persons Convicted for Corruption”) may apply to the “Court of First Instance” (trial court) to issue an order for the elimination of the conviction from the Criminal Record Certificate five years after completion of sentence, as long as no further crimes have been committed, and if “the person has a good reputation within the community” and the person has been subjected to providing a DNA sample, if required to do so. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 34, § 1725a-2. Misdemeanors are eligible for this relief six months after completion of sentence, without any requirement of providing a DNA sample. § 1725a-1. Appeal of the decisions of the trial court is provided for in § 1725a-3.
Certification of Rehabilitation for Prison Inmates
In addition to § 1725a, the new penal code authorizes the Secretary of Corrections to a file motion with the court in which he may certify that a person who has not completed his prison term has been totally rehabilitated. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 4, § 1611 et seq. (“Constitutional Mandate for Rehabilitation”). The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must supply a psychological evaluation and recommendation stating that the convicted person is qualified to live in the community at large. § 1615. The Secretary of Justice and victim may respond, and the court may then issue a certificate attesting to rehabilitation, “duly justified by means of an evaluation of the overall adjustment and social behavior of the inmate during his/her confinement in compliance with the rehabilitation plan.” Id. If the court rules in favor of the rehabilitation certification, it shall “direct the Police Superintendent not to include the conviction into the Criminal Record Certificate, but to maintain it in the history of the convict solely for recidivism purposes.” Id.
Department of Corrections Legal Counsel’s Office
In Puerto Rico’s hotly contested elections, the prisoner vote (including prisoner families) is considered very important (represents 50,000 votes).