Restoration of Rights, Pardon, Expungement & Sealing
Last updated: March 4, 2017
I. Restoration of Civil Rights/Firearms Privileges
A. Civil Rights
A person convicted of a felony forfeits the right to vote, to serve on a jury, and to hold public office. See Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 6-10-106(a), 1-11-102. For all but non-violent first felony offenders, civil rights are regained either by pardon or restoration of rights from the governor. Wyo. Const. Art 4, § 5; Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 6-10-106(a), 7-13-105(a).
First offender voting rights restoration
Effective January 1, 2016, the Department Corrections shall issue a certificate of restoration of voting rights to first-time non-violent felony offenders whose sentence was completed after that date. Non-violent first offenders whose sentence was completed prior to January 1, 2016, and those with out-of-state and federal convictions, must apply for restoration of rights. The 5-year eligibility period is repealed effective January 1, 2016. See Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-13-105(b). See IIC below. All other persons seeking to reinstate the right to vote must apply to the governor for either a pardon or a restoration of rights.
A person convicted of a “violent felony,” or a felony involving attempt to cause bodily injury to a peace officer engaged in lawful performance of official duties, may not possess firearms (including long guns and black powder rifles, Harris v. State, 137 P.3d 124 (Wy. 2006), unless pardoned. See Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 6-8-102, 6-1-104(a)(xii) (defining violent felony). In addition, Wyoming law makes it a crime to carry a concealed deadly weapon without a permit, which may be denied or revoked if the person has committed a misdemeanor crime of violence within the past three years. § 6-8-104(c). Mandatory disqualification results from any condition that would make it a federal crime to possess a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) or the corresponding Wyoming statute, § 6-8-102; or from conviction of a felony (permanent) or misdemeanor (one year) violation of the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act; or commitment to a drug abuse facility within the past year. See § 6-8-104(b)(iv), (v). Misdemeanants may apply for expungement pursuant to § 7-13-1501 (see discussion Part IIB infra).1
C. Licensing statutes
A number of occupational and professional licensing statutes provide that conviction of a felony may be grounds for license suspension or disqualification. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 33-15-121(a)(i) (dental hygienist; conviction, nolo plea, or deferred adjudication disposition of any crime that “relates adversely” to practice of or ability to practice dental hygiene); § 26-23-321(b) (title agent; conviction by final judgment of felony).
II. Discretionary Restoration Mechanisms
A. Executive pardon or restoration of rights
The governor has authority under the constitution to pardon. Wyo. Const. Art 4, § 5. The constitution provides that the legislature may control the manner of applying, but this provision has been held not to bind the governor. In re Moore, 31 Pac. 980 (Wyo. 1893). The constitution also provides that the legislature may create crimes punishable by life without parole that cannot be pardoned and may limit commutation of a death sentence to unpardonable life without parole. Wyo. Const. Art. 3, § 53. The governor may also grant restoration of rights. The governor must report to the legislature at each session on clemency grants and the reasons for each one. Wyo. Const. Art. 4, § 5 (“He shall communicate to the legislature at each regular session each case of remission of fine, reprieve, commutation or pardon granted by him, stating the name of the convict, the crime for which he was convicted, the sentence and its date, and the date of the remission, commutation, pardon or reprieve with his reasons for granting the same.”).
Persons seeking a pardon or restoration of rights must wait ten years and five years respectively (previously twenty years and ten years) from the time of completion of sentence before applying. Federal and out-of-state offenders are also eligible for restoration of rights. The governor’s policy generally excludes persons convicted of sexual crimes or crimes involving a child as a victim from consideration.
The application for pardon is described in Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 7-13-803 through 806. Information specified to be provided consists of sentence-related data, plus “any pertinent information the governor may request such as parole and work release records.” 7-13-804(a). The governor must give notice to the DA three weeks prior to acting, and the DA must provide details of the offense. § 7-13-805(b). According to the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office, the entire pardon process generally takes about 4-6 weeks to complete from submission of application to final disposition. The Wyoming Board of Parole has a role only in commutation cases, and in statutory restoration of voting rights.
Frequency of Grants
Governor Mead has granted no pardons since taking office in January 2013. Between 2005 and August 2010, Former Governor Freudenthal granted 22 pardons and 28 restorations of rights. Approximately 25% of applications filed are granted. The governor’s biennial reports to the legislature are available from the Legislative Service Office.
Senior Assistant Attorney General
Legislative Service Office
Wyoming Parole Board
B. Judicial sealing or expungement
Wyoming law allows expungement of certain felony convictions ten years after the sentence expires, if the applicant has no other felony convictions and has paid restitution. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-13-1502. This relief is not available for firearm felonies, violent felonies, many sexual crimes, child endangerment, bribery, perjury, felony DUI, and drug distribution offenses. Notice requirements apply, and the court must find that the applicant is not a danger to himself, another, or society generally. Id.
Wyoming courts have no inherent authority to expunge criminal records, except in cases of a pardon for innocence. See Oler v. U.S., 17 P.3d 27 (Wyo. 2001); Stanton v. State, 686 P.2d 587 (Wyo. 1984). See also Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-13-307.2
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-13-1501 authorizes the court to expunge a conviction for misdemeanor simple assault, battery, domestic violence, reckless endangerment and breach of peace, five years after completion of sentence.3 Offense may not have involved the use of a firearm, and relief is available only once. A hearing is required only in the event that the prosecutor or victim object. Expungement is defined as
classification of the record maintained in the files of the state central repository . . . in a manner reasonably tailored to ensure that the record will not be available for dissemination purposes other than to a criminal justice agency of any state or a federal criminal justice agency, to be used solely for criminal justice purposes.
The First Offender Statute, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-13-301, permits delayed imposition of sentence for first offenders, except serious violent offenses, sex offenses, and certain vehicular crimes committed by a commercial driver’s license holder. With consent of the defendant and the state and without entering a judgment of guilt or conviction, the court may defer further proceedings and place the person on probation for a period of at least one year and no more than five (5) years upon terms and conditions set by the court.
If the court finds the person has fulfilled the terms of probation and that his rehabilitation has been attained to the satisfaction of the court, the court may at the end of five (5) years, or at any time after the expiration of one (1) year from the date of the original probation, discharge the person and dismiss the proceedings against him.
§ 7-13-301. Discharge and dismissal under this section “shall be without adjudication of guilt and is not a conviction for any purpose.” There shall be only one (1) discharge and dismissal under this section or under any similar section of the probationary statutes of any other jurisdiction. The prosecutor’s consent is essential; and the court also has discretion refuse to invoke the first offender statute despite the prosecutor’s consent. Rawson v. State, 900 P.2d 1136 (1995). Deferred adjudication in another state makes an individual ineligible, and the defendant bears the burden of demonstrating eligibility. Id. Expungement is specifically not authorized. See § 7-13-307.
Expungement of Non-conviction Records
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-13-1401 authorizes the court to expunge records 180 days after dismissal of the proceedings, if no charges are pending. A hearing is held only if the prosecutor objects. See definition of expungement, supra.
Upon reaching age 18, an individuals with sufficient evidence of rehabilitation may apply for expungement, except in cases of violent felonies, as long as they have no subsequent felony convictions or pending criminal proceedings. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-241(a). The court also will order expungement where a matter does not result in a delinquency adjudication. § 14-6-240(b). Following expungement, the case is deemed to have never occurred. § 14-6-241(a).
III. Nondiscrimination in Licensing and Employment: N/A
- As originally enacted in 2004, § 1501 extended to all misdemeanor convictions, but its effect was limited to restoring firearms privileges, evidently to address federal firearms disability based upon misdemeanor domestic violence convictions. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9). The federal government took the position, approved by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, that the partial expungement authorized by the pre-2009 version of this statute is not effective to relieve federal firearms disabilities. See Wyoming ex re. Crank v. United States, 539 F.3d 1236, 1239 (10th Cir. 2008) (“Congress intended the terms ‘expunge’ and ‘set aside,’ as used in§921(a)(33)(B)(ii), to require a state procedure that completely removes the effect of the prior misdemeanor conviction in question. . . § 7-13-1501 falls short of this standard.” ). As amended in 2009, the effect of expungement is not limited to the restoration of firearm rights, and thus would appear to satisfy the requirements of 18 U.S.C. §§ 921(a)(20) and 933(B)(ii). According to the District Attorney for Sheridan County, the United States Attorney (D. Wyo.) has agreed not to prosecute misdemeanants whose convictions have been expunged pursuant to the pre-2009 version of § 1501.
- Wyoming was noted in a 1962 NCCD report as the only state in the Nation that then made expungement available by statute to persons sentenced to a prison term. Nat’l Council on Crime & Delinquency, Annulment of a Conviction of Crime: A Model Act, 8 Crime & Delinq. 97, 99-101 (1962).), cited in Margaret Colgate Love, Paying Their Debt to Society: Forgiveness, Redemption, and the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act, 54 Howard L. J. 753, 765 (2011).
- See note 1, supra.