5 Things To Know About Commutations in CT

If you are currently incarcerated and feel there is not much hope for your future, you may consider applying for a commutation of your prison sentence. Not sure what a commutation is or how to get started? Here are five things you need to know about commutations in Connecticut.

What Is a Commutation?

Simply put, a commutation is a reduction in a prison sentence. For example, a 50-year sentence may be reduced significantly, even to time served (depending upon the amount of time served). However, it does not reverse the conviction or exonerate you from the crime, and you will still have a criminal record.

The sole benefit is that your time of incarceration will be shortened. If you are not currently incarcerated, you are not eligible to apply for a commutation.

How To Apply for a Commutation

A commutation can only be granted by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. There are some states that give the Governor the authority to commute a sentence, but according to Connecticut law, the power to grant commutations is vested solely in the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

You must apply using the form on the Board of Pardons and Paroles website. The form requires you to provide the following:

  • Every name you have ever used, the dates you used the alias, and why you used it.
  • Whether you are a natural-born or naturalized citizen, and if not, what is your nationality and what is your alien registration number?
  • Details of your conviction or convictions resulting in the prison sentence for which you are asking for a commutation. You must also include the results of any appeals or other requests for sentence modification.
  • The names of any victims, whether you are under any standing protective orders or required to register as a sex offender.
  • Names of co-defendants, if any.
  • Whether fines or restitution was ordered and, if ordered but not paid, an explanation of why they have not been paid.
  • A police report of the crime to accompany your application is mandatory. If one is unavailable, you must submit a letter from the police department confirming there is no available police report.
  • An account of the crime in your own words and what your involvement was.
  • Reasons you believe you deserve a commutation. You must provide supporting documentation, including how you will benefit from a commutation and how you believe society will benefit.

You must include all documentation, supporting evidence, and letters of support if available. Before submitting your application, review the Commutation Application Document Checklist to ensure you have included every requested document. Once you have submitted your application, you cannot submit any other information.

If you are granted a hearing, you may present additional evidence for the hearing.

What if My Application for a Commutation Is Denied?

If your application for a commutation is denied, you can reapply again in three years. As with most rules, there is one exception.

If new information comes to light that supports your case that was not available to you when you originally applied, you can apply before the three years expire. This can’t be information you forgot to submit with your application but demonstrably new evidence.

Are There Situations Where an Application Is Not Even Considered or Allowed?

You are ineligible to apply for a commutation if any of the following apply to your prison sentence:

  • You are serving a life sentence without the possibility of release.
  • You have any pending charges, warrants, or outstanding fines or fees.
  • You will be parole eligible within two years.
  • You have been denied a commutation within the past 3 years.
  • You have had a Nolle within the last 13 months. A Nolle is when the prosecutor declines to prosecute but leaves open the possibility of prosecuting within 13 months. If 13 months have passed with no prosecution, the Nolle acts as a dismissal of the criminal charges.

Can the Ineligibility Requirements Ever Be Waived?

If you are serving a life sentence without the possibility of release, there is no way for you to obtain a waiver and ever obtain a commutation hearing.

For all other reasons that make you ineligible, the requirement may be waived if you can show the Board why the requirements should be waived and describe why your circumstances are extraordinary.

The First Step? Hire an Experienced Commutations Attorney

Obtaining a commutation in Connecticut is not easy. In November 2021, the Board granted its first commutation since 2019, before the pandemic. In January 2022, 11 more commutations were granted. (All individuals committed the crime of conviction prior to the age of 25.) A number of commutations have since been granted and applications have greatly increased.

When you consider approximately 10,000 people are currently incarcerated in the state, the chances of a successful commutation application are slim, but those odds are substantially increased if you have the help of an attorney who is experienced in commutations.

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