Exceptional pardons are considered "executive clemency" and are governed by SDCL Chapter 24-14 and ARSD 17:60:05. According to the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles Executive Clemency Application, "[i]f it has been five years since your release from a Department of Corrections facility, and you have only been convicted of one felony, and your only felony was not punishable by life imprisonment, you are eligible for an Exceptional Pardon."
Once an individual receives an exceptional pardon, the records relating to that conviction are sealed, meaning that no one can look at the file without an order of the court. However, the exceptional pardon itself is maintained by the Secretary of State's office, and is a public record open to inspection for five years after the pardon is granted. After five years, the exceptional pardon document is also sealed. Immediately upon the granting of an exceptional pardon, the individual cannot be prosecuted for perjury for failure to disclose the conviction, arrest, information, indictment, or trial on the pardoned offense. Court files, from other types of executive clemency (i.e. anything other than an exceptional pardon), are not entitled to be sealed.
There are several documents that must be received by the Board of Pardons and Paroles to consider a request for an exceptional pardon:
- The completed Executive Clemency Application (with questions answered fully or with "N/A").
- The completed Notice to State's Attorney form.
- The completed Executive Clemency Application Release of Information.
- Letters of recommendation (referencing that the letter writer is aware that the applicant is seeking executive clemency) from minister, former & present employers, reputable persons in the community, family and friends are strongly encouraged, although not required. If the applicant does not include letters of recommendation, an explanation is required.
- A psychosexual evaluation (for sex offenders only).
- A chemical dependency evaluation (for those convicted for drugs and alcohol only).
- A psychological evaluation (for those with diagnosed mental health issues only).
- Proof of payment of court costs, fines and restitution for each conviction.
- A Department of Corrections Discharge Certificate.
- Certified Copy of Sentence and Judgment.
- Proof of Service on each State's Attorney.
- Written statement of the applicant describing the crime/incident.
- Letter of personal plea from the applicant.
It is possible for an applicant to submit these materials pro se (without being represented by an attorney). However, consulting with a criminal defense attorney is wise, as that individual will have experience in handling these types of applications, and can advise the applicant as to the likely merits of the application and how to best posture the application (i.e. whether certain letters are helpful, whether the applicant should seek treatment, counseling, etc.).
Whether the applicant chooses to apply pro se or chooses to seek the assistance of an attorney, it is wise for the materials to be presented in the most coherent and organized fashion as possible. Having the documents put into a binder or binding the application is a good idea, so that materials cannot be separated and lost. Using tabs and separating pages is a great idea, so that the Board is able to easily find the documents that they are looking for.