The Pardon Process: The Last and Maybe Only Option

In Pennsylvania the Board of Pardons reviews criminal cases upon petitions. These petitions are filed by people who are usually unable to expunge their records through the normal expungement process in Pennsylvania.

The Pardon ProcessYou may recall that either a felony or misdemeanor conviction can’t be expunged. While a summary offense can be expunged an individual must wait five (5) years after their case’s disposition to apply for the expungement. During that five (5) years the individual must remain arrest free.

For those convicted of either a felony or misdemeanor, however, the pardon process is the only option. In Pennsylvania, the pardon board is composed of five (5) individuals who review petitions based on the number of factors. These individuals include the Lt. Governor, Michael Stack, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Kathleen Kane, a medical doctor, a corrections expert, and a victim representative. Once an application is received an agent from the Board of Probation and Parole begins an investigation into the crime, your history, and current living situation.

Following that investigation the agent will prepare a report and the Board of Pardons will grant a hearing if two (2) of the five (5) members believe that you are entitled to one. If at least two (2) members do not agree your pardon application is denied. If the hearing is approved it will be held in Harrisburg and you will be given notice of it. In addition to yourself anyone associated with your case, including the victim, will also be given notice of the hearing. If a majority of the board approves your application the board will recommend that the governor take favorable action on your pardon.

The governor, however, may approve or disapprove any recommendation by the board. If your application is denied you may make a request for reconsideration but you must show a change in circumstances since the time the previous application was filed or some other compelling reason. You may also make a re-application but you need to wait at least twelve (12) months after your application is denied.

The board will consider the following factors in a pardon application:

  • How much time has elapsed since the commission of the crime
  • Has the applicant complied with all court requirements
  • Has the applicant made positive changes in his/her life since the offense
  • Why is the clemency needed
  • What is the impact on the victim of the pardon

There are no minimum eligibility requirements for a pardon application and the board will review each application on a case by case basis. There is a current three (3) year backlog on pardon applications and so you can expect to wait approximately three (3) years form the date you filed the application before receiving a response to it. If your pardon is approved it removes any legal disability from a conviction included but not limited to the right to vote, the right to be a juror, the right to hold public office, the right to bear arms, the opportunity to serve in the military, and perhaps the right to travel internationally.

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