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PA GOVERNOR’S PARDON LAWYERS
PA GOVERNOR’S PARDON LAWYERS
Thank you for visiting Lampman Law. If you think that a conviction record is keeping you from gaining your desired employment of from reaching your full potential, please call Lampman Law at 570-371-3737 to personally discuss your eligibility for pardon with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
What is a Governor’s pardon?
A pardon is an order from the Governor of Pennsylvania that vacates a criminal record or records. Only the Governor of Pennsylvania has the power to issue a pardon for a Pennsylvania criminal conviction. When a pardon is issued, it completely nullifies the criminal conviction.
A person convicted of a felony offense or of a misdemeanor crime (that is not eligible for a limited access order) must pursue clemency via a Governor’s Pardon to become eligible for criminal record relief. Thus, any criminal conviction that is not otherwise eligible for record relief may seek clemency.
If a pardon (clemency) is granted, the conviction then becomes expungement eligible. The petitioner must then file a petition for expungement to clear their criminal record.
Who is eligible to receive a pardon?
To be eligible to receive a pardon a person must file an application with the Board of Pardons. Applying for a pardon is a very specific process. The Governor of Pennsylvania, with the assistance of the Board of Pardons, decides on a case by case basis whether to issue a pardon. There is no specific set of crimes or records that is automatically eligible for a pardon. There is also no specific set of crimes or records that is automatically ineligible for a pardon. However, pardons are rarely issued for crimes of serous violence or sex offenses.
Therefore, while applications for clemency are closely reviewed on a case-by-case basis, there are no minimum eligibility requirements. This means that a clemency application may be filed at any time and that it will be reviewed.
What is the application & review process?
Pardons are commenced by filing an application for clemency. The application then must pass two levels of review. The application must first be recommended for pardon by the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. The Board of Pardons is an independent entity with the authority recommend pardons, reprieves, commutations of sentence, and executive clemency for the Governor’s review. The members of the Board are the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General, a corrections expert, a psychiatrist, and a victim representative.
Here it is important to note that if an application is not “approved” by the Board of Pardons, the Governor may not grant clemency. In other words, the Governor of Pennsylvania may only grant clemency upon the recommendation of the Board of Pardons. The Governor, however, is also independent in this process. This means that the Governor is not bound to accept the recommendation of the Board of Pardons.
How long does it take to get a pardon?
The pardon process in Pennsylvania is somewhat prolonged. In general, once an application for clemency is filed, it is takes about three (3) years for the Board of Pardons to review it and to decide if a hearing will be granted. When a hearing is granted, it is typically heard at the next scheduled session. If the Board of Pardons recommends clemency, the Governor will review it; however, there is no time limit for the Governor to act on the case.
Expedited review for Marijuana & Drug Paraphernalia Convictions
Currently, there is an expedited review for non-violent offenders with marijuana specific and drug paraphernalia convictions. This expedited review can reduce the timeline to 1 year.
Here, it is important to obtain the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to make sure the application is correctly submitted to avoid extending the process by having to start over.
After the pardon is granted an Expungement Petition must be filed
Even if the Governor grants a pardon, an expungement petition must then be filed in the Court of Common Pleas in the jurisdiction where the conviction took place. After a judge signs the expungement petition, copies are mailed to all relevant criminal justice agencies and the criminal record information is destroyed. Without filing the expungement petition, the criminal record history will not be completely removed from public access. Here, it is important to understand that a pardon vacates the conviction, but only an expungement can erase it.
Is there a Statute of Limitations to seek a pardon?
The short answer is no. You can file for a pardon at any time. However, you must be mindful that enough time has passed so that you have a reasonable chance of obtaining a pardon.
How often are pardons granted?
Currently, the Board of Pardons is recommending roughly 85% of all pardon applications. Governor Wolfe has then been approving roughly 99% of the pardon applications recommended to him by the Board of Pardons.
These numbers have increased recently with Governor Wolfe’s push to allow more individuals to clean their criminal records.
What factors are considered when reviewing an application for clemency?
Fulfillment of Sentence. All terms of incarceration and supervision should be completed. Further, all restitution, fines, and court costs should be paid in full.
Evidence of Full Rehabilitation. Applicants should be able to demonstrate positive change in their life and their good work in their community since the committing the offense.
Need for Clemency. Applicant should explain how their record is specifically harming them and how clemency would offer relief. “Except in extraordinary circumstances, the Board does not view a pardon as an appropriate means of restoring any disability that has been imposed pursuant to a state law, e.g., suspension of driver's license, revocation of professional or business licensure, etc. Rather, the Board generally defers to the General Assembly and the means of restoration provided for in the law in question.”
Victim Impact. The Board of Pardons is required to notify victims (or their families) when an application of clemency has been filed. Victims must be given an opportunity to appear at hearings or to make a confidential submission in writing. Here, it is essential for applicants to remember that they must not initiate (or move others to) contact with victims or their families.
Evidence of Remorse. Applicants should display and explain remorse for their crime(s).
How can an applicant increase the likelihood of getting clemency?
There are numerous things an applicant can do to increase the likelihood of obtaining a Governor’s pardon in Pennsylvania. Overall, an applicant must demonstrate that they are rehabilitated and deserving of pardon relief. Therefore, an applicant should wait at least five (5) years after completing all the terms and conditions of the sentence.
An applicant must also have all fines and court costs paid. Failure to pay all of fines and costs will likely result in denial of the application for the pardon. An applicant should also be sober for at least five (5) years and have a record of voluntary community service. Here, the key is to demonstrate a positive impact on the community aside from any court ordered community service and/or programs.
A pardon applicant should also take responsibility for his/her crimes. If an applicant fails to take full responsibility and admit wrongdoing, the Board of Pardons will likely conclude that the applicant has not been rehabilitated and will recommend that the pardon be denied. This can be especially difficult for individuals who are wrongly convicted or were convicted because of violations of his/her rights. In these cases, it is especially critical to obtain an experienced criminal defense lawyer to properly present the issues to the Board of Pardons in the application.
It is also important for an applicant to be crime free after completing their sentence; otherwise, the Board of Pardons will not believe you are rehabilitated. This even includes speeding tickets and other traffic violations. The Board of Pardons is also particularly concerned with subsequent DUI offenses since they demonstrate that the applicant is still having substance abuse problems. In short, remaining crime free is very important to demonstrate that an applicant is rehabilitated and deserving of a pardon.
How much does a Pardon cost?
As with most legal matters, you do not need a lawyer to file an application for clemency. The cost of the application is $8.00, and the filing fee is $25.00 plus the cost of postage. However, retaining a lawyer will likely streamline the process and increase the likelihood of success.
Lampman Law accepts most pardon cases on a flat fee basis. Please call us at 570-371-3737 if you would like to discuss your case and our fee. The call is free and without pressure. We hope to hear from you today.