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Applying for a PA Pardon

17 Nov 2018, by Brandy Benefield in Expungements
Wooden Gavel

Written by Timothy Czekaj

If you have been convicted of a crime, a pardon could be the only way of clearing your record. This is especially true if your record is not eligible for expungement. Unlike expungements, which are applicable towards only a limited number of offenses, anyone with a Pennsylvania criminal conviction can apply for a governor’s pardon. However, just because everyone can apply for a pardon doesn’t mean that everyone’s requests are granted. In fact, only a very small number of pardons are granted.

If you’re looking to learn more about how to clear your record in Pennsylvania, contact a pardon lawyer from Czekaj Law, LLC at (717) 275-9770, or reach out online to schedule a free case consultation.

Who Should Apply for a Pardon?

Anyone who does not qualify for expungement may consider looking into a pardon. Expungement is a faster and potentially less costly process than applying for a pardon, so if you are eligible for this remedy, you should explore it first. An expungement is when the court physically destroys your criminal records, leaving copies only with the prosecuting attorney and the Pennsylvania State Police Central Repository. These copies are only accessible on request from a court or law enforcement agency.

Expunging your record is a possibility in a narrow range of cases. If you have a serious misdemeanor, a felony, a sexual abuse conviction, or multiple offenses on your record, you may not qualify for this option. In this situation, a pardon might be the only way of clearing up your criminal history.

How to Apply for a Pardon

Any criminal offense is eligible for a pardon. Factors that can bear on the decision of granting you a PA pardon include the exact nature of the offense, and what efforts you have made to make amends and turn your life around.

The pardon process usually involves the following steps:

  • Obtaining your criminal record from the Pennsylvania State Police, a process that can take several months
  • Gathering other important background information such as the criminal complaints against you, affidavits, and your driving record
  • Filing your application for pardon with the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons
  • Passing the board’s merit review, in which a select few cases are scheduled for hearings
  • Attending the hearing before the Board of Pardons, and making the case that you deserve a pardon by testifying on your own behalf

It may take up to two years after the filing of your application for the Board of Pardons to schedule your merit review. You and other people interested in the case (including victims, the former prosecutor, and sentencing judge) will meet with an agent of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. The agent performs a background check and writes a report about you that takes into account all of the gathered testimony. The report is then forwarded to the Board of Pardons, which votes on which cases should get a hearing.

At the pardon hearing, you will have fifteen minutes to convince the five-member board that you deserve a pardon. Having an attorney to assist you throughout the process can significantly increase your chances of success. Ideally, you should be prepared for the merit review and the hearing with positive statements from community members, proof of a good employment record, and any other evidence indicating you lead a wholesome and stable life. In the two-year wait time, you and your legal team can do a lot to prepare for this part of the process.

If the majority of the Board approves your pardon request, they will recommend that the governor grant your pardon. Just because the board recommends your pardon does not mean the governor will do so. The governor has total discretion on the matter, and may decide to grant or withhold your pardon for any reason. In some scenarios, it may be appropriate to advocate directly to the governor, and to raise awareness of your case throughout the public.

Do You Have Questions About Applying for a PA Pardon? Contact Us for Help

If you are considering applying for a PA pardon, your chances of success will be greater if you do so with the assistance of an experienced attorney. Gathering all the necessary documents, accurately filling out the application, and making a strong case at the pardon hearing are just a few examples of how a Pennsylvania pardon lawyer from Czekaj Law, LLC may be able to assist you.

To learn more about how to obtain a pardon, contact us today at (717) 275-9770 to schedule a free case evaluation.