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If you’re ready to move past your criminal record in PA, you have some options. Some crimes can be expunged, while those of a more serious nature require a criminal pardon. A pardon, also known as executive clemency, is a detailed process. Read on to learn more about it and how a criminal defense attorney can help you navigate it.
A pardon is total forgiveness for a crime, and allows the Courts, State Police, and FBI to expunge your record. Granted by the state’s Board of Pardons, this process is open and applicable to anyone convicted of a crime by a non-federal PA court. A sealed conviction is eligible to be pardoned as well.
In addition to being relieved from the consequences of your crime, a pardon provides the following:
If you think a pardon is right for you, connecting with an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you prepare for the in-depth process.
On average, the PA pardon process takes approximately three years, starting with when an application is officially filed and ending with the applicant’s Merit Review Session. What other steps are involved?
Please note: if more than seven years have passed since you were sentenced, no documents are required.
Gathering these documents may be cumbersome and if you overlook even one, it could hurt your chances of obtaining a pardon. Where you were sentenced – Common Pleas Court, County Court or by a Magisterial District Judge – will impact whom and how you contact for records. Consider working with an attorney to help ensure you have all paperwork in order, including a properly filled out application with well-framed responses. They are also skilled in obtaining letters of recommendation and character reference letters to help create a more compelling case for your pardon.
Once your documents are received, the Board of Pardons will decide if a public hearing will be granted by voting (certain number of votes required for certain offenses) – if the required number of votes is not obtained, the process ends and you will not be pardoned. Again, having a criminal defense attorney help prepare your paperwork may help this process be more successful.
If granted a hearing at the Supreme Court Courtroom in Harrisburg, you will be allowed 15 minutes to make a presentation, which can include testimony from you, your support (advocate, family member, attorney) and your victim or victim’s next of kin (if applicable), along with anyone who would like to speak in opposition of the application. Because your hearing is only 15 minutes, our firm strongly recommends having an attorney represent you in your pardon hearing, to help you craft a coherent and convincing narrative, as well as arrange testimonials.
Following the hearing, a majority of the Board of Pardons must vote in favor of your pardon, after which your application will be forwarded to the PA Governor. A unanimous vote is required for a Life or Death sentence case. At his or her discretion, the Governor approves or disapproves pardons. Lastly, the Secretary of the Board notifies interested parties of the Governor’s decision.
As noted, the PA pardon process can take three years; however, in 2019, the Expedited Program for Non-Violent Marijuana-Specific Convictions was established. On the program’s website, it is noted:
While there certainly is no guarantee that applicants for this program will receive a favorable decision from the Board, it should be noted that there will be less of an emphasis on how recent the conviction is, and more of an emphasis on how compelling the applicant is at demonstrating how a pardon would improve their overall quality of life.
With this in mind, your criminal conviction may be eligible for this expedited pardon if it included:
Expedited review applications will be within 18 months (or less) from the date submitted with the BOP office.
While the application and filing fee for a PA pardon is free, there are many benefits to working with a criminal defense attorney. Additionally, incarcerated applicants must be represented by a private attorney, friend, family member, or a Pardons Case Specialist/Parole Manager.
If you determine the PA pardon process is right for you, please know meticulous research and documentation is required when seeking successful outcomes. Our criminal defense attorneys are well-versed in obtaining appropriate court paperwork. We can help ensure your complete criminal history is provided and you are represented well at your hearing.
As a criminal defender, Robert Campbell helps his clients navigate a wide range of cases, including bail hearings and modifications, probation violations, assault charges, drug offense, DUIs, disorderly conduct and public intoxication, criminal trespassing, and traffic citations. Additionally, he assists with placement into Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) and Marijuana Diversion programs. He also supports those seeking expungement and pardons.