Anyone with a criminal conviction in Pennsylvania can apply for a pardon by the governor. If a Pardon is granted, then the criminal record can be expunged, or cleared. More importantly, a pardon erases the offense as if it never happened. It need not be disclosed on any application or interview. The likelihood of actually getting a pardon, however, depends on certain factors and how you approach the process.
First, it is necessary to understand the typical scenarios under which pardons are granted. The majority of people who ultimately receive pardons have either been convicted of a minor crime at least five years ago or, if it’s a more serious crime, 10 years or more. One of the reasons for the delay is that those reviewing your case want to see that you’ve stayed out of trouble for a reasonable amount of time. Additional considerations are the circumstances of the crime, why it ocurred, whether it was violent or non-violent, and what you have done with your life since then.
The process is fairly straightforward, but a considerable amount of work must be done to submit an acceptable application. It can also be time-consuming. For example, the first step–-ordering your complete criminal record from the Pennsylvania State Police–-can take up to six months. It can take another two to three months to gather all the documentation: criminal complaints, affidavits, sentencing sheets, driving record, etc. Once filed, the Commonwealth’s five-member Board of Pardons, which is tasked with recommending worthy applicants to the governor for review, can take a year or more to even grant you a hearing.
If you are fortunate enough to be granted a hearing, you will have 15 minutes to present your case to the Board and answer questions. This is your opportunity to present character witnesses, explain the circumstances of your conviction and describe how you have lived your life since the criminal conviction.
After reviewing pardon applications and hearing testimony from applicants, the Board takes a vote to determine who they believe should receive a pardon. If a consensus is reached by three of the five members, a recommendation for pardon is then sent to the governor for review.
Once he receives the recommendations, the Governor has total discretion over whose requests he will grant.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the process alone. Not only can Record Eraser help navigate the process for you, our knowledgeable staff can help you prepare an application and testimony that will increase your chances of receiving favorable votes.