We all make mistakes. If you have a criminal conviction in your past, you know how true this is. Unfortunately, sometimes a mistake that results in an arrest and conviction for a serious crime can continue to follow you for the rest of your life. A criminal record can impact your educational and career opportunities prevent you from obtaining professional licensing, enlisting in the military, or obtaining a security clearance. But it can also affect child custody matters, your ability to rent an apartment or buy a home, and a myriad of other matters you may not have realized at the time of your arrest and conviction. Even after serving time in jail or paying your fines, you may continue to pay for your crime in other ways throughout your life. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania, you do have some options to clear your record, including obtaining a pardon from the governor. While it can be a long process, an experienced Carbon County pardon attorney can guide you through the process every step of the way.
What is a Pardon?
So, what exactly is a pardon? How do you get one? And what does a pardon change? We'll try to address the most common questions our clients have about pardons in Carbon County on this page. In Pennsylvania, the governor has the power to grant clemency or a pardon for anyone convicted of a crime. The pardon restores your rights as if you've never committed a crime.
In our commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons investigates and reviews all pardon applications and makes recommendations to the governor about whether to grant a pardon. However, the governor has the final say in all pardon applications. See Penn. Const. Art. IV, §9(a) (1997). If granted, a pardon will fully restore your rights, including:
- Your ability to travel overseas
- Your right to own and purchase firearms
- Your right to sit on a jury
- Your ability to serve in the military
- Your ability to hold public office once again
Your best chance for successfully navigating the pardon process, and restoring your rights, is with the help of an experienced Carbon County pardon attorney.
The Pardon Process
The pardon process is the same for everyone, but it can be difficult without legal assistance. The clemency request process includes:
- Your application
- If granted, a full hearing before the BOP
- Public Notice
- The BOP's recommendation
- The governor's final decision
To begin the pardon process, you will complete an application. You can download the application online from the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons website. Along with the application itself, you'll need to retrieve documents from state and local agencies. If you fail to submit all of the requested information, the BOP will not consider your application officially filed. If you have convictions in Carbon County, you'll need to plan out the process of retrieving your criminal history and court records from offices in this county.
Your application must include all the following items:
- You'll need the official court documents for your case, including the criminal complaint, affidavit of probable cause, criminal information or indictment, final plea or verdict, sentencing order, and proof that you have completed your sentence, including paying all court fees and fines.
- The clemency or forgiveness that you're seeking in your application
- All requested application information and any supplements requested later
- All convictions you're requesting clemency for, which must include the dates of the incidents, the offense tracking number, the detailed facts of the incident, and your involvement
- Your complete criminal and driving records: You should include all details of your complete criminal record, including any juvenile charges, adjudications of delinquency, or consent decrees; any adult charges you don't include in your clemency request; and any traffic citations from in or outside the state.
- Your statement: Your personal statement is optional, but it is a good idea to include how you've changed your life since your conviction, why you're seeking a pardon and why you think you should get one, as well as any additional information that supports your request. Your attorney can help you write a good statement for your application.
- Your signature
You do not have to include any criminal history information for charges or convictions already expunged by the state of Pennsylvania. To supplement your application, you can also include copies of any diplomas or certificates you've earned since your conviction, recommendation letters, or any other supporting documents you and your attorney believe may help your case. You and your attorney should also keep a complete copy of your application packet and any supporting information you later submit.
Your attorney will mail your pardon application and your supporting documents to:
Pennsylvania Board of Pardons
333 Market Street, 15th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126
If you fail to include everything requested by the BOP, the board won't consider your application officially filed until you submit all missing information.
The Pardon Investigation
Once your application is complete and filed with the Board of Pardons, the BOP will notify the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. The BOP will also assign an agent to your case to review your application packet and the details of your case and determine whether you're a good candidate for a hearing before the BOP.
Your assigned agent will typically interview you at home as part of the investigation. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether you're a contributing member of your community and society at large. The agent will interview your family and household members, asking about your behavior and life. Your assigned agent may also ask for supplemental documents after the interviews or for supplemental information to answer any questions raised by your application, your case, or the interviews. If you fail to provide the requested information, your assigned agent will withdraw your pardon application.
The Pardon Board Merit Review
After your interviews and submitting any additional requested information, the Board of Pardons will vote on whether you should receive a full hearing before the board. You must receive two out of five votes from BOP members for the board to schedule a hearing for you. If you do receive a hearing date, the BOP must notify several individuals, including:
- Your lawyer or representative
- The Board of Probation and Parole
- If your conviction happened in Carbon County, the Carbon County District Attorney
- The President Judge of Carbon County
- Any victims or survivors of your crime
- The paper of record in Carbon County, The Carbon County Times-News & Record
- If you're currently in jail, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
The Board of Pardons Hearing
At your hearing before the Board of Pardons, you will have 15 minutes to present your case and answer any questions they may have. You'll have a chance to explain the circumstance of your arrest and conviction, how you've contributed to your community since your arrest, and how you've changed since that time. You'll also have an opportunity to introduce character witnesses. The hearing will include:
- Your application
- Your presentation and any questions
- The witnesses speaking in support of your pardon
- The witnesses speaking against your pardon if there are any
You do not have to have an attorney represent you in your hearing before the BOP or assist you with your application. However, this is your best opportunity to present a compelling argument in favor of your pardon. Having an experienced Carbon County pardon attorney by your side will give you the greatest chance of success.
The Pardon Decision
After your hearing, the BOP members will discuss your case and vote on recommending clemency to the governor. Three out of five members must vote in favor of your pardon to send your application to the governor. The five members of the BOP include:
- Pennsylvania's Lieutenant Governor
- The Pennsylvania Attorney General
- A corrections expert
- A psychiatrist
- A victims' rights advocate
The governor appoints the corrections expert, the psychiatrist, and the victims' rights advocate to the BOP. When deciding your application, the members of the BOP will consider your application and hearing, including:
- Whether or not your crime was violent
- Any relevant circumstances surrounding your crime
- If you've taken responsibility for your crime
- The time that's passed since your arrest
- If your criminal record has created educational or career obstacles for you
- How you have contributed to your community and society since your conviction
If a majority of the BOP vote in favor of your application, the board will send a recommendation to pardon you to the governor. However, Pennsylvania's governor makes the final pardon determination.
Will a Pardon Clear My Record Entirely?
Once you receive a pardon in Pennsylvania, the state will automatically seal your criminal record. While sealing your record will remove it from public view, it won't be destroyed or expunged. All Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies and the FBI database will still contain information about your arrest and conviction. To destroy or expunge this information, you'll need to request a court order in the county where you were originally convicted.
To expunge your record in Carbon County, you should take the following steps (the following steps are best taken with the assistance of an experienced attorney and will vary slightly with an attorney's help):
- Submit an application for your arrest record to the central repository, along with a check or money order for the fee made out to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. You'll need to include a copy of your photo ID and a legal affidavit or letter of representation.
- Once you get an official copy of your full arrest record from the central repository, you should contact the Carbon County Clerk's Office for the expungement application and the court's procedures.
- Once the Carbon County court at issue signs your expungement, the Carbon County Clerk will send it to the Pennsylvania State Police and the other applicable law enforcement, government, and court agencies. After the PSP receives your expungement order, they will expunge your record. The same will take place with regards to the other agencies involved in your case.
Hire an Experienced Carbon County Pardon Attorney
Trying to figure out the pardon application, the process of compiling all the required documents, and making a compelling pardon case before the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons can be complicated. To successfully navigate this process, you need to put your best case forward with experienced legal representation guiding you along the way. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm are experienced Pennsylvania pardon attorneys. They've been helping clients navigate the pardon and expungement application for years, and they can help you too. Find out if you're a good candidate by calling the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation. Or contact the team online today.