Clemency in PA: Who Makes the Decision?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Mar 01, 2022 | 0 Comments

Recently, the Pennsylvania State Board of Pardons returned a split decision regarding the clemency of 42-year-old inmate, Felix Ocasio. Twenty-two years ago, Ocasio was sentenced to between about 39 years and 78 years behind bars, and now, he seeks a commutation of his prison sentence.

An article from the Altoona Mirror reports that the state Board of Pardons returned a tied vote on Ocasio's clemency petition, ultimately resulting in a denial of the petition. Importantly, because one of the Board of Pardons members was absent, Ocasio may reapply for clemency.

How Does the PA State Board of Pardons Work?

The State Board of Pardons is comprised of 5 members, who currently consist of the following:

  • State Attorney General
  • State Lieutenant Governor
  • A corrections expert
  • A psychiatrist
  • A victim's representative

While the Board of Pardons can vote to move a Clemency Petition forward, they themselves do not grant clemency. That decision is left to the sitting Governor of Pennsylvania, who takes the Board of Pardons' recommendations under consideration.

The number of clemency applications the Governor will grant may depend on the sitting Governor's priorities. For example, according to data provided by the PA State Board of Pardons:

  • Former Governor Rendell, a Democrat, approved 167 Clemency Petitions in 2010
  • Former Governor Corbett, a Republican, approved 81 Clemency Petitions in 2014
  • Sitting Governor Wolf, a Democrat, approved 259 Clemency Petitions in 2021

Whether the Governor will approve your Clemency Petition may depend on their personal leanings and political affiliations.

What's the Difference Between a Pardon and a Commutation?

If you've been convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania state courts, you may want to consider applying for clemency. Depending on your needs, you'll need to determine whether a pardon or a commutation will better suit your situation.

A pardon is the forgiveness of your crime. When individuals are convicted of felonies in Pennsylvania, they lose numerous rights. These rights can include student loan eligibility, the right to hold public office, and the right to own firearms. When you're pardoned for your felonious offense, you regain these rights and others.

Commutation is appropriate for individuals who are serving lengthy prison sentences or have been sentenced to life imprisonment. If the Governor approves your request for a commutation of your prison sentence, you may be released early.

Do You Need A PA Clemency Attorney?

Clemency is an opportunity for those who want to move forward in life but can't because of unfair prison sentences or restrictions that result from felony convictions. It's common for individuals to think they can submit their Clemency Petitions without the help of an experienced attorney, but the truth is there is too much at stake to move through the Pennsylvania clemency process without the help of an experienced clemency lawyer. To learn how attorney Joseph D. Lento, and the dedicated team at the Lento Law Firm, can help you with your clemency application in PA, call 888-535-3686 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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