After being convicted of a crime, many people suffer consequences that extend outside of the repercussions imposed by the criminal justice system; these lasting effects are referred to as legal disabilities. Although an individual may have served their time and fulfilled all of the requirements of the courts in relation to a crime, they are still being penalized for having a criminal record. For example, people with misdemeanor and felony convictions oftentimes experience trouble finding work or advancing their career. In most states, the mere record of a conviction relinquishes rights that people without a squeaky clean criminal history are entitled to.
In order for people to start anew without the constant reminder of what they did in the past, states and federal governments offer clemency. Clemency is a broad term that refers to the reduction of penalties imposed by the criminal justice system. In all cases of clemency, a person's conviction is not overturned or overruled. However, some forms of clemency, like pardons, are precursors to an expungement - the act of completely eradicating all records of a criminal conviction. On a statewide scale, clemency takes on three forms: a reprieve, a pardon, and the commutation of sentences.
A reprieve is granted by the Governor of Pennsylvania to postpone an incarceration. This form of clemency is also commonly granted to delay an imposition of the death penalty in an effort to get a person's sentence reduced. Reprieves are often permitted in circumstances when a person has been convicted on extenuating circumstances, giving a defendant an opportunity to seek a pardon or commutation from the Governor.
A pardon is an act of forgiveness carried out by the Governor of Pennsylvania that renews the rights that were stripped from an individual as a result of a conviction. It is an essential step towards getting an expungement - the complete eradication of a criminal conviction from a criminal record. Once a pardon is granted, the stigma of a crime is virtually erased.
Commutation of Sentences
When a sentence is commuted, it is substituted with a lighter penalty. A life imprisonment, for example, may be commuted, or reduced, to a prison sentence of a specific number of years. A commutation is granted in circumstances when a person has exhibited good behavior or has proven to be rehabilitated since the commission of a crime.
Individuals with misdemeanor or felony offenses on their record should consult with an attorney to determine which clemency option is best for you.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
Joseph D. Lento has experience representing people in criminal cases, spanning from misdemeanors to felony offenses, so he understands the legal liabilities that inherently accompany a criminal record. If you wish to start anew without worrying about the effect your record will have on future opportunities, you should contact him today.