We've all made mistakes in our lives, but sometimes a mistake that results in an arrest or conviction can follow you for a long time. If you have a conviction for a serious crime, it can have long-lasting effects, affecting your education, career, and more. Long after you've served your time and paid your fines, you can still be paying for a crime you committed in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, if you live in Schuylkill County, you do have some options to get your life and your reputation back in hand. In some cases, you can apply for clemency, otherwise known as a pardon, from the Governor of Pennsylvania. While the process can be long and detailed, an experienced Schuylkill pardon attorney can guide you through it.
What Is a Governor's Pardon?
So, what exactly is a pardon? Does it automatically clear your record? A pardon is forgiveness or an act of clemency from the state granted by the Governor of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons (BOP) handles all pardon applications, investigates each request, and interviews applicants. Only if the BOP agrees to forward your application with a recommendation for clemency will the governor review the request. If granted, the pardon restores your rights as if you'd never been convicted of a crime in Schuylkill County. If the governor grants you a pardon, the state will restore any legal restrictions resulting from your conviction, including:
- Holding public office
- Owning and purchasing firearms
- Serving in the military
- Traveling overseas
But your best chance of successfully obtaining a pardon is with an experienced pardon attorney helping you every step of the way.
The Pardon Process
The pardon process is detailed and can be paperwork intensive, but the steps are always the same:
- The pardon application
- An investigation
- A hearing before the BOP
- Notice to the public
- The recommendation of the BOP
- The governor's final decision
Applying for a Pardon
To begin the pardon process, you'll complete an application. You can review the application online on the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons website. As part of the application, you and your attorney will need to submit several official documents obtained from state and court offices, and you'll need to plan out the retrieval process. If you have convictions in Schuylkill County, you and your attorney will need to retrieve some of these documents from agencies and courts in Schuylkill County.
To submit a complete application to the BOP, you'll need to include:
- Official court documents for your case: These documents will include the criminal complaint, affidavit of probable cause, criminal information or indictment, final plea or verdict, sentencing order, and proof of payment of all financial penalties, including fines and court fees.
- The type of clemency you're requesting
- All information requested in the application and any supplements
- Any convictions for which you're requesting a pardon, including the dates of the incidents, the offense tracking numbers, and the detailed facts of the incident, including your involvement.
- Your criminal history and driving record: You'll need to include all details of your criminal history and any juvenile charges, adjudications of delinquency, and consent decrees; any adult criminal charges you didn't include in your clemency request; and any traffic citations from in and out of the state.
- Your statement: Including a personal statement is optional and should include details about why you're seeking a pardon, how you've changed your life since your arrest, and why you think you're a good pardon candidate. Your pardon attorney can help you with writing an effective statement.
- Your signature
You can also include recommendation letters in your application, as well as any certificates or diplomas you've earned and any additional supporting documents. You and your attorney should keep a copy of everything you submit to the BOP. However, there's no need to include your criminal records for any charges already expunged by the state of Pennsylvania.
Your completed application packet will go to:
Pennsylvania Board of Pardons
333 Market Street, 15th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126
You and your attorney will need to ensure that you include all of the requested information in your application packet. If your application is incomplete, the BOP will identify the missing information and consider your application incomplete. The BOP won't officially “file” your application until you've sent in all the requested missing information.
The Pardon Investigation
Once you've filed a complete application, the Board of Pardons notifies the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole and assigns an agent to investigate your case. The agent will review your application packet, your criminal history, and the details of your criminal case and ask for a meeting with you.
Your assigned agent will interview you, your family members, and household members to determine whether you're a contributing member of society. The agent may then ask for follow-up information to fill in questions raised about your case by the application or interviews. The agent will withdraw your application if you don't provide all the requested information.
The Pardon Merit Review
Before the BOP sets a hearing for your application, they must vote on whether you should receive a hearing. At least two of the five BOP members must vote in favor of your hearing. If the BOP does grant a hearing, they will notify:
- Your representative or lawyer
- The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole
- The District Attorney in Schuylkill County for convictions from that county
- The President Judge of Schuylkill County
- Any victims or survivors
- The paper of record in Schuylkill County, the Republican-Herald
- The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections if you're currently in prison
The Pardon Hearing
You will have 15 minutes at your hearing before the Pennsylvania BOP to present your case and answer questions. This hearing is your best chance to explain the circumstances surrounding your arrest and conviction, how you've changed or improved yourself, your contributions to your community, and present any character witnesses. The hearing will include:
- Your presentation
- The witnesses you have in support of your pardon
- Any witnesses speaking against your pardon
The state doesn't require that you hire an attorney to help with your pardon application or BOP hearing. However, your best chance to complete a compelling application and present effectively at your hearing is with an experienced Schuylkill County pardon attorney.
The Board of Pardons Decision
The Board of Pardons that will determine whether to recommend your application to the governor includes:
- Pennsylvania's Lieutenant Governor
- The Pennsylvania Attorney General
- A corrections expert
- A psychiatrist
- A victims' rights advocate
The Pennsylvania governor appoints the last three members of the BOP.
After your hearing, the BOP will consider your application, any witness testimony, and your statement. To determine whether to recommend your pardon to the governor, the board considers:
- If your crime was violent
- The circumstances surrounding your arrest and conviction
- If you've taken responsibility for your crime
- The length of time since your arrest
- If your criminal record created educational or career obstacles for you
- If you have contributed to your community since your conviction
If a majority of the five board members vote in favor of your pardon application, the board sends a recommendation for clemency to the Pennsylvania governor. The governor will make the final pardon decision.
Will a Pardon Clear My Record?
Unfortunately, a Pennsylvania pardon doesn't automatically expunge your record. If granted a pardon, the state will automatically seal your criminal record from public view. However, the records will still be in all law enforcement databases, including the FBI database. You will be eligible to petition the court that originally convicted you for a court order to expunge your record.
To expunge your criminal record in Pennsylvania, you will need to 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):
- Apply for an official copy of your arrest record from the central repository. You will also send a check or money order for the fee made out to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. You must also include a copy of your photo ID and a legal affidavit or letter of representation.
- Once you receive a copy of your complete arrest record from the central repository, you will contact the Schuylkill County Clerk's Office for the expungement application and procedure.
- When the Schuylkill County court at issue signs an order for expungement, the Schuylkill County Clerk sends it to the Pennsylvania State Police and other applicable law enforcement, government, and court agencies. Once the PSP gets the order, they will expunge and destroy your record. The same will take place with regards to the other applicable agencies involved in your case.
Hire an Experienced Schuylkill County Pardon Attorney
If you're ready to apply for a pardon, the process can be challenging. But there's no need to navigate the clemency process, application, and Board of Pardons hearing on your own. Your best chance to clear your record is with an experienced Schuylkill County pardon attorney by your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm team have helped many Pennsylvanians through the pardon and expungement process, and they can help you too. Give the Lento Law Firm a call today at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation or contact them online.