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Need a Pardon? They’re Easier to Get From Governor Tom Wolf

December 29, 2019

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Before Governor Tom Wolf took office, it was very difficult to get a pardon in Pennsylvania. The process took four years, and few pardons were granted. After entering the office, the Governor faced an immense backlog of pardon applications. So, he initiated a new system in which more pardons would be granted, and the entire process would take only one year. If you’d like to receive a pardon, how do you do it? You follow the steps below.

Obtain Your Court Dockets

To begin the process, you need to know your criminal history, which you can find online. By checking the ‘Court Cases’ on this website, you can search for your own name and find the dockets you will need to include with your pardon application.

You can obtain the dockets from the court clerk and, if they don’t have it, you can send them a letter stating that you are requesting the dockets. If sentencing occurred more than seven years ago, no letter is required.

Fill Out the Application

To obtain an application, you can go online and download an application. Read the instructions carefully and fill out the entire application correctly. If any of the information on your application changes while your application is being processed, you must notify the Board of Pardons of those changes. If you are currently incarcerated, you must be represented by a private attorney, friend, or family member.

There are sections on the application that ask about your conviction(s). The Board includes this section on the application because they want to hear what happened from your own perspective. Although this section is challenging for some people to fill out, it’s important to be open and honest. The Board is looking for honesty.

If you need additional pages for your application, you must use the supplemental pages offered on the Board’s website. Never use your own paper and write ‘See Attached’ for any part of your application. The application is sent to the District Attorney and the President Judge. If they see ‘See Attached,’ they will not have the additional pages to reference.

Victim Impact

Your application is a chance to show the Board that you have been rehabilitated. This can be in the form of not committing any other crimes, advancing yourself professionally by obtaining a degree, or becoming an integral part of your community. Rehabilitation is one of the main factors the Board will take into consideration when reviewing your application. The other factor the Board considers is victim impact.

If any victim has been impacted by the crime, Pennsylvania law dictates that victims must be given the chance to offer an opinion on the pardon. When applying for a pardon for a crime in which there was a victim, it’s important to reach out to the Office of the Victim Advocate.

The Decision

After reviewing your application, the Board will make recommendations to the Governor as to whether you should be granted a pardon. The Governor does not have to follow these recommendations, but can make an independent decision when granting your pardon. The good news for those applying is that Governor Tom Wolf has made it much easier to obtain a pardon.

Contact a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help with Your Pardon

Pardons are easier to obtain, but there are still challenges associated with it. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can help with the entire process. We’ll ensure that your application is filled out accurately, filed properly, and assist with every other step of the process. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 to start your pardon process.



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