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Seeking a Pardon in Pennsylvania

A serious criminal conviction can follow you for the rest of your life. Moreover, expungement for adult convictions in Pennsylvania is generally limited to summary convictions. As a result, most people have few options for removing a blemish from their records. If you are committed to removing a conviction from your record that does not fall into the narrow criteria for which expungement is an option, a pardon may provide the relief you want.

The Board of Pardons is composed of five members: the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, a victims’ representative, a corrections expert and a psychiatrist. A proceeding before the Board of Pardons is not a legal review of your case or an adjudication of guilt or innocence. It can, however, provide two different types of extraordinary relief:

  • Pardon — A pardon is the total forgiveness of a conviction, including the removal of any lingering consequences and the purge of any record of the offense. It can be sought by individuals in or out of custody.
  • Commutation — Commutation is the reduction of an existing sentence and can be requested by anyone who is in custody or under supervision, for example, on probation or parole. Along with a pardon, commutation may also be the sole means of release for inmates serving a life sentence.

Neither of these remedies is based on legal error in the court. Instead, the Board considers various equitable factors, such as the amount of time that has passed, the penalty that the offender has served, the impact of the crime in question, the positive changes the offender has made in his or her life, and the adverse effect the conviction is having upon the offender.

Proceeding before the Board of Pardons, an extraordinary remedy, should be considered only when traditional appeals and legal proceedings, parole and expungement, are no longer options. Consulting with an experienced Berks criminal defense attorney can help you identify the least burdensome method of achieving your goals.

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