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Erasing Your Criminal Record With a Pennsylvania Pardon

You may have heard about presidents pardoning people on their last days in office, or about famous criminals applying for clemency, but did you know that pardons are a fairly common legal mechanism in Pennsylvania for which anyone with a criminal record can apply? In fact, hundreds of Pennsylvania citizens apply for pardons each year, and hundreds receive them, completely erasing past convictions from their record and giving them a new lease on life.


What is a Pardon?


A pardon is an act by the governor that can erase a conviction from your criminal record. Under Pennsylvania law, a pardon is generally the only way to have a misdemeanor or felony conviction removed from your record. In many states, courts have the power to expunge a misdemeanor or felony. However, in Pennsylvania, usually only the governor has that ability. It is important to note though that some misdemeanors can be sealed by courts, after a sufficient amount of time has transpired.


Is a Pardon Right for Me?


A pardon may be right for you if you have a criminal record that is impacting your ability to obtain employment. Anyone who is struggling as the result of a past criminal conviction has a right to apply for a pardon.


Is it Difficult to Get a Pardon?


It is certainly not guaranteed that any individual will receive a Pennsylvania state pardon from the governor. However, the statistics are more promising than you may expect. As a pardon is the one of the only mechanisms for clearing one’s criminal record under Pennsylvania law, it is carefully tracked to ensure progress is being continually made in assessing and granting applications. In 2019, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons reports that the governor granted approximately 34.5% of all applications received. In 2020, 32% of pardons were granted (1,395 applications submitted and 445 granted).


Additionally, applying for a pardon is not like throwing your name in a raffle or playing the jackpot. Your application will be thoroughly reviewed, and there are a number of factors that statistically seem likely to increase your odds of succeeding. For instance, the majority of granted applications feature one minor offense at least five years ago, or one felony offense more than 10 years ago. The general assumption is that the longer you have been free of any criminal problems, the more likely you are to continue living the life of a responsible, upstanding citizen. Sometimes it can take decades for a very serious offense to be pardoned, so time can be your friend in deciding when to file for one. However, these are not hard and fast rules, and the specific circumstances of each case are relevant in determining whether an application will be granted.


As noted above, individuals with a single minor offense at least five years ago are most likely to be pardoned. The type of offense is also relevant. Pardons are statistically most likely to be issued for low-level misdemeanor offenses, such as shoplifting and disorderly conduct. However, many other crimes, including far more severe crimes, are regularly pardoned.


It is important to understand that there are no fixed rules about who can apply for or be granted a pardon. While we have statistical data, that only demonstrates trends as opposed to fixed rules. Anyone with a criminal record has the right to apply for a pardon, and has a chance of it being granted. Our Pennsylvania Pardon Attorney will help you create the most persuasive application possible to increase the likelihood your pardon application will be successful.


How Long Does it Take to Get a Pardon?


While the length of the process can vary based on a variety of factors, the current average time to receive a pardon, from application to granting, is approximately two and a half years. It is beneficial to have an experienced Pennsylvania criminal law attorney to help you navigate this process and help you present the strongest argument in support of your pardon request.


How Will a Pardon Change My Life?


A pardon is essentially an act of forgiveness by the Governor for the crime you were convicted of. The legal definition of a pardon states that a pardon is intended to “blo[t] out the very existence of [ones’] guilt, so that, in the eye of the law, he is thereafter as innocent as if he had never committed the offense.” Although a pardon confers forgiveness, it does not automatically erase your criminal record from the central repository. Therefore, after you receive a pardon, you must apply for expungement of your record. Expungement will completely remove any official trace of the conviction from your record, turning you into someone who is considered never to have committed the crime. This means that after you receive a pardon and expungement, you will not have to disclose your previous offense to employers unless you choose to.


Additionally, following receipt of a pardon and expungement order, any rights and/or privileges that were lost as a result of the conviction will be reinstated. For a felony conviction, this means that a person whose prior charge has been pardoned and expunged can regain the ability to serve on a jury, own firearms, serve in the armed forces, run for and occupy public office, and travel overseas and without restriction.


Let Us Help You


This can be a life-changing process, but it can also be frustrating to try and figure out on your own. At Dusharm Law LLC, we have years of experience securing pardons and expungements for our clients. Our Pardon and Expungement Lawyer, Tammy Dusharm, is committed to helping Pennsylvania residents clear their criminal records, obtain a clean slate, and move on with their lives. Contact Dusharm Law LLC today to schedule a consultation and learn more about the best course of action for your particular situation.

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