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Home 9 Criminal Defense 9 The PA Pardon Process: What It Means & How It Works

The PA Pardon Process: What It Means & How It Works

The back of a defendant in handcuffs and lawyer in a courtroom in front of a judge

The process of obtaining a PA pardon can seem complicated and overwhelming if you’re not familiar with it. A pardon is a legal procedure in Pennsylvania that allows people who have been convicted of a crime to have their criminal record forgiven by the Governor. It’s a significant step for those who want a fresh start, with life-changing opportunities if granted.


  • The PA Pardon Process is a legal procedure in Pennsylvania that allows individuals who have been convicted of a crime to have their criminal record forgiven by the Governor
  • Before an individual can submit the pardon application, they must understand their criminal record, obtain necessary documents, and meet certain requirements
  • Receiving a pardon involves several stages, such as completing the preliminary application, investigation, and hearing before the Board of Pardons
  • Once submitted, the formal review process begins, which involves an interview, background check by Pennsylvania State Police, and thorough evaluation by the Board of Pardons
  • After passing the review process, applicants face a public hearing in which they present their case. Following this, the Board of Pardons will make a recommendation to the Governor, who will make a final decision on granting a pardon

Receiving a pardon in Pennsylvania involves diving deep into the details of the charge, filling out paperwork, and following a specific timeline. It’s not an easy task to take on, but if you meet all the requirements and are patient, it’s possible to get your past mistakes forgiven.

In this blog post, we’re going to demystify the whole PA pardon process and provide clarity and guidance for anyone looking to move forward from their past. Additionally, we’ll discuss other frequently asked questions about the pardon application process, the Board of Pardons, the Governor’s role, and other steps you would take when seeking clemency in Pennsylvania.

What Is the Pardon Process in Pennsylvania?

The journey to obtaining a pardon in Pennsylvania is a multi-step process. It involves several stages, including the preliminary application, investigation, and hearing before the Board of Pardons. Let’s break down each step to understand better what it entails.

Step 1: Preparation for Submitting Any Clemency Applications

Before you even start the application process, know that there are things you need to do before formally starting the pardon process.

These are things like completing or serving a large portion of time toward your probation or parole sentence, paying off any outstanding fines and costs regarding the charges, or having a payment plan set up to do so.

Additionally, there is a waiting period of five years after the completion of your sentence before you can apply for a pardon.

Understand your Criminal Record

Before you submit your application, you need to fully understand your criminal history and criminal record. This information includes knowing the details about your conviction, your sentence, and any subsequent legal proceedings. If you are unsure of your criminal records and what you have been charged with, you can look up your record in the Judicial System of Pennsylvania’s web portal.

Obtain Necessary Documentation

Once you understand your criminal conviction history, you need to gather all required documents like court records and police records surrounding the charges. This will help you fill out your application thoroughly and accurately.

Step 2: Submitting Your Pardon Application

Once you have gathered all supporting documents and verified that you have completed the court requirements needed to move forward, you will then apply for clemency.

The application for the Commonwealth to grant clemency is as follows:

Complete the Pennsylvania Pardon Application

The application form can be downloaded from the Board of Pardons’ website. It’s crucial to have all court documents related to your criminal history, any character essays from those you know, other documentation of your achievements, and any other physical evidence of your personal positive changes in life and reflection of the crime. Fill it out accurately and honestly, ensuring every detail aligns with your official records.

Submit The Application

Once your application is complete, send it to the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. It’s advisable to keep copies of everything you send for your records.

Step 3: The Formal PA Pardon Application Review Process

a lawyer discussing something with a judge, with a gavel in the foreground

Once you have submitted the PA pardon application, it can take up to 2.5 years to formally begin the review process. Between waiting for any requested information, background checks, or any other necessary parts that need to happen, it can feel like it is taking much longer than necessary. However, once the Board receives your application for pardon, the final steps of the process begin.

The Review Process

After submission, your application undergoes several stages of review, including a formal interview, a background check by the Pennsylvania State Police, a district attorney, and a thorough evaluation by the Board of Pardons.

The Pardon’s Hearing

If your application passes the review process, you’ll be scheduled for a public hearing where you’ll be able to present your case. During the hearing, you will perform what’s called an applicant’s presentation for the board members, and answer questions that the board members might have for you regarding your criminal case.

Board of Pardons Vote

After the hearing, the Board of Pardons will carefully deliberate and assess many factors to determine whether you meet the criteria as a good candidate for clemency.

If the Board decides to approve your application, they will recommend your pardon to the Governor, who will ultimately make the decision. While it may seem long, this multi-step process ensures a thorough evaluation and consideration of your case.

Governor’s Decision

The final decision lies with the Governor’s pardon, a process through which they have the power to grant your pardon and clear your conviction.

If the Governor grants your pardon, not only will your record be expunged, but you will also receive a signed document from them as tangible proof of your pardon. This official document holds the power to restore your rights and provide a fresh start, ensuring that you can move forward with confidence.

You Don’t Have to Navigate the PA Pardon Process Alone. Call Marinaro Law for Help!

When it comes to starting your application for clemency in Pennsylvania, having an experienced pardon lawyer to help you through it can be beneficial. If you’re struggling with the PA pardon process, turn to us at Marinaro Law Firm. When you’re ready to kick start a path towards a clearer future, give us a call to set up a consultation today.


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