Do You Need an Attorney to Apply for a Pardon in Pennsylvania?
Navigating the complex legal maze surrounding the pardon process in Pennsylvania can often feel overwhelming. You've paid your dues to society, changed your ways, and are now looking to clear your name, but the path ahead seems fraught with bureaucratic hurdles and legal jargon.
A seasoned attorney can help guide you through the intricacies of the pardon process. While having an attorney represent you in a pardon application is not legally required, their knowledge and experience can significantly increase your chances of success.
Overview of the Pardon Process in PA
The pardon process in Pennsylvania begins with submitting an application to the Board of Pardons. This board, comprised of five members, reviews the applications and determines which will be recommended to the governor. It is a meticulous process requiring thoroughness on the applicant's part. An attorney can assist in preparing a compelling application that fully represents your case and improves your chances of receiving a pardon.
Key elements of the pardon application include:
- Full details of the crime committed
- Details on the sentence served and restitution paid
- Information about your life after conviction, including employment, education, and community involvement
- Personal letters of recommendation
After the application submission, there may be an investigation and a hearing. The investigation involves a detailed examination of the information provided in the application, and the hearing is a chance for the applicant to present their case directly. If the board votes in favor, the recommendation for pardon is sent to the governor, who makes the final decision. The board's decision is not legally binding on the governor but carries significant weight. The entire process can be lengthy, often taking two to three years or more, so patience and preparedness are key.
Why Having an Attorney Can Increase Your Chances of Getting a Pardon
An attorney experienced in pardon applications can bring a wealth of knowledge and insights to your case. They understand the nuances of the legal system and have a strong grasp of what the Pardon Board looks for in an application. Armed with this knowledge, they can help craft an application that cogently and persuasively communicates your story, maximizes your strengths, and addresses potential areas of concern. In essence, having an attorney is akin to having a seasoned guide who helps you navigate a complex and potentially treacherous terrain.
The role of an attorney in the pardon process is multifaceted, and their involvement can significantly enhance the quality of your application.
Here are a few ways an attorney can assist:
- Documentation: An attorney can help compile all the necessary documentation required for the pardon application, ensuring that no critical detail is overlooked.
- Application preparation: A well-written application can significantly increase your chances of success. Attorneys can help articulate your story in a way that resonates with the board members, effectively highlighting any mitigating circumstances, demonstrating remorse, and showcasing your rehabilitation efforts.
- Hearing representation: Having an attorney by your side can be invaluable if your application makes it to the hearing stage. They can prepare you for the hearing, helping you understand what to expect and how best to present your case.
- Follow-ups: An attorney can also assist with any follow-ups required after submitting your application, keeping you informed of any updates or additional requirements.
While it's true that the pardon application process in Pennsylvania can be a lengthy and complex journey, having an attorney by your side can significantly alleviate the stress and confusion associated with it. They can provide the guidance needed to navigate this process effectively, increase the chances of a successful outcome, and ultimately help you leave your past behind and start anew.
How long does the pardon process take?
The length of the pardon process in Pennsylvania varies greatly and depends on several factors. These can include the nature and severity of the crime for which the pardon is being sought, the completeness and persuasiveness of the pardon application, and the current workload of the Board of Pardons. However, it typically takes two to three years from application submission to a final decision. Keep in mind that this is a general timeframe, and some cases may take longer.
It's important to note that the process involves numerous steps and potential delays. These steps include a thorough review of the application by the Board of Pardons, a possible investigation, a hearing, and finally, a decision by the governor. Each stage can take considerable time, and applicants are advised to be patient and prepared for a lengthy process. Undertaking the process with an attorney can help ensure you have all the necessary information and documentation, potentially speeding up the process and increasing your chances of a successful outcome.
Can I expedite my pardon application?
The Pardons Board does have an expedited review process for certain individuals involving certain offenses. According to the Board’s website, the purpose of the expedited review process is, “To identify potentially meritorious candidates who demonstrate minimal criminal history and a consistent period of law-abiding behavior, and who otherwise present a low risk of re-offending and/or danger to the community, such that their applications may be expedited through the normal investigative and review process.” In short, if the applicant has not been convicted of certain serious offenses, if the applicant has waited 5 years from the applicant's last contact with the criminal justice system, and if the applicant has only one case and the case is for retail theft or a low level marijuana case, then the applicant may be eligible for expedited review. For a case other than a retail theft or low-level marijuana case the applicant must wait for 10 years from his last contact with the criminal justice system and for two or more cases must wait for 15 years from his last contact with the criminal justice system to be eligible for expedited review.
Can I apply for a pardon if I have multiple convictions?
Yes, you can apply for a pardon even with multiple convictions. Each conviction is considered separately by the Board of Pardons. Therefore, it's possible to receive a pardon for one conviction and not for another. However, it's important to note that the board will take into account the nature and severity of each conviction when making their decision. Having an attorney at your disposal can help you prepare a comprehensive and persuasive application for each conviction, significantly boosting your chances of receiving a pardon.
Can I apply for a pardon if I have completed my sentence?
Yes, in fact, having completed your sentence is a prerequisite for applying for a pardon in Pennsylvania. The pardon process is intended for individuals who have fully served their sentence, including any probation or parole. The process is typically about demonstrating rehabilitation and committing to a law-abiding life after conviction. Your attorney can assist in presenting evidence of your rehabilitation, including letters of recommendation, proof of steady employment, or evidence of community involvement. It's crucial to remember that the Board of Pardons is interested in how you've changed and improved your life post-conviction, so a compelling application will effectively illustrate these transformative changes.
Hiring Competent Legal Counsel for Your Pardon Application
Choosing the right attorney to assist with your pardon application is a crucial step in your journey toward clearing your name. The legal professional you select should not only have extensive experience and a solid track record in handling pardon applications but also a deep understanding of your personal circumstances, needs, and goals. They should be able to provide personalized, comprehensive legal counsel and guide you through each stage of the process, ensuring that you are well informed and confident in your decisions.
Remember, applying for a pardon is not merely about filling out paperwork; it's about presenting a compelling story of your transformation and commitment to a better future. At Scaringi Law, our team has handled numerous pardon applications, helping individuals regain their freedom and reputation. Our commitment to excellence, compassionate approach, and dedication to achieving the best possible outcome for our clients sets us apart from other law firms.
If you or a loved one is considering applying for a pardon in Pennsylvania, don't hesitate to contact us at (717) 775-7195 or fill out our online form. Our experienced attorneys will review your case and provide honest, straightforward legal advice.