A pardon is the action of an executive official of the government that mitigates or sets aside the punishment for a crime. A pardon strikes the conviction from the books as if it had never occurred, and the convicted person is treated as innocent. In Pennsylvania, pardons can only be granted by the Governor.

There are no minimum eligibility requirements to apply for a pardon, but the Board of Pardons provides a list of factors it may consider in its decision, which include: the time elapsed since the offense, the applicant’s compliance with all court requirements, positive changes in the applicant’s life since the offense, prejudice the applicant has faced as a result of having the conviction on their record, and the impact on victims of the offense. The Board recommends that an individual seeking a pardon wait at least five years from the completion of their sentence before filing an application for a pardon.

What is PLSE Doing?

As of fall 2018, PLSE has a couple of projects in the works to help those applying for a pardon. First, PLSE is working on establishing Pardon Hubs across the city. You can read more about the hubs here. Second, PLSE is finishing its PardonMe™ app with help from the Drexel ExCITe Center. Read more about the app here. Stay tuned for more information!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I file an application?

The first step in applying for a pardon in Pennsylvania is buying an application from the PA Board of Pardons. The application costs $8 and can be purchased online or through the mail. The application requires an applicant to submit their Pennsylvania Criminal History Record ($20) and a full copy of their Certified Driving record ($30), among other things, as part of the application. For a complete list of application requirements, click here.

After the application is completed there is a $25 fee to file it with the Board of Pardons.

Q. What happens after I file an application?

The filed application is forwarded to the Board of Probation and Parole who conducts the investigation into the application and the underlying offense for which the pardon is sought.

The applicant for a pardon must make themselves available for an interview in their home by a Parole Agent. Next, the pardon application is sent to the Board of Pardons, where a 2 of the 5 Board members must elect to grant a hearing.

Hearings are held in Harrisburg. The hearings are open to the public and consist of the applicant’s presentation, followed by any speakers the applicant wishes to bring in support of their application, and anyone who wants to speak in opposition to the application.

If a majority of the Board votes in favor of the pardon, the application is then forwarded to the governor who may grant or deny the petition at his or her discretion.

Q. How long does it take?

Currently it takes approximately 3 years from the receipt of an application until the Board is able to review it and decide whether to grant a hearing on the application.

Q. How many people get pardons?

It is not known what percentage of pardon applications are granted, but some statistics are available on the Board of Pardons website.

Q. My pardon was granted! Now what?

The Governor’s grant of a pardon does not end the process. To remove the pardoned offense from the applicant’s criminal record, a petition for expungement must be filed by the applicant in the court where the conviction occurred. A copy of the pardon must be attached to the petition for expungement.

Q. Can PLSE help with my Pardon?

Currently, PLSE does not represent individuals seeking pardons. However, PLSE is in the process on establishing Pardon Hubs across the city. Check back here in the spring to see if they open. You can read more about the pardon hubs here.

Other Resources

Erasing Your Criminal Record: How to Get a Pardon in Pennsylvania, Community Legal Services, June 2013

Q & A on the Pardon Process, University of Pennsylvania Law School, 2012