Generally, Pennsylvania misdemeanor and felony convictions cannot be expunged from a criminal record. People often want to clear a criminal record to increase the likelihood of obtaining a job or be approved for professional licensing, and other people want to restore constitutional rights that were lost as a result of a conviction, such as the right to vote or possess firearms.
While a person cannot expunge a misdemeanor or felony conviction in Pennsylvania, there is a process that may allow for the expungement of the charges and restoration of constitutional rights. It is called a pardon.
A pardon is basically the setting aside of a criminal conviction. If a person receives a Pennsylvania pardon of a criminal conviction, the charge is basically treated as if it were dismissed, which allows a person to seek expungement of those charges so that they do not appear on future background searches.
Also, a pardon generally allows for the restoration of rights or privileges that may have been suspended based upon the conviction. For example, convictions of some DUI offenses and domestic violence misdemeanor offenses prohibit a person from possessing a firearm. A Pennsylvania pardon would generally restore a person's right to possess a firearm unless the pardon expressly excluded the restoration of that right.
The Pardon Process in Pennsylvania
Pardons are technically granted by the Pennsylvania governor, but the governor can only grant a pardon that is recommended by the Board of Pardons. The Pennsylvania Constitution, at Article IV, § 9, establishes the membership of the Board of Pardons and gives the governor the authority to grant pardons if the required number of members of the Board provide the required recommendation. Therefore, the Board of Pardons has a tremendous amount of power and authority in the process.
In order to be considered for a pardon in Pennsylvania, the first step is to complete and submit an application. The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons considers various factors in determining whether a pardon should be granted or denied.
Should I Consult an Attorney About A Pardon? Yes.
While an attorney is not required to request a pardon, you should consult with an experienced pardon attorney. A pardon lawyer knows the types of things to emphasize to the Board and thereby increase the likelihood that the pardon will be granted.
State College criminal defense lawyer Jason S. Dunkle does not handle pardons, but he can refer you to a fellow defense lawyer who has extensive experience in such matters. Call 814-954-1094 or send him an email.