What is a Governor’s Pardon?

Filed under: Criminal Law by Contributor @ January 17, 2013

In Pennsylvania, misdemeanor and felony criminal convictions cannot be expunged until the offender: 1) Is 70 years old and has not been arrested for 10 years, or 2) Has been dead for three years. Except for these two instances, the courts are powerless to clear one’s record once convicted. However, the Governor of Pennsylvania may grant a pardon at any time, which would erase the conviction from the person’s record. The Courts then can expunge the arrest record. After that, it is as if the crime was never committed.

It is important to remember that even though there are no set rules for who receives a pardon, not everyone who applies for one will have it granted. The first step is to purchase an application from the state and fill it out with the help of an attorney. If all goes well you might be granted a hearing a year or more later. The five members of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons will vote on whether or not to recommend a pardon to the Governor. If the majority votes “yes”, the Governor will receive the pardon request, and can either approve or deny it. Most successful pardons are minor offenses (disorderly conduct, shoplifting, drugs, etc.) that occurred more than five years ago. For the Governor to pardon a serious conviction, usually several decades must have elapsed. Below is a list of the five general factors that Board members consider when deciding whether or not to recommend a pardon:

  • Length of time since the crime was committed
  • Applicant’s compliance with court-imposed requirements (probation, parole, fines, etc.)
  • Applicant’s rehabilitation since the crime was committed
  • The need for a pardon
  • Crime’s impact on the victim

The whole process usually takes 3-5 years. If you have been convicted of a crime and are considering applying for a pardon, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Fairlie & Lippy to discuss your case.


  1. Nicholas dappolonia says:

    I am applying for a Pardon for several felony convictions. I have the application and am very overwhelmed. I could use some help from somebody who has walked someone successfully throug the board of pardons before.

  2. Please call us at (215) 997-1000 or email at steve@fairlielaw.net and we’ll be happy to help you. Steve Fairlie

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