2020 PA Board of Pardons Year in Review

2020 PA Board of Pardons Year in Review

2020 was an incredible year – not just because most of it was spent in lock-down, but also because of changes in the Pardon Process.

Forced to move on-line because of Corona, the Pardon Board continued to review and vote on Pardon Applications. And they reviewed and voted on more applications than ever before. 

One of the first Zoom session held online crashed the system. Everyone was learning new technology and upgrading their technical capabilities. After that first crash, the Board of Pardons kept their sessions up and running. The Board of Pardons now has live streaming so that citizens can watch the public presentations and merit review sessions. Here is their schedule for the first half of 2021:

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting
Thursday, March 4, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting
Friday, March 5, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting
Thursday, May 6, 2021 – Merit Review Session – Skype Session 3:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 23, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting
Thursday, June 24, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting
Friday, June 25, 2021 – Public Hearing – Zoom Meeting

Getting back to a summary of the Board’s activity in 2020:

The highlights are that the Board recommended 458 pardons to the Governor (wow!), and the Governor has issued 124 pardons! There are 445 Pardons that have been recommended to the Governor, but are waiting for review (and hopefully sign).  It is believed that Governor Wolf will sign most, if not all, of these recommended Pardons, but he has a lot on his plate right now.

​Applications Merit Reviewed ​742
​Applications Heard at Public Hearings ​653
​Pardons Recommended ​458
​Commutation of Life Recommended ​13
​Pardons Denied ​70
​Applications Held Under Advisement by Board ​4
Applications Recommended to Governor 570
Pardons Granted by Governor ​124
Commutation of Life Granted by Governor ​1
​Total Applications Granted by Governor ​125
​Total Applications Denied by Governor ​0
​Applications Pending Governor Action ​445

Keep in mind that once these Pardons issue, the Dockets need to be expunged. Expungement is a different legal process by Petition in the County of Conviction.  Each docket needs to be expunged (all the charges on one docket are expunged by the one petition).  However, if numerous criminal dockets have been pardoned – each needs an expungement petition.  When the County Judge signs an expungement petition, the Pennsylvania State Police update the Criminal Repository to remove the criminal record. It is also removed from the UJS portal where it is publicly viewable.

The great benefits of a pardon once it is issued and expunged:

  1. A pardon relieves any legal disability resulting from a conviction. These disabilities include, but are not limited to:

    • The right to vote (only incarcerated felons suffer this disability in Pennsylvania, this varies by state)

    • The right to be a juror

    • The right to hold a public office

    • The right to bear arms

    • The opportunity to serve in the military

    • The right to obtain/carry a firearm

    • The right to travel internationally

Another positive benefit that came from 2020 and the Corona Crisis – politicians and business leaders are understanding and discussing the financial damage that a criminal conviction can inflict on a person’s earning capacity.  As we get ready to recover and re-open after the lockdown, our leaders want every citizen to be earning and contributing at optimal levels.  This economic argument makes perfect sense, but has been a long time in coming. Now it’s here and being discussed!

So all things considered, 2020 was a huge success for the Governor and the Board of Pardons, in spite of Corona. 2021 looks to be a great year of moving forward and accelerating everyone’s growth!

Mark F. Walmer, Esq.


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