handcuffed prisoner holding paper behind bars

In Pennsylvania, if you are convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor, and you can not get your record expunged, you must get a pardon. A pardon is sometimes referred to as clemency or commutation. If someone is in custody serving a death sentence, they can ask to have their sentence commuted to a life sentence. If someone is serving a life sentence or a sentence to a term of years, you can ask to have your sentenced commuted, you would be released but have the conviction remain.

To get a pardon, commutation or clemency in Pennsylvania, you must fill out an application. After the application, you must wait to hear if you get a hearing. At the hearing you must get three yes votes to get a recommendation for the pardon or commutation.

In reviewing a case for a pardon, I consider four factors. The first three are: why does the person need a pardon, why does the person deserve a pardon, what has the person done to give back to society.

The fourth factor is the individual’s view of the crime that occurred. The individual can say either that the crime occurred and accept full responsibility for the act, or in the alternative deny the act and have the crime reinvestigated. Obviously, the latter would be exceedingly difficult to show but can absolutely provide a path for a pardon.

The Power to Pardon

The power to pardon by the governor is contained in the Pennsylvania Constitution in Article IV, Section 9, as follows:


§ 9. Pardoning power; Board of Pardons. (a) In all criminal cases except impeachment the Governor shall have power to remit fines and forfeitures, to grant reprieves, commutation of sentences and pardons; but no pardon shall be granted, nor sentence commuted, except on the recommendation in writing of a majority of the Board of Pardons, and, in the case of a sentence of death or life imprisonment, on the unanimous recommendation in writing of the Board of Pardons, after full hearing in open session, upon due public notice. The recommendation, with the reasons therefor at length, shall be delivered to the Governor and a copy thereof shall be kept on file in the office of the Lieutenant Governor in a docket kept for that purpose. (b) The Board of Pardons shall consist of the Lieutenant Governor who shall be chairman, the Attorney General and three members appointed by the Governor with the consent of a majority of the members elected to the Senate for terms of six years. The three members appointed by the Governor shall be residents of Pennsylvania. One shall be a crime victim, one a corrections expert and the third a doctor of medicine, psychiatrist or psychologist. The board shall keep records of its actions, which shall at all times be open for public inspection.

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.