Filing Of An Application:
When an application is received at the Board of Pardons office and is found to be complete and accurate, it is considered "filed." A letter will be sent to confirm the filing of the application. If incomplete, it will not be considered filed until all requirements have been fulfilled. There is a $25.00 filing fee, payable as noted above.
Filing an application to commute a Death sentence to Life imprisonment entails special procedures. No filing fee is charged, the presentation may last thirty minutes, and every filed capital application is granted a public hearing. A capital applicant must submit five copies of every pertinent piece of material at least ten days prior to the date of hearing.
After an application has been filed, a copy of the application is sent to the following interested parties: Board of Probation and Parole – Agents from the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole conduct investigations for the Board of Pardons. They investigate the facts surrounding the crime(s) for which you are requesting a pardon and prepare a report concerning your present personal status. You will be contacted by a Parole Agent to arrange a meeting in your home and provide the Parole Agent with needed information. The following is a list of items you will need to gather in advance of the meeting with the investigating Agent:
- Residence: rental agreement, mortgage statements, rent receipts, etc. as applicable;
- Marital Status and Family Composition: marriage decrees, divorce decrees, birth and or death certificates, etc. as applicable;
- Employment: pay stubs, W2's, evidence of income to include alimony, unemployment, VA benefits, etc. as applicable;
- Resources: investment statements, life insurance policies, checking and savings account statements, total family income, value of all property to include vehicles, vacation property, rental property; etc. as applicable;
- Liabilities and Indebtedness: loan statements, mortgage statements, installment (credit card) statements, delinquency on any utilities, etc. as applicable;
- Membership in Organizations and/or other Civic Organizations: membership cards for any volunteer, civic, church related organizations, etc. as applicable;
- Religious interests: interests and activities of the Applicant, as applicable;
- Mobility and Travel: addresses and dates of residences for the past ten years;
- Employment History: record of jobs held for the past ten years as shown by W2's, pay stubs, etc. as applicable;
- Educational History: history of education as shown by diplomas, certificates, transcripts, etc. as applicable;
- Military Service: branch of service, dates of entry and discharge, type of discharge, rank attained as shown by a DD-214; as applicable;
- Community Reputation and Reference: names and contact information of at least 3-5 references to be contacted by the investigating Agent, or letters of support.
* Before submitting your application, please be sure that you are willing to make yourself available to the investigating agent and provide the above requested information. The Board determines these requirements and you must adhere to them. Failure to make yourself available to the agent and provide the above requested information will result in your application being administratively withdrawn.
Department of Corrections – This agency is responsible for preparing a report for incarcerated individuals only.
The District Attorney, sentencing Judge/President Judge, sentencing Magisterial District Judge/current Magisterial District Judge in the county where the crime occurred. In cases involving more than one jurisdiction, a copy will also go to the appropriate Judge/Magisterial District Judge, and District Attorney in that county. These individuals are given a chance to provide an opinion on the merits of the application.
Once all of the necessary reports have been received, the Board Secretary and staff will send to each Board Member in advance an applicant’s file to be reviewed for a hearing. The Board will grant a hearing if two (2) of the five Board members approve. Hearings for lifers or prisoners serving time for crimes of violence may only be granted upon approval of three (3) Board members. Attempted crimes of violence are included in this and offenses committed while in visible possession of a firearm, for which sentencing was imposed, will also require a three (3) member vote. If the required number of votes are not obtained, the process has ended and the applicant will not receive a pardon/commutation.
If a hearing is granted, the following individuals/agencies will be notified of the time and place of the hearing:
A calendar is prepared, listing each application to be heard at the specified public session. It is distributed to all interested parties in advance of the public session.
- Board of Probation and Parole
- Department of Corrections (If incarcerated)
- District Attorney, Judge/Magisterial District Judge
- Victim(s) or survivor(s)
- Newspaper in the county where an applicant committed the crime(s) for which he/she is seeking clemency. At least one week prior to the public hearing, notice must be published stating the applicant’s name, the crimes(s) with respect to which the applicant has applied for clemency, clemency type, the institution, if any, in which the applicant is confined and the time and place of the hearing at which the application will be heard. Newspaper publication is required for every application to be heard by the Board.
The Hearing: Hearings are held in the Supreme Court Courtroom in Harrisburg. The Board meets on a regular basis, as determined by the Board. On the scheduled day, the Board convenes at 9:00 A.M. for morning sessions or 1:00 P.M. for afternoon sessions. The Board's secretary will call the session to order and the Board's chairman will present opening remarks. Following the opening remarks, the first case, as listed on the calendar, is called to present their case. No more than fifteen minutes is allowed for each applicant's presentation. Each case is called in consecutive order with each informal presentation adhering to the following format:
- Applicant's presentation
- Supportive speakers' presentation
- Victim's and/or victim's family’s presentation or anyone who would like to speak in opposition of the application
Following the public hearing session, the Board meets in Executive Session. The Board reconvenes to vote in public. If a majority of the Board vote in favor of an application, the Board recommends favorable action to the Governor. If less than a majority of the Board vote in favor, the result is a denial by the Board and the application is not forwarded to the Governor. Life or Death sentence cases require a unanimous vote by the Board to be recommended to the Governor. The Governor, at his discretion, may approve or disapprove any favorable recommendation submitted by the Board. When the Secretary of the Board has received the Governor's action, all interested parties will be notified of the decision.
Post Result Actions:
Reconsideration - A request for reconsideration of any decision may be made to the Board. The applicant must show a change in circumstances since the application was filed, or other compelling reasons, sufficient to justify reconsideration. Dissatisfaction with the Board's decision is not grounds to request reconsideration.
Reapplication – An application may not be filed before the expiration of 12 months from a final adverse decision on any prior application. If an application receives two consecutive adverse decisions, an application may not be filed before the expiration of 24 months from the last adverse decision.