Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has pardoned over 400 people in his three years in office. This means that over 400 people have had their criminal charge “forgiven” by the governor and cannot be further prosecuted for that charge. A pardon does not seal the conviction, but it can relieve legal disabilities and restore rights to those that were convicted of the felony. These rights can include the right to hold public office, obtain professional licenses, and the ability to purchase or possess firearms. The Governor’s Pardon Advisory Board oversees reviewing eligible pardon applications to make recommendations to Gov. Evers. You are eligible for a pardon if you meet all the criteria outlined by the Board:
· You are seeking a pardon for a Wisconsin felony conviction;
· It has been at least five years since you finished a criminal sentence, meaning
you completed all confinement and supervised release;
· You do not have any pending criminal cases or charges; and
· You are not currently required to register as a sex offender.
These eligibility criteria are mandatory and must be met to qualify for a pardon. If you have already applied for a pardon during a prior administration, you must submit the current Governor’s pardon application to be eligible. Once you submit your pardon, you enter the pardon review process, which can be lengthy. There is no appeal process for a denial, but a denied applicant can reapply 18 months after their denial. Therefore, it is imperative to be diligent during the steps of the review process. The review process includes:
1. Initial Review: In this stage, the applications are reviewed for eligibility and completeness. If an applicant is ineligible, the process ends here. It may take several months for this stage to be complete.
2. Supplemental Review: If an application makes it through the initial review, it is queued for review by the Board. This stage is considered a more thorough review. If an applicant is deemed ineligible by the Board review the process ends and the application is rejected.
3. Hearing: Most applicants will be notified about a month in advance that they have been scheduled for a hearing in front of the Board. The hearings are open to the public, and the applicant must be present for about 15 minutes. The applicants may be questioned on anything related to the felony charge or their life since being convicted.
4. Final Decision: In this stage, the Board will vote to recommend an application for the Governor to review and make the final decision.
In some cases, Executive Order #130 can apply, in which an expedited review process is used for applications that meet stricter criteria such as a greater length of time having elapsed since sentence completion, or the nonviolent nature of the offenses. In this situation, the application is reviewed by the Board, and sent directly to the Governor for review without a hearing.
There are many factors that the Board will consider when reviewing your case including the opinions of all involved, the personal development of the applicant, and if the applicant has a specific need for pardon. Due to the complex nature of the pardon process, it might be advisable to hire an attorney to guide you through the process and represent you at any hearing process that might arise.