Frequently Asked Questions:
How does the pardon review process work?
- Initial Review: Applications are first reviewed for eligibility and completeness. Applicants are notified if they are ineligible. If their applications are incomplete, they are provided an opportunity to submit the missing materials. Due to the large volume of applications, this may take several months.
- Supplemental Review: If an applicant is eligible and their application is complete, their application is placed in line to be considered by the Pardon Advisory Board. During this time, applications receive a second, more thorough review. It is possible that a person initially deemed eligible can be identified as ineligible after supplemental review. In that case, the applicant is notified that their application will no longer be considered.
- Hearing: Most applicants will be scheduled for a hearing in front of the Board. This typically has taken about 13-14 months from the date the application is received. Applicants will be notified about a month in advance that they have been scheduled for a hearing and will be provided with the logistical details. Hearings are open to the public and may be held virtually or in-person. Applicants must be present for their hearing and may appear for virtual hearings by video or telephone. If an applicant has an unavoidable conflict, the hearing may be rescheduled to a later month. Each applicant will appear before the Board for approximately 15 minutes. Board members may ask the applicant questions about the offense, how their sentence went, what they have done since the completion of their sentence, and why they think they should receive a pardon, as well as for further information about anything revealed in background checks or disclosed on the application.
- Final Decision: After a hearing, the Board will vote either to recommend an applicant for pardon or not. If the applicant is recommended by a majority of the Board members present, the Governor then reviews that application and makes the final decision on whether to grant a pardon or not. If an applicant does not receive a majority vote of the Board, then that application is not forwarded to the Governor for consideration, and the applicant is denied. Applicants are notified of the final decision on their application about a month after their hearing.
- Expedited Review: Select applications for older, low-level felony offenses may be placed on an expedited review track. These applications undergo the same thorough review process but are not scheduled for a hearing. Instead, upon the recommendation for pardon by the Chair of the Board, these applications are sent directly to the Governor for consideration. If the Chair does not recommend a pardon, the applicant is scheduled for a hearing and their application will proceed through the standard review process. Similarly, select applications involving violent or repeat offenses may be placed on an expedited review track and denied without a hearing. Expedited applicants will be notified of the final decision.
- Reapplying: There is no appeal process for denials or ineligibility determinations. However, a denied applicant can reapply 18 months after their denial. Ineligible applicants may reapply once they are eligible.
Am I eligible for a pardon?
You are eligible for a pardon only if all of the following conditions apply to you:
1. You are seeking a pardon for a Wisconsin felony conviction.
2. It has been at least five (5) years since you finished any criminal sentence. This means you:
a. Completed all confinement; and
b. Completed all supervised release (e.g., probation, parole, or extended supervision).
3. You do not have any pending criminal cases or charges in any jurisdiction.
4. You are not currently required to register as a sex offender.
I do not meet the eligibility criteria. May I ask that some or all the eligibility criteria be waived in my case?
No, eligibility criteria are mandatory and cannot be waived. If you are unsure if you meet the requirements or have a unique situation, questions can be emailed to GOVPardons@wisconsin.gov for clarification. However, to receive a final decision on eligibility, you must submit a complete application.
The pardon application says only felony convictions are eligible. What if I have a misdemeanor conviction associated with the felony that I am seeking a pardon for?
Misdemeanor convictions will only be considered if they were resolved at the same time as the felony conviction. This means the misdemeanor must be listed on the same judgement of conviction or have the same sentencing date as the felony. If an applicant wants their eligible misdemeanor(s) considered by the Board, the applicant must include certified copies of the criminal complaint(s) and judgement of conviction(s). The Board is not considering individuals convicted solely of misdemeanors.
Are applications on behalf of deceased individuals eligible for pardon?
Do I have to be a United States citizen to be eligible for a pardon?
Is there a deadline to apply?
No. The application process is open, and applications are considered on a rolling basis.
Is there a fee for filing a pardon application?
No. But there may be court fees associated with obtaining some of the documents required to accompany the application.
Can an attorney or someone else help me complete the application?
Yes. You do not need an attorney to complete a pardon application or represent you at a hearing. However, you may hire one at your own expense. Free or low-cost assistance with the pardon process is available through the Milwaukee Justice Center Mobile Legal Clinic, Legal Action of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Judicare.
Is a pardon the same thing as an expungement?
No. A pardon is a grant of forgiveness from the Governor that can restore certain civil rights and privileges and relieve some legal disabilities. An expungement is granted by a judge and results in a conviction being sealed from public records. A pardon does not seal a record, but public records would be updated to include the pardon.
Is the Pardon Advisory Board the same as the Parole Commission?
No, parole and pardons are different. The Pardon Advisory Board reviews eligible pardon applications and makes recommendations to the Governor on who to grant a pardon to. Only the governor can grant a pardon for a Wisconsin conviction. The Wisconsin Parole Commission is an independent commission that reviews requests for parole or early release from prison for sentences handed down for crimes committed before Dec. 31, 1999. The Governor does not have the power to parole people.
What if I already requested a pardon from a prior administration or submitted an application form from a prior administration?
You must re-apply using the current pardon application established by the Office of Governor Evers. In the interests of uniformity and fairness, only applications that have been completed using the current form will be processed and considered by the Board.
I applied and was deemed ineligible under the original eligibility criteria. But now that the eligibility criteria have changed, can my application be reconsidered?
Yes. To be reconsidered, applicants must submit the current application form but are not required to re-submit certified court documents or re-notify the DA's office and clerk of courts. Once your application is received, your file will be reopened and placed under supplemental review.
What if I already applied using another version of Governor Evers' pardon application form and am awaiting a hearing?
No action is needed from you. The 2019 version of the pardon application form will be accepted until October 15, 2021. After October 15, 2021, applicants will be required to use the updated, 2021 version of the pardon application form. You will be notified if your application is rejected or requires additional materials.
Where can I obtain certified copies of the requested court records?
You should contact the clerk of court's criminal records division in the county of your conviction. The clerk may charge fees associated with photocopying and certifying the court documents you need. Certified copies are marked with a stamp or separate certification page indicating that the clerk verified the documents' authenticity and accuracy. Uncertified copies will not be accepted.
What if the clerk of courts cannot find copies of the requested documents?
Ask the clerk to mail a letter explaining that the records have been lost/destroyed to:
Office of the Governor
Attn: Pardon Advisory Board
PO Box 7863
Madison, WI 53707
Must my application be notarized?
Yes, you must have your application signed and stamped by a licensed notary public. Notaries can typically be found at the bank, the post office, or the courthouse. Remote notarization (i.e., through videoconferencing) is also available.
Should I submit letters of recommendation?
Yes, letters of recommendation are strongly encouraged though not required. These can be from whomever you wish, including family, friends, coworkers, or community members. It is best to include these letters as part of your application. By having people independently send letters after submission of your application packet we are unable to guarantee that those supplementary materials will be included in the review of your application. Letters of recommendation do not need to be notarized.
Am I required to notify the victim in my case of the fact that I am applying for pardon?
Will the victim have a say in my application?
Yes, the perspectives and opinions of victims will be an important consideration for the Pardon Advisory Board.
Can I email my completed pardon application instead of mailing it?
No, you must mail your completed application to the address provided in the application. Please make sure to retain a copy of your completed application for your own records.
What factors does the Pardon Advisory Board consider?
All eligible applicants will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The following factors may be considered:
- The seriousness of and circumstances surrounding an applicant's criminal offenses.
- An applicant's entire criminal record.
- How an applicant's sentence went and whether restitution has been paid.
- How much time has passed since the offense occurred.
- Input and opinions from the DA, court, victim, or other community members.
- An applicant's personal development and progress since the crime was committed, such as:
- Employment history, training, education, community service, and civic activities.
- Letters of recommendation documenting firsthand knowledge of an applicant's development and progress.
- If an applicant has a significant and documented need for a pardon, such as employment, schooling, job training, or the desire to hold public office.
- If applicable and possible, an applicant should submit a letter from a prospective employer, licensing agency, school, or training program to demonstrate this need.
- If applicable and possible, the applicant should provide written documentation of significant steps taken in pursuit of the sought employment, schooling, job training, or public office.
- Undocumented or over-generalized claims that an applicant needs a pardon will generally be insufficient to warrant pardon.
What is the Pardon Advisory Board's contact information?
Application materials should be mailed to:
Office of the Governor
Attn: Pardon Advisory Board
PO Box 7863
Madison, WI 53707
Questions or requests for an update in application status may be emailed to GOVPardons@wisconsin.gov. If you do not have access to email, you can call (608) 266-1212. Milwaukee area applicants are encouraged to call (414) 227-4344. However, details regarding when exactly your application may be reviewed, what the “chances" are for your application, or other related inquiries will not be answered by staff.