Pardons in Wisconsin 101

What is a pardon?
A pardon is forgiveness by the governor for a crime previously committed. A pardon is different from expungement, where the record is completely removed as if it never occurred. A pardon restores legal rights associated with a conviction; for example, a previously convicted felon can have their gun rights restored upon the issuance of a pardon. A pardoned conviction remains on an individual’s record and remains on CCAP (unless otherwise requested), with the noted caveat that this conviction/individual has been granted a pardon by the governor. Pardon eligibility differs by state.

History of pardons in Wisconsin
From 1977 through 2014 986 individuals have been pardoned according to the Office of the Secretary of State. Governor Scott Walker did not review nor grant any pardons during his 8-year term despite the thousands of applications his office had received. Since Governor Tony Evers took office in 2019, he has issued 263 pardons, which puts him on track to pardon more individuals during his first term than ANY governor in recent U.S. history. Governor Evers supports the pardon process, as evident by his continuing orders to expand the process and issue pardons to deserving individuals.

Most importantly, is finding out if you may be eligible for a pardon. As of September 2021, Governor Evers yet again expanded eligibility requirements. So long as you meet the following requirements, you are eligible to apply for a pardon.

  1. You are seeking a pardon for a Wisconsin Felony Conviction.
  2. It has been at least five years since you finished any criminal sentence.
  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.
    Prior to the recent executive order on pardons by Governor Evers, individuals with ANY subsequent criminal convictions, including criminal traffic convictions, were ineligible. Now the eligibility has been expanded to allow those individuals to apply for relief so long as there are no pending charges and it has been five years since that individual has completed that subsequent sentence(s). Individuals who had previously applied and were denied on these grounds are now eligible to reapply.

If you are eligible for a pardon, you will also need to show a documented need. Examples of considerations of a documented need are: an employment, educational or job training need. Additional considerations are: your age, seriousness of your conviction(s), extent of your need, your entire criminal record, your personal development since your crimes were committed, any community or civic contributions, and any other relevant considerations.

The full pardon process in Wisconsin
The information below is taken directly from the Governor’s website on pardons:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. Expedited applicants will be notified of the final decision.

Petit & Dommershausen, SC, can assist with pardon application preparation, call us today at 920-739-9900 for your free phone consultation. A blog post prepared by Attorneys Britteny Koenig & Dylan Gehrtz.