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Milwaukee, WI 53202
Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP



Milwaukee Criminal Governor Pardon Attorney

Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Assist With Petitions for Pardons and Commutations in Wisconsin

Milwaukee WI pardon application lawyer Criminal arrests and charges can have far-reaching effects on a person’s life and career, and in many cases, people will struggle for many years to overcome the difficulties that come with a criminal conviction. A criminal record can affect your ability to find employment, obtain certain professional and municipal licenses, or own a firearm. There are a variety of postconviction options available for addressing these concerns, including an executive pardon from Wisconsin’s governor.

Unfortunately for people having Wisconsin state criminal convictions, they have absolutely no chance of getting a pardon from the current Republican Governor Scott Walker. Walker was elected in 2010, and holds office until January 2019. He is the first governor in Wisconsin’s history, since 1848, to outright refuse to exercise the state constitutional prerogative to consider or grant pardons or commutations, no matter how worthy a pardon an applicant might be to receive such.

The future for obtaining executive pardons and commutations has potentially gotten significantly better since Walker was defeated for reelection in November 2018. However, the Republican legislative majority is still trying to make this difficult, with legislation just rammed through in their lame duck session in December 2018 which limits the powers of the newly-elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.

Attorneys at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP are keeping close tabs on the rapid new developments in this fluid situation, and we can advise and help you understand your options and work with you to anticipate the legal requirements and timing for applying for a pardon, commutation, or expungement in the future.

Pardons for Wisconsin State Charges

In Wisconsin, a person who is convicted of a felony loses a number of civil rights, including:

  • The right to vote
  • The right to serve on a jury
  • The right to own or possess a firearm
  • The right to hold a public office
  • The right to obtain or continue holding certain professional licenses

After a person successfully completes their sentence, including serving time in prison and completing probation or parole, their rights to vote and serve as a member of a jury are automatically reinstated. However, the other rights can only be restored by receiving a pardon from the governor of Wisconsin, if postconviction efforts have failed to reverse the underlying conviction. Many licensed professions have self-reporting requirements for both felony and misdemeanor convictions. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP regularly handle postconviction motions, writs and appeals.

Pardons by the governor are available for state crimes. A presidential pardon is required for a federal criminal conviction. Pardons by the governor are normally not granted until a substantial period of time has elapsed since a defendant has completed his/her sentence, or for exceptional reasons, and the same usually holds true for presidential pardons of federal convictions. Commutations of sentence can be granted while the defendant is still serving his/her sentence. Pardons and commutations can be either full or partial, and are totally discretionary.

Until Scott Walker, Wisconsin governors appointed a Pardon Advisory Board, which reviewed pardon applications and made recommendations to the governor. Applications for executive clemency were made to the governor and were reviewed by the governor’s pardon counsel and the Pardon Advisory Board. Hopefully, newly-elected Governor Tony Evers will once again follow the long-time practice in Wisconsin of considering executive clemency applications.

When making decisions about whether to grant pardons or commutations (changing sentence length), the board and the governor have in the past considered several factors, including:

  • The seriousness of the criminal offense
  • The applicant’s previous criminal record
  • How much time has passed since the crime took place
  • The applicant’s rehabilitation since committing the crime, as well as any public service and involvement in their community
  • Whether there is a significant, documented need for a pardon

In pre-Walker times, when the constitutional duty of the governor to consider executive clemency was actually followed, the board advised the governor as to whether a pardon or commutation should be granted. The desire to clear one’s record was typically not considered enough on its own to warrant a pardon grant. A pardon was more likely to be granted if an applicant demonstrated that she or he was rehabilitated, and it was necessary in order to pursue education, receive job training, certification, licensing, or employment, or run for public office.

Commutations of sentence were granted in the pre-Walker days in cases in which a high minimum sentence had been imposed (e.g., life imprisonment) and where such sentence was having an adverse effect on the progress of a defendant who had made substantial rehabilitative improvements; or if the legislature has subsequently reduced the penalty for an offense; or where it seems certain that parole or release to extended supervision would be granted and there are compelling reasons to eliminate delay; or where a disproportionately harsh sentence had been imposed; or in exceptional cases, as a motivational tool towards further exceptional rehabilitation efforts, even though parole is unlikely or unavailable. Parole was abolished by the Wisconsin legislature for felonies committed after 1999.

Contact a Wisconsin Pardons Lawyer

Obtaining a pardon or commutation can make a huge difference in your life, allowing you to move on from the mistakes of your past. Given the shifting political landscape, when and how to apply, and developing the background information necessary for a successful application is of critical importance. At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP, our experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorneys can advise you of what is really happening in this area of the law, and counsel and represent your interests through the advance preparation and pardon application process, helping you try to achieve the fresh start you deserve. Contact us at 414-271-1440 to learn more about how we can help.

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