Virginia law allows incarcerated individuals to ask the Governor of Virginia for a conditional pardon. A conditional pardon allows the Governor to change or end a criminal sentence imposed by a court. In order to seek a conditional pardon, you must submit a petition to the Governor’s office.
We have started a project to find, train, and assign free lawyers for people incarcerated in Virginia, especially those people who are particularly endangered by the COVID-19 pandemic. You do not need a lawyer to ask for a conditional pardon, but a lawyer’s help may increase the chances of your petition being granted. We cannot guarantee that we can find an attorney for everyone who applies, but we will try. If we cannot find you an attorney, we will send you self-help materials that you can use to write your own petition for a conditional pardon.
A conditional pardon can only be granted by the Governor of Virginia, and the Governor has immense discretion to approve or deny petitions for conditional pardons. There is no deadline for when the Governor must make a decision on a conditional pardon petition, so there is no reliable way to predict how long the process will take. In the past, the Governor’s office has had very low approval rates for conditional pardon petitions, and has required “substantial evidence of extraordinary circumstances” before granting petitions. We believe the current crisis in Virginia’s prisons due to the COVID-19 pandemic is unquestionably an “extraordinary circumstance” and that this should cause the Governor to approve higher numbers of conditional pardons. To increase the chances of success, pardon petitions should include as much evidence as possible of unusual circumstances showing the need for the Governor to act.
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