Obama to the Rescue: Freedom Using Presidential Pardons
There’s always hope, even after being convicted of a serious federal crime. There are so many ways to build a new life after serving time in prison. A presidential pardon can restore certain civil rights that were lost due to a federal conviction.
Also known as clemency, a presidential pardon may help alleviate the stigma of a federal criminal conviction. It is important to note that a pardon does not expunge or erase a federal conviction. A pardoned offender must still disclose the conviction on any form or application where such information is required.
Most petitions for a presidential pardon should be submitted to the Office of the Pardon Attorney at the Department of Justice. Pardon petitions related to military offenses must be submitted to the relevant military branch where the conviction occurred. The following information and procedures should be carefully reviewed prior to submitting an application to receive a presidential pardon:
- All forms and supporting documentation must be complete, accurate, legible and notarized.
- The material should be typed or printed in ink.
The President of the United States can only pardon federal convictions as authorized by the U.S. Constitution. This includes convictions adjudicated by United States District courts, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and military court martial proceedings. The pardon of state criminal convictions should be directed to the governor or designated government agency in the state where the conviction occurred.
Federal Pardon Requirements
There is a five-year waiting period to obtain executive clemency for a federal conviction. The applicant must clearly demonstrate that they have become a responsible member of society during the required waiting period. The waiting period begins when the petitioner is released from confinement or the date of sentencing if the applicant received an alternative sentence such as community service or home confinement. The following additional requirements also pertain to presidential pardons:
- All parole or probation requirements must be satisfied prior to submitting a presidential pardon petition. Requests to have the waiting period waived are seldom granted.
- The reason and purpose for requesting a presidential pardon must be clearly stated on the required federal form. The applicant must demonstrate how executive clemency is necessary to achieve the stated purpose. Supporting documentation, relevant government regulations and other professional documentation should be appended to the pardon petition.
- Generally speaking, a presidential pardon is an act of official forgiveness. It is essential that the petitioner accept full responsibility for the crime that resulted in conviction. Executive clemency does not represent a declaration of vindication.
- Petitioners with multiple federal convictions are not eligible for a presidential pardon until they have completed the waiting period for the most recent conviction. The application must include information about all convictions and be completely accurate.
Presidential Pardons For Military Convictions
Presidential pardons for military court martial convictions should be submitted to the secretary of the relevant military branch. A presidential pardon petitioner is required to provide information about additional federal, military, civilian or foreign arrests.