Understanding Executive Clemency Powers Through Presidential Pardon Limits

Executive clemency powers garnered increased media attention lately. President Donald Trump pardoned several convicts so far to rectify perceived injustices in their convictions or sentences.

The Presidential Pardon Limits as a Check on the Criminal Justice System

In addition, some analysts speculate that he could expand Presidential Pardon Limits. For instance, allegations of illegal campaign activities generated speculation that the president might give Presidential Pardon for political gain.

The recent debate on the extent of the presidential pardon limits does not diminish its benefits for convicted persons. Increased attention on this form of clemency highlights how the president can use it to right perceived wrongs. Learn more about how the president can use this power and what it means for those convicted of a federal crime.

The Authority to Grant a Presidential Pardon and Exceptions

According to Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the president may pardon those who committed crimes against the United States. Above all, the presidential pardon limits only applies to federal crimes. State governors address state criminal convictions. Each state follows its own process concerning pardon applications.

In almost all cases, misdemeanors do not qualify for a pardon. The only exception is for misdemeanor crimes involving civil rights violations against the defendant.

The only authority that the courts have to review a pardon concerns whether it was delivered and accepted. The courts may not overturn a pardon based on the reasons why the president granted it. This is true even if the president grants a pardon for his own gain.

What are the Exceptions to Presidential Pardon Authority?

  • The Constitution prohibits the president from pardoning impeachment offenses. In other words, he cannot pardon himself or someone else to specifically avoid impeachment. This includes the crime of impeachment itself.
  • Furthermore, many legal scholars think the president may not issue a self-pardon.
  • However, no president ever tested this theory. Some analysts predict that President Donald Trump might attempt a self-pardon for alleged crimes related to his campaign.

What are the Benefits of a Presidential Pardon Limits ?

Presidential Pardon Limits ,Understanding Executive Clemency Powers Through Presidential Pardon

Presidential Pardon Limits

  • A presidential pardon officially forgives a convicted person. Simply put, a pardon extinguishes the punishment, including any prison sentence or fine.
  • It returns the convicted person’s right to fully participate in society. For instance, they gain back their voting rights even though a convicted felon cannot vote.
  • Conditions may attach to a presidential pardon. For example, the applicant might have to pay a fine or complete a treatment program.
  • In rare cases, some convicted persons refuse a pardon because they do not want to adhere to the convictions. This occurred when President Obama pardoned a man convicted of drug offenses in 2015. He declined the pardon because he did not want to submit to a drug treatment program.

How a Presidential Pardon Differs from Expungement ?

  • First, expungement removes or seals the records of a conviction. Expunged offenses remain out of public view to allow the defendant to seek employment, clear his name and avoid the stigma of a criminal record.
  • On the other hand, a presidential pardon limits does not remove the record of an offense. It acknowledges the offense in order to officially forgive it and dispense with the punishment.
  • Furthermore, a presidential pardon limits might involve the convicted person acknowledging guilt for the offense to receive forgiveness. However, there are some instances when a president issued a pardon for a crime for which the defendant was likely innocent. For example, a convicted person who accepts responsibility for a crime and demonstrates remorse and rehabilitation could be a good candidate. You should consult with an experienced criminal attorney before admitting guilt or including incriminating information in a pardon application.
  • Second, expungement addresses state crimes. Each state establishes its own requirements and procedures for expungement. Some states destroy all records of expunged offenses; other states keep them under seal.
  • Expungement does not typically apply to federal crimes. Those seeking clemency for federal crimes may apply for a presidential pardon.

Presidential Pardons limits for Persons Convicted of State and Federal Crimes

Some cases involve state and federal crimes. In those cases, a president may issue a pardon that unquestionably covers the federal offenses. States may observe the effect of the presidential pardon on the related state crimes. Some New York state legislators are trying to overturn this practice so that state criminal convictions and sentences remain intact.

Recent Developments in the Process of Granting Presidential Pardons

The Office of the Pardon Attorney handles all federal pardon applications. The application includes personal information and involves a background investigation by the FBI. Staff attorneys process the application and recommend an action to the president. Executive privilege protects the contents of all of the application documents submitted.

How does the Donald Trump Administration Handles Presidential Pardon Applications ?

  • President Donald Trump actively engages in this process. The Constitution vests power in the president to make ultimate determinations on pardons using Presidential Pardon limits as the guidelines. This means that the president can bypass staff attorneys’ recommendations.
  • In fact, President Trump often follows his own investigative process in reviewing cases for presidential pardons.
  • Executive privilege covers the review process of any presidential pardon applications. Even so, we have more insight now on how the president reviews applications. This is because President Donald Trump frequently comments on pardon applications.
  • One of the telling ways that President Donald Trump differs from his predecessors is how early he started granting pardons. Many presidents do not grant pardons until well into their terms.
  • Unlike his predecessors, President Trump started granting pardons during the first year of his term. This means that he could potentially grant significantly more pardons than other administrations.

What are the considerations for Those Seeking a Presidential Pardon ?

  • In sum, the current administration treats the presidential pardon process differently. Applicants for pardons should be aware of the changes and recent developments.
  • Helpful criminal defense counsel understands these developments and the inner workings of the process. Applicants need guidance on the perception of their petitions as stipulated in the Presidential Pardon Limits and rules.
  • Even though this process receives more spotlight now, the ultimate benefits for those convicted remain the same. The courts or Congress may not overturn a presidential pardon once granted. This is true even if the president granted the pardon for self-serving purposes.
  • As such, those convicted of a federal crime should continue to consider a pardon as a beneficial form of clemency. The application process demands serious attention to detail. Mistakes in the application can delay processing.

Contact Brandon Sample PLC About Applying for a Pardon

Brandon Sample PLC assists many clients with applying for pardons. If you or a loved one have been convicted of a federal crime, you may be eligible to apply for a pardon. You should not pursue this complex, time-consuming process without legal representation. Retaining our firm means that you will put our in-depth knowledge, experience and resources to work for you.

Call our office today at 802-444-4357 for a free initial consultation. Find out how our capable legal team can help you or your loved one with life after a criminal conviction. We will discuss all clemency options available to you, including a presidential pardon.

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About Brandon Sample

Brandon Sample is an attorney, author, and criminal justice reform activist. Brandon’s law practice is focused on federal criminal defense, federal appeals, federal post-conviction relief, federal civil rights litigation, federal administrative law, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

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1 Comment

  1. James G Winters on July 12, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    What Are The Exceptions To Presidential Pardon Authority? In the first bullet item, you state impeachment is a crime. That is not correct. Impeachment is essentially an administrative trial/hearing to determine if the accused should be removed from office. No criminal penalty can be assessed, only removal from office. Article 1, Section 3 clearly states that the person being impeached is liable and subject to indictment, trial and so on. Just wanted to bring this to your attention.

    I do have a question about our current President. He was impeached and not removed from office. One of the impeachment charges is a federal crime. Since he was impeached can he be pardoned for those charges if he resigns? I believe president Pence would be precluded from doing so. What is your opinion? Thanks, Jim Winters

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