Every year, the President of the United States offers a “pardon” to a turkey, keeping it safe from ending up on a Thanksgiving table. While this ceremony is just a lighthearted holiday tradition, it speaks to a power held by the President and other officials: the pardon. But just what is a legal pardon, and what does it mean for the people who receive one? Read on for answers to your questions about pardons.
What is the definition of a legal pardon?
The official definition of a pardon is the forgiving of a crime. It doesn’t mean that the guilty verdict is overturned, but that the person receiving a pardon will no longer be punished for the crime. When someone receives a pardon, they are free from any punishment or penalties. For example, felons face a number of restrictions: they can’t vote, serve on juries, run for office, or own guns, and they can be discriminated against by employers. A pardon serves to restore those rights to the convicted person. However, you cannot become eligible for a pardon until five years after you have completed your sentence.
Who can pardon criminals?
The power to pardon belongs in the executive branch of government. Pardons are granted by the President or by a state governor. There are few checks on this power to pardon.
How are pardons granted?
After someone has been out of prison for at least five years, they are eligible to apply for a pardon. A lawyer can help an applicant navigate the pardon process. Some applicants will need to obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation from the superior court in the county where they live. The Office of the Pardon Attorney, a part of the Department of Justice, is responsible for reviewing pardon petitions. They will evaluate the offender’s case, including behavior, remorse, and need for the pardon. The office will issue a recommendation, but ultimately the decision lies with the executive branch.
Why are pardons granted?
Pardons are usually given on the basis of underserved or completed punishment. Individuals may be pardoned for reasons including demonstrated rehabilitation, unfair trials, doubts about the convicted person’s guilt, terminal illness, or advanced age. Generally, a request for a pardon must come after a long period of good behavior. If a pardon is granted, it remains on the public record.
Hopefully, now you have an answer to “What is a legal pardon?” If you have any more questions about this or any other legal issue, contact us today for a consultation.
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