Applying for a Presidential pardon or commutation of a sentence is often the last opportunity someone has to get relief from a federal conviction. The pardon process is often confusing and without many concrete rules. Recently, however sources inside the Biden administration have been signaling a coming change to the process for federal pardons and commutations. The president may begin to issue clemency grants sooner, rather than waiting until the end of his term as has been common practice, and the focus may be on providing systemic relief to groups of similarly situated people rather than to specific individuals.
Additionally, though the previous administration took an informal approach to clemency requests, the White House is now suggesting that it will return to the official screening process managed by the Office of the Pardon Attorney within the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Not everyone is eligible for executive clemency under this process. Current regulations impose a number of requirements and limitations for people seeking relief:
For those who are eligible, the DOJ process begins with the submission of a detailed application for either a pardon or a commutation. For either of these petitions, the applicant must gather and present enough information to give the DOJ a thorough understanding of their case, history, and life circumstances.
In addition to basic biographical data, a person seeking a commutation must include:
For an application to pardon a conviction, that same information must be additionally supplemented with:
This information can be difficult and time-consuming to assemble, and the making a mistake could ruin your chances. If a clemency application is determined to be inaccurate or incomplete, it will be denied, and the DOJ may choose to prosecute the applicant for a new charge of fraud. An experienced attorney can help avoid these pitfalls, however, while also making sure that the information in the petition is as compelling and persuasive as possible.
If you or someone you know is considering applying for a presidential pardon or commutation, contact our seasoned team of federal criminal defense attorneys for more information.