From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
"Clemency" redirects here. For the town, see Clemency, Luxembourg.

A pardon is the forgiveness of a crime and the penalty associated with it. It is granted by a sovereign power, such as a monarch or chief of state. Clemency is an associated term, meaning the lessening of the penalty of the crime without forgiving the crime itself. The act of clemency is a reprieve. Today, pardons and reprieves are granted in many countries when individuals have been wrongly convicted of a crime, have demonstrated that they have fulfilled their debt to society, or are otherwise deserving (in the opinion of the pardoning official) of a pardon or reprieve.


Pardons and clemency in the United States

In the United States, the pardon power is an exercise of executive discretion that is granted to the President by the United States Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 2 which states that the President:

shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

All federal pardon petitions are addressed to the President, and are either granted or denied by him. Typically, applications for pardons are referred for review and non-binding recommendation to the U.S. Pardon Attorney, an official of the Department of Justice. Since 1977, presidents have received about 600 pardon or clemency petitions a year and have granted around ten percent of these, although the percentage of pardons and repieves granted varies from administration to administration (fewer pardons have been granted since World War II than historically has been the case). In order for a pardon to be granted, those who are pardoned usually must admit guilt.

The presidential power of pardons and commutations was controversial from the outset; many Anti-Federalists remembered examples of royal abuses of the pardon power in Europe, and warned that the same would happen in the new republic. The Federalist Papers includes a strong defense of the pardon power. President George Washington granted the first Federal pardons to leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion.

Many pardons have been controversial; critics argue that pardons have been used more often for political expediency than to correct judicial error. Perhaps the most famous U.S. pardon in history was the one granted by President Gerald Ford to former President Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974 for official misconduct which gave rise to the Watergate scandal. Polls showed that the majority of American citizens strongly disapproved of this pardon at the time, and Ford's public-approval ratings tumbled after he pardoned Nixon, and he was narrowly defeated in the presidential campaign two years later. Other controversial uses of the pardon power include Andrew Johnson's sweeping pardons of thousands of former Confederate officials and military personnel after the American Civil War, Jimmy Carter's grant of amnesty to Vietnam-era draft evaders, George H. W. Bush's pardons of six Reagan administration officials accused and/or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra affair, and Bill Clinton's pardons of convicted FALN terrorists and 140 people on his last day in office.

A presidential pardon may be granted at any time after commission of the offense; the pardoned person need not have been convicted or even formally charged with a crime. In the overwhelming majority of cases, however, the Pardon Attorney will only consider petitions from persons who have completed their sentences and, in addition, have demonstrated their ability to lead a responsible and productive life for a significant period after conviction or release from confinement. Federal courts have held that the President may make a pardon or reprieve conditional, and that a person who is granted such a pardon or reprieve cannot refuse it, but must accept and comply with its conditions.

The pardon power of the President extends only to offenses cognizable under Federal law. However, the governors of most states have the power to grant pardons or reprieves for offenses under state criminal law. In other states, that power is committed to an appointed agency or board, or to a board and the governor in some hybrid arrangement.

See also: List of people pardoned by a United States president.

Pardons and clemency in Canada


In Canada, pardons are considered by the National Parole Board under the Criminal Records Act, the Criminal Code and several other laws. For Criminal Code crimes there is a three-year waiting period for minor offences, and a five-year waiting period for indictable offences. The waiting period commences after the sentence is completed. An application booklet can be obtained from the National Parole Board at 1-800-874-2652.

Pardon application

Completing a Canadian pardon application is a complex and time-consuming process, and any error in the application may cause needless and costly delays. Although unnecessary for the completion of the application, many people use private agencies to process their documents to ensure that there are no errors.

The cost of obtaining a pardon is variable and depends on a number of circumstances unique to each application:

  • $50 National Parole Board Fee for the processing of the pardon
  • $0 to $20.00 per Court document, payable to the Courts
  • $0 to $26.75 for fingerprinting services by your local police or authorized fingerprinting agent
  • $0 to $70.00 per local police check (payable to the local police) for each town/city you have lived in over the past 5 years
  • Agency fees (if you hire an agent to assist you), are in addition to the above

Processing time for each application depends on whether it qualifies as an emergency. For regular applications, the typical process can take a year or two, or more. Emergency Pardons are difficult to obtain, and are evalutated on a case-by-case basis by the National Parole Board. Once pardoned, a criminal records search for that individual reveals "no record".

The address for a pardon application booklet is:

Clemency and Pardons Division
National Parole Board
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R1


In Canada, clemency is granted by the Governor-General of Canada or the Governor in Council (the federal cabinet) under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. Applications are also made to the National Parole Board, as in pardons, but clemency may involve the commutation of a sentence, or the remission of all or part of the sentence, a respite from the sentence (for a medical condition) or a relief from a prohibition (e.g., to allow someone to drive that has been prohibited from driving).

Pardons and clemency in the United Kingdom

The power to grant pardons and reprieves is a royal prerogative of mercy of the monarch of the United Kingdom. It was traditionally in the absolute power of the monarch to pardon and release an individual who had been convicted of a crime from that conviction and its intended penalty. Pardons were granted to many in the 18th century on condition that the convicted felons accept transportation overseas, such as to Australia.

There are significant procedural differences in the royal pardon's use today, however.

United Kingdom: Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

In the United Kingdom, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 now governs pardons. A royal pardon for an incorrect imprisonment follows a procedure much as stated above in the Canada section. In addition, people who have committed minor crimes (sentenced to less than three years in jail) have them struck from their criminal records if they do not reoffend. The purpose of this is so that people do not have a lifelong blot on their records because of a minor indiscretion in youth.

The non-offending period is 5 years for a non-custodial sentence, up to 10 years for a prison sentence of 6 months to 2½ years. For a young offender (under 18), the non-offending period is five years even for prison sentences.

The Act does not apply to those working with vulnerable groups, such as teachers and social workers, who must always disclose all convictions. In addition, those working in professions associated with the justice system, such as solicitors or police are not allowed to withhold details of previous convictions in relation to their job.

Pardons and clemency in France

Pardons and acts of clemency (grâces) are granted by the President of France, who, ultimately, is the sole judge of the propriety of the measure. The convicted person sends a request for pardon to the President of the Republic. The prosecutor of the court that pronounced the verdict reports on the case, and the case goes to the Ministry of Justice's directorate of criminal affairs and pardons for further consideration.

If granted, the decree of pardon is signed by the President, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice and possibly other ministers involved in the consideration of the case. It is not published in the Journal Officiel.

The decree may spare the applicant from serving the balance of his or her sentence, or commute the sentence to a lesser one. It does not suppress the right for the victim of the crime to obtain compensation for the damages it suffered, and does not erase the condemnation from the criminal record.

When the death penalty was in force in France, almost all capital sentences resulted in a presidential review for a possible pardon. Sentenced criminals were routinely given a sufficient delay before execution so that their requests for pardons could be examined. If granted, clemency would usually entail a commutation to a life sentence.

The Parliament of France, on occasions, grants amnesty. This is a different concept and procedure from that described above, although the phrase "presidential amnesty" (amnistie présidentielle) is sometimes pejoratively applied to some acts of parliament traditionally voted upon after a presidential election, granting amnesty for minor crimes.

Pardons in Germany

The right to grant pardon in Germany lies in the office of the President (Bundespräsident), but he can transfer this power to other persons, such as the chancellor or the minister of justice.

Amnesty can only be granted by federal law.

Pardon in Christianity

In Christian theology, pardon is the result of forgiveness, extended by God through Jesus. A pardoned person is forgiven their sins, and thus experiences new birth, or is born again. For more information, see:

External links

Personal tools
In other languages