After someone has been convicted of a federal crime, after they have exhausted all their appeals, and even after they tried to get a sentencing reduction or early release, a convicted felon may feel like there is nothing left to do. Even after release from prison, the effects of a criminal conviction are long-lasting. People convicted of a felony crime may have trouble getting a job, be limited in the types of jobs they can even apply to, and be unable to legally own a firearm. However, there may still be another option to be cleared of the crime, even after serving the full criminal sentence.

A pardon is a release from the legal consequences of a criminal conviction. It may also be known by the terms exoneration, amnesty, or reprieve. While it may be a rare form of relief from a criminal record, it can come as a great relief to those who seek out a pardon.

If convicted of a state crime, a pardon application has to be directed to the state governor. If convicted of a federal crime, the applicant will have to ask the President of the United States for a pardon. The President does not have the authority to grant clemency for state criminal convictions.

Presidential Pardon

For many individuals familiar with the appeals process in the criminal court system, after so many denials, they may think their chances at appealing to the President of the United States is a shot in the dark. However, depending on the situation, they may stand a reasonable chance of having their petition heard by the highest offices of the executive branch.

Over the years, U.S. Presidents have pardoned tens of thousands of people for any number of criminal offenses. While George Washington pardoned less than twenty people during his term, Franklin D. Roosevelt pardoned more than 3,600 people during his presidency. Presidents may have broad discretion with who they decide to pardon. President Bill Clinton pardoned his own brother, Roger Clinton, Jr., for cocaine possession.

While the President is responsible for issuing presidential pardons, assistance is provided by the U.S. Office of the Pardon Attorney. Per the mission of the office, “All requests for executive clemency for federal offenses are directed to the Pardon Attorney for investigation and review.” After an investigation and review, the Pardon Attorney prepares a recommendation for the president who will ultimately grant or deny a petition, or the petition may be closed without a grant or denial.

Applying for Clemency

Under the Constitution, the President has the authority to pardon an individual for federal criminal offenses, including military courts-martial cases. In most cases, an applicant must first wait a five-year period before they become eligible to apply for a presidential pardon. The five-year waiting period begins from the date of release from confinement. However, if the individual did not receive a prison sentence, then the date runs from the date of sentencing. Additionally, the petitioner should have completed the full sentence before seeking clemency, including any probation, parole, or supervised release.

begins on the date of the petitioner's release from confinement. Alternatively, if the conviction resulted in a sentence that did not include any form of confinement, including community or home confinement, the waiting period begins on the date of sentencing. In addition, the petitioner should have fully satisfied the penalty imposed, including all probation, parole, or supervised release before applying for clemency.

Petitions should be forwarded to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, except for military offenses, which should be Secretary of the relevant military department that had original jurisdiction in the court-martial conviction.

A petition for a presidential pardon should state the specific purpose for seeking a pardon, and any relevant evidence in support of the petition. Additionally, a pardon may best be served by taking responsibility for the petitioner's criminal actions, showing remorse, and demonstrating rehabilitation and good conduct since the conviction and since release.

The petition may also require disclosure of your arrest record, criminal charges, and even traffic violations. Additionally, the petition requires disclosure of civil lawsuits, bankruptcy proceedings, delinquent credit obligations, and unpaid tax obligations. At least three character reference affidavits are also required.

Pardon officials will conduct an in-depth investigation, including current activities. After reviewing all the documentation, background check, and any other relevant information, a recommendation may be forwarded to the president. The president has the ultimate authority in whether or not to grant a pardon. There will not be a hearing or interview, and there is no appeal to the presidential decision.

Before filing a petition to be pardoned for a federal crime, it is important to make sure the petition is complete, accurate, and contains all the information that best represents why the petition should be granted. After a denial, a petitioner will have to wait another two years before they can resubmit a petition. Additionally, if the investigators find any false statements, the petitioner may be criminally charged, and face up to five years in prison. Talking to your federal clemency attorneys can avoid any mistakes, and offer you the best chance to be granted a presidential pardon.

Federal Clemency Attorneys

If a friend or family member was convicted of a federal criminal offense and they want to have that conviction cleared, applying for federal clemency may be their best option. Contact experienced federal clemency attorneys who can evaluate the case, and let you know all the options that are available. It is important to have the right team of attorneys on your side, with a record of successfully representing their clients.  Our of counsel clemency specialist, Karen Gross, is standing by to assist you.

What Happens Now?

If you are incarcerated, we will contact you in the jail where you are held, and we will remain in contact throughout the pendency of your case. If you are able to come in to the office, we will ask you to come meet in person as soon as possible. Our approach to defense is zealous, organized, and fast-paced, and we look forward to helping you.


Carmichael Ellis & Brock, PLLC is committed to representing you in criminal, military, security clearance, medical malpractice, personal injury, and product liability cases.