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How to Apply for a Presidential Pardon

by Oct 13, 2016EXPUNGEMENT

November and the presidential election are fast approaching, but President Obama will not relinquish power until January, 2017.  President Obama, like most presidents before him, has been pardoning federal criminal offenses as he nears the end of his term.  He has pardoned a total of 70 criminal offenses and has shortened the sentences of 673 people.

If you have been convicted of a federal crime, you are NOT eligible to apply for a state criminal conviction dismissal as discussed in our previous blog (here).  However, there is still hope as you may qualify for a presidential pardon of your federal offense.  This article will discuss the application process, criteria, and outlook for such cases.

If you were convicted of a felony offense under Federal law, then you may qualify to seek a pardon from the president.  A felony federal conviction can result in a denial of privileges such as voting, holding public office, obtaining certain jobs and occupational licenses, entering legally-enforceable agreements, maintaining family relationships, and obtaining insurance and pension benefits.  A pardon effectively serves as “forgiveness” of your felony offense by the president.  This presidential forgiveness can restore rights that have been lost as a result of the federal conviction.

When to Apply

An applicant must wait at least five years from their date of sentencing or release from prison before applying for a presidential pardon.  You cannot submit an application while on probation, parole or supervised release for the conviction according to the Code of Federal Regulations Title 28 § 1.2 . The purpose of the waiting period is to establish to the Office of the Pardon Attorney that the offender has had time to become reformed.

How to Apply

The pardon application is a strictly written process and there are NO hearings held by the Office of the Pardon Attorney.  Your application is a paper campaign establishing your post-conviction character, atonement and need for relief.

1) Fees

There are no fees required to applying for a presidential pardon.

2) Character References

The applicant must also provide three notarized character affidavits in support of their pardon request.  As stated by the Office of the Pardon Attorney in their application protocols, “an applicant, or any third party, is free to send any documentation or other written information he believes has a bearing on the applicant’s suitability for clemency so that it may be considered in connection with the application.”  It is suggested to obtain as many notarized character references as possible to submit with the application including those who are of good standing in your community and political officials.  There is no limit to the number of allowed references but the context and background of each will be taken into consideration.

3) Background Investigation

In processing a pardon application, the office will make a thorough investigation of the applicant’s post-conviction life, which may include a background investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The FBI will investigate prosecutors to your case, friends, family, former clients, and former co-workers.  Past applicants have commonly called this process “intrusive” and one applicant’s FBI investigation included three agents questioning neighbors, church members and a soup kitchen where the applicant volunteered. In preparing your campaign, it is suggested to alert family, friends, church members and co-workers ahead of time of the possibility of an FBI interview.

Criteria to Apply

In determining whether a person should be recommended for a presidential pardon, the following are the principal factors taken into account.
a) Post-conviction conduct, character, and reputation.
An individual’s demonstrated ability to lead a responsible and productive life for a significant period after conviction or release from confinement is strong evidence of rehabilitation and worthiness for receiving a pardon. The background investigation customarily conducted by the FBI in pardon cases focuses on the petitioner’s financial and employment stability, responsibility toward family, reputation in the community, participation in community service, charitable or other meritorious activities and, if applicable, military record.

b) Seriousness and relative recentness of the offense.
In the case of a prominent individual or notorious crime, the likely effect of a pardon on law enforcement interests or upon the general public will be taken into account. Victim impact may also be a relevant consideration. When an offense is very old and relatively minor, the equities may weigh more heavily in favor of forgiveness, provided the petitioner is  an otherwise suitable candidate for pardon.

c) Acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonement.
The extent to which a petitioner has accepted responsibility for his or her criminal conduct and made restitution to its victims are important considerations. A petitioner should be genuinely desirous of forgiveness rather than vindication. While the absence of expressions of remorse should not preclude favorable consideration, a petitioner’s attempt to minimize or rationalize culpability will not advance the case for pardon. In this regard, statements made in mitigation (e.g., “everybody was doing it,” or “I didn’t realize it was illegal”) should be judged in context and considered carefully.

d) Need for relief.
The purpose for which pardon is sought may influence the disposition of the petition. A felony conviction may result in a wide variety of legal disabilities under state or federal law, some of which can provide persuasive grounds for recommending a pardon. For example, a specific employment-related need for pardon, such as removal of a bar to licensure or bonding, may make an otherwise marginal case sufficiently compelling to warrant a grant in aid of the individual’s continuing rehabilitation.

e) Official recommendations and reports.
The comments and recommendations of concerned and knowledgeable officials, particularly the United States Attorney whose office prosecuted the case and the sentencing judge, are carefully considered. The likely impact of favorable action in the district or nationally, particularly on current law enforcement priorities, will always be relevant to the President’s decision. Apart from their significance to the individuals who seek them, pardons can play an important part in defining and furthering the rehabilitative goals of the criminal justice system as a whole.

If your pardon application is denied, you can re-apply without paying a fee.  To ensure your application is complete with all information necessary to effectively advocate for your pardon, our office offers a flat-fee presidential pardon kit.

How We Can Help
For a flat-rate fee we offer a presidential pardon binder containing templates to aid in gathering information, instructions for the application process, and a statistical breakdown and analysis of your offense in relation to those pardoned in the past.  Contact us today to discuss the advantages of seeking a presidential pardon for your federal offense.


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