A pardon is an act of releasing a convicted person from punishment or exempting him/her from penalty.  It relieves a pardoned person by officially nullifying his/her punishment or other legal consequences of a crime.  S/he will be regarded as innocent and regain sa status as if s/he had never committed the offense for which s/he was convicted[i].

The President shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment[ii].  The pardoning power is a power granted under the U.S. constitution as well as state constitutions.  Certain state constitutions give the  Governor broad and unrestricted discretion to issue pardons to whomever[iii].

When a pardon is brought to the attention of a court, it is the duty of the court to discharge the defendant and dismiss the proceedings against him/her.  The majority of states have held that a pardon did not entitle a defendant to expunction of all criminal records related to a conviction[iv].

A pardon may be forgiveness for an offense; release from pecuniary obligation; or remission of a penalty awarded for nonperformance of a contract, or a statutory obligation.  Pardon may or may not be granted according to the circumstances in a case.  A pardon takes effect as soon as it is delivered and accepted by the person who is granted a pardon.

A pardon may be an absolute or a conditional pardon.  An absolute pardon completely terminates a penalty and the pardoned convict is put to a position as if s/he has not committed an offense.  A pardon is said to be conditional when it is granted upon particular conditions.  A person who was granted a conditional pardon may be re-arrested and remanded by a court in execution of the original sentence, if s/he violates the conditions[v].  On a violation of conditions, a pardon becomes null and void.  A pardon may take effect on the happening of a stipulated condition.  If the stipulated condition is void, the pardon also may be treated as null and void.

A pardon is different from parole in a way that, a pardon absolves a convict from the guilt of his/her criminal acts and exempting him from all consequences attached to it.  But, a parole is a conditional release from imprisonment to serve the remainder of his/her term outside the bar, if s/he shall satisfactorily comply with the conditions provided in a parole order.  A parole does not vacate the sentence, but merely suspends the execution of a penalty and releases a convict from imprisonment temporarily upon conditions which s/he may accept or reject[vi].  Parole is granted based on the good conduct of a convict.

Probation and parole can be distinguished in that probation involves suspending the imposition of a sentence by a trial judge, while parole is similar to pardon in that it is granted based on the discretion of the executive.  Probation is granted as a substitute to imprisonment.  An indefinite suspension of sentence on conditions is undoubtedly, however, in practical effect, a conditional pardon[vii].

[i] Harscher v. Commonwealth, 2010 Ky. App. Unpub. LEXIS 441 (Ky. Ct. App. May 21, 2010).

[ii] State ex rel. Dean v. Haubrich, 248 Iowa 978 (Iowa 1957).

[iii] Fletcher v. Graham, 192 S.W.3d 350 (Ky. 2006).

[iv] Blake v. State, 860 N.E.2d 625 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007).

[v] Lee v. Murphy, 63 Va. 789 (Va. 1872).

[vi] State ex rel. Murray v. Swenson, 196 Md. 222 (Md. 1950).

[vii] State v. Radcliffe, 26 Ohio Dec. 87 (Ohio C.P. 1915).

Inside Pardon