Scope of Pardoning Power

Generally, pardoning provisions are contained in the U.S. Constitution and the constitution of most states.  The person or the authority with whom the power to pardon is vested must exercise those powers in accordance with the constitution.

The pardoning power can in no manner be restricted and limited by any act of the legislative or other branch of the government.  However if the constitution contains any provision granting power to limit the power of pardon, then the pardoning power can be limited by the legislature or the judiciary[i].

Th pardoning power is originally a belittlement of law because a pardon granted to an individual who is fairly convicted for violation of just law is bad and it tends to be a demoralization of government.  There would be no need for the pardoning power if the laws were enacted and administered in such a manner that they are just in every circumstance to which they are applied[ii].

The President’s pardoning power does not extend to violations of any municipal ordinance or to the remission of the fine imposed for such violation because the term crime does not include violations of local ordinances[iii].  Similarly, the pardoning power of a governor of a state or territory is confined in its operation to offenses against the laws of that state or territory and they do not have any authority with regard to the offenses against the laws of the United States.

A state’s pardoning power also does not include an offense against a municipal corporation, such as the violation of a city ordinance unless the legislature confides such power to a governor[iv].  A state governor also has no power to exercise the power to grant pardon for an offense against the United States for which a conviction has been had in the federal court.

The rule limiting a governor’s power to grant a pardon does not extent to all cases of conviction in a municipal court.  Since many offenses against the state can be tried by police or other municipal courts, a governor’s limited power to grant pardon does not extent to such cases.  To preclude a governor’s authority to grant a pardon, it must be shown that the offense charged was distinctly and solely a violation of a municipal ordinance[v].

A state governor can exercise his/her pardoning power to restore the rights of citizenship such as the right to vote, to act as a juror, and to testify as a witness for a person who has been disqualified from public office or has lost other civil rights as a result of a conviction of crime in a federal court or in the courts of another state for which no pardon has been granted[vi].

[i] Riggs v. United States, 14 F.2d 5 (4th Cir. W. Va. 1926).

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

[iii] 21 Am Jur 2d Criminal Law § 1.

[iv] Paris v. Hinton, 132 Ky. 684 (Ky. 1909).

[v] United States v. Wang Kun Lue, 134 F.3d 79 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1997).

[vi] Malone v. Shyne, 936 So. 2d 1279 (La.App. 2 Cir. Aug. 29, 2006).


Inside Scope of Pardoning Power