A pardon in criminal law means an official act of forgiving a crime and the penalty associated with it. A pardon generally relieves the offender of legal disabilities imposed upon him/her after the conviction. A pardon may be granted on account of: terminal illness, advanced age, acts proving rehabilitation, unfairness of trial proceedings, or doubts about guilt of the convicted person. Pardoning a person does not mean that the person pardoned is not guilty. It only means that the person is forgiven and no longer deserves punishment.
In the U.S., the President has the power to grant pardon only to offenses cognizable under federal law. For offenses under state criminal law, the governor or a pardon board grants pardon. Provisions relating to pardon vary from state to state. Although laws governing pardon vary by state, there are some elements that are common to most of the states. For example, a state pardon is usually granted to those who have demonstrated exemplary behavior following their conviction. A pardon is given as evidence that the offender has rehabilitated themselves. A state pardon restores all rights that were taken away from the individual upon conviction. State pardons are granted more frequently than presidential pardons.
Parole is the conditional release of a person convicted of a crime prior to the expiration of that person’s term of imprisonment. A person may be released on parole if the parole granting authority determines that the prisoner may live and remain at liberty without violating laws and his/her release is not detrimental to the welfare of the society. However, good behaviors alone will not a make a person eligible for parole. A person released on parole is always under the supervision of the correctional officers during the remainder of the term. Parole may be revoked if there is violation of any conditions.
Parole is usually regulated by statutes and these provisions vary by state. Parole boards created by statute have the authority to release prisoners. Some states have parole commissions in place of parole boards. Although parole laws vary from state to state, there are common provisions. In many states, the governor appoints the parole board. Generally, parole conditions are also standard and are similar in most of the states. Some standard parole conditions are: regular reporting to the parole officer; refraining from illicit drug use; abstaining from alcohol consumption; restricting the parolees’ area of residence; and restricting the parolee from maintaining contact with their victim. However, depending upon the nature of offense, apart from these standard conditions, certain special conditions may also be included.
Pardon and parole laws for offenses committed under the state criminal law vary by state. Therefore, local laws must be consulted to find out the governing provisions.