What Factors Make Inmates Eligible for a Pardon or Sentence Commutation?


Dallas, Tx, 08/18/2015 /SubmitPressRelease123/

Although the circumstances may seem hopeless once someone has been convicted of a federal crime and is facing an extensive prison sentence in the U.S., those in this type of predicament do not have to feel that all of their legal options are exhausted. Aside from appealing a conviction; seeking relief with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus; or seeking a sentence reduction for cooperation; an inmate may pursue a pardon or sentence commutation. In order to do they must meet certain criteria as outlined by the United States Justice Department.

The Difference Between a Pardon and Commutation

Throughout the 20th Century approximately 20,000 pardons and clemencies were issued by presidents in the U.S. A pardon can be defined as an executive order that vacates a person’s conviction if they have been prosecuted under federal law. This type of order in essence “forgives” a crime and cancels the accompanying penalty. A sentence commutation is the reduction of a penalty, but doesn’t “forgive” the crime, or make one no longer guilty of an offense on record. It does allow an inmate to serve a lesser sentence than ordered in their case.

Examining the Standards for Considering Pardon Petitions Versus Those for Sentence Reductions?

In accordance with the Justice Department regulations, a petitioner must wait a minimum of five years after their conviction or confinement in order to be eligible for filing an application for a pardon. The following lists some of the key factors used in determination whether a recommendation for a pardon can be made:

  • Whether the individual has demonstrated an ability to lead a life that is responsible and productive post release, with post-conviction accomplishments and life circumstances taken into consideration

  • The serious nature of the offense and the amount of time that has elapsed after the petitioner began serving their sentence

  • The extent to which the convicted person has accepted responsibility for the crime, and what restitution has been made to victims

  • The purpose for seeking the pardon on behalf of the petitioner

  • Reports and recommendations from officials

Petitioners for sentence commutations generally must have already begun serving their sentence before an application is accepted. Those in the process of challenging their convictions through appeal or other legal proceedings are also typically not eligible to submit an application. Factors considered for granting sentence commutations include:

  • Whether there are disparities in sentencing or one’s sentence was unjustly severe

  • The old age of an inmate

  • A critical illness suffered by the inmate

  • Whether the inmate rendered a meritorious service to the government

A combination of factors including those that have been outlined and additional considerations could lead to the recommendation of a sentence commutation in some cases; however, this as a remedy is deemed rare.

Legal Help for Those Convicted of a Federal Crime and Received a Substantial Sentence

The United States Justice Department outlines a complete list of its clemency guidelines online. Families seeking support for their loved ones who are currently incarnated and serving long term prison sentences can view these on their behalf or discuss the outlined considerations with a federal criminal defense lawyer who specializes in these types of cases. A consultation with a federal criminal defense attorney can help individuals better understand the legal options available in their specific case.

The Dallas based criminal defense team of the law firm of Broden Mickelsen Helms & Snipes are available for those who need help with a federal or Texas state criminal case.

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