I’d like to point out that a Presidential pardon and being granted executive clemency are two totally different animals. Executive clemency entails either the commutation or the reduction of your sentence. It is rarely granted but when it is, it is sure to raise some eyebrows. As for Presidential pardons...
The President ... shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment. - United States Constitution, Article II, Section 2
And ya know what, every one of them (with the exception of Garfield and Harrison who both died in office) did.
How Do I Get One?
Well, obviously there are some standards that must be adhered to but in general, you must have demonstrated “good conduct” for a period of time after your conviction and after you have served your sentence. Should you decide to petition for a presidential pardon, the Department of Justice considers that period to be at least 5 years.
What Do You Mean By “Good Conduct”?
Be prepared to have the FBI run a little check on you to see what you’ve been up after you’ve been released. They’ll probably look into such things as your employment history, your financial dealings, what you do in your community, your educational history, any kind of volunteer or charity work that you do, and if you’ve been convicted for any other crimes.
What Are Some Other Considerations?
How about the seriousness of your crime? Such offenses that are considered as violent crimes, large scale drug trafficking, a betrayal of the public trust or fraud involving large amounts of money are generally put on the back burner when it comes to Presidential pardons. In these instances, the longer you wait to file a petition, the better off you’ll likely be. The reason is twofold. One, these cases generally draw major media attention and might involve so-called prominent individuals who are visible to the public eye. Secondly, if the pardon occurs too quickly after the time is served, the effect of the sentence as a deterrent is cheapened. Any impact that your crime might have had to the victims is also a major consideration.
What Should I Include In My Petition?
Besides certain biographical information such as name/age/date of birth/social security number etc, etc, etc, you should include a statement indicating your remorse for the offense of which you were convicted. Try and stay away from statements that attempt to justify your actions such as the old “Everybody else was doing it” or that you didn’t realize your actions were illegal. They don’t carry much weight. Remember, you looking to be forgiven, not vindicated.
You should also state the reason your looking for a pardon in the first place. Certain felony convictions carry a wide range of implications regarding things such as future employment, the ability to cast your vote and/or possess a handgun or other types of firearms. It will also stave off any threats of deportation that might be coming your way.
A Few Other Things
Any official reports that cast you in a favorable light should also be included. These might include statements from the prosecuting attorney, the sentencing judge and parole board.
Some You Might Have Heard Of
The following a partial list of some of the more recent high profile Presidential pardons and the granting of executive clemency that have raised some eybrows over the years.
Last but not least, here’s a listing of the President’s and the number of pardons that they granted during their time in office.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Ulysses S. Grant
Lyndon B. Johnson
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Rutherford B. Hayes
Warren G. Harding
William H. Taft
John F. Kennedy
James K. Polk
George W. Bush
John Quincy Adams
Martin Van Buren
William H Harrison