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Steps for Pardon of Federal Charges

Steps for Pardon of Federal Charges

Pardon Information and Instructions

Information and Instructions on Pardons
Please read carefully before completing the pardon application

1. Submit the petition to the Office of the Pardon Attorney

All petitions, except petitions relating to military offenses (see paragraph 6 below), should be forwarded to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, Department of Justice. The completed pardon petition must be entirely legible; therefore, please type or print in ink. The form must be completed fully and accurately and notarized in order to be considered. You may attach to the petition additional pages and documents that amplify or clarify your answer to any question.

2. Federal convictions only

Under the Constitution, only federal criminal convictions, such as those adjudicated in the United States District Courts, may be pardoned by the President. In addition, the President’s pardon power extends to convictions adjudicated in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and military court-martial proceedings. However, the President cannot pardon a state criminal offense. Accordingly, if you are seeking clemency for a state criminal conviction, you should not complete and submit this petition. Instead, you should contact the Governor or other appropriate authorities of the state where you reside or where the conviction occurred (such as the state board of pardons and paroles) to determine whether any relief is available to you under state law. If you have a federal conviction, information about the conviction may be obtained from the clerk of the federal court where you were convicted.

3. Five-year waiting period required

Under the Department’s rules governing petitions for executive clemency, 28 C.F.R. §§ 1.1 et seq., an applicant must satisfy a minimum waiting period of five years before he becomes eligible to apply for a presidential pardon of his federal conviction. The waiting period, which is designed to afford the petitioner a reasonable period of time in which to demonstrate an ability to lead a responsible, productive and law-abiding life, begins on the date of the petitioner’s release from confinement. Alternatively, if the conviction resulted in a sentence that did not include any form of confinement, including community or home confinement, the waiting period begins on the date of sentencing. In addition, the petitioner should have fully satisfied the penalty imposed, including all probation, parole, or supervised release before applying for clemency. Moreover, the waiting period begins upon release from confinement for your most recent conviction, whether or not this is the offense for which pardon is sought. You may make a written request for a waiver of this requirement. However, waiver of any portion of the waiting period is rarely granted and then only in the most exceptional circumstances. In order to request a waiver, you must complete the pardon application form and submit it with a cover letter explaining why you believe the waiting period should be waived in your case.

4. Reason for seeking pardon

In answering question 20, you should state the specific purpose for which you are seeking pardon and, if applicable, attach any relevant documentary evidence that indicates how a pardon will help you accomplish that purpose (such as citations to applicable provisions of state constitutions, statutes, or regulations, or copies of letters from appropriate officials of administrative agencies, professional associations, licensing authorities, etc.). In addition, you should bear in mind that a presidential pardon is ordinarily a sign of forgiveness and is granted in recognition of the applicant’s acceptance of responsibility for the crime and established good conduct for a significant period of time after conviction or release from confinement. A pardon is not a sign of vindication and does not connote or establish innocence. For that reason, when considering the merits of a pardon petition, pardon officials take into account the petitioner’s acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonement for the offense.

5. Multiple federal convictions

If you have more than one federal conviction, the most recent conviction should be shown in response to question 2 of the petition and the form completed as to that conviction. For all other federal convictions, including convictions by military courts-martial, the information requested in questions 2 through 6 of the petition should be provided on an attachment. Any federal charges not resulting in conviction should be reported in the space provided for prior and subsequent criminal record (question 7).

6. Pardon of a military offense

If you are requesting pardon of a court-martial conviction only, you should submit your completed petition directly to the Secretary of the military department that had original jurisdiction in your case, and listing in your responses to questions 2 through 6 and question 15 of the petition form all pertinent information concerning your court-martial trial and conviction. The addresses for submitting a request for a pardon of a court-martial conviction are as follows:

U.S. Army:
Secretary of the Army
Department of the Army
Washington, DC 20310

U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps:
Office of the Judge Advocate General
Criminal Law Division (Code 20)
1254 Charles Morris Street S.E.,
Suite B01
Washington Navy Yard, D.C. 20374

U.S. Air Force:
Secretary of the Air Force
Attention: AFLOA/JAJR
1500 W. Perimeter Road,
Suite 1170
Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, MD 20762

Pardon of a military offense will not change the character of a military discharge. An upgrade or other change to a military discharge may only be accomplished by action of the appropriate military authorities. To apply for a review of a military discharge, you should write to the relevant military branch, at the address listed below:

U.S. Army:
Army Review Boards Agency
251 18th Street South
Arlington, Virginia 22202-4508

U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps:
Secretary of the Navy
Naval Council of Personnel Records
702 Kennon Street, SE
Suite 309
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5023

U.S. Air Force:
Air Force Review Boards Agency
550C Street West
Suite 40
Randolph Air Force Base, Texas 78150-4742

7. Additional arrest record

In response to question 7, you must disclose any additional arrest or charge by any civilian or military law enforcement authority, including any federal, state, local, or foreign authority, whether it occurred before or after the offense for which you are seeking pardon. Your answer should list every violation, including traffic violations that resulted in an arrest or criminal charge, such as driving under the influence. Your failure to disclose any such arrest, whether or not it resulted in conviction, may be construed as a falsification of the petition.

8. Credit status and civil lawsuits

In response to question 14, you must list all delinquent credit obligations, whether or not you dispute them. You must also list all civil lawsuits in which you were named as a party, whether as plaintiff or defendant, including bankruptcy proceedings. You must also list all unpaid tax obligations, whether federal, state, or local. You may submit explanatory material in connection with any of these matters (such as an agreed method of payment for indebtedness).

9. Character references

At least three character affidavits must accompany the petition. If you submit more than three, you should designate the three persons whom you consider to be primary references. The affidavit forms provided are preferred. However, letters of recommendation may be substituted if they contain the full name, address, and telephone number of the reference, indicate a knowledge of the offense for which you seek pardon, and bear a notarized signature. Persons related to you by blood or marriage cannot be used as primary character references.

10. Effect of a pardon

While a presidential pardon will restore various rights lost as a result of the pardoned offense and should lessen to some extent the stigma arising from a conviction, it will not erase or expunge the record of your conviction. Therefore, even if you are granted a pardon, you must still disclose your conviction on any form where such information is required, although you may also disclose the fact that you received a pardon. In addition, most civil disabilities attendant upon a federal felony conviction, such as loss of the right to vote and hold state public office, are imposed by state rather than federal law, and also may be removed by state action. Because the federal pardon process is exacting and may be more time-consuming than analogous state procedures, you may wish to consult with the appropriate authorities in the state of your residence regarding the procedures for restoring your state civil rights.

11. Scope of investigation

Pardon officials conduct a very thorough review in determining a petitioner’s worthiness for relief. Accordingly, you should be prepared for a detailed inquiry into your personal background and current activities. Among the factors entering into this determination are the nature, seriousness and recentness of the offense, your overall criminal record, any specific hardship you may be suffering because of the conviction, and the nature and extent of your post-conviction involvement in community service, or charitable or other meritorious activities. We encourage you to submit information concerning your community contributions.

12. Penalty for false statements

The failure to fully and accurately complete the application form may be construed as a falsification of the petition, which may provide a reason for denying your petition. In addition, the knowing and willful falsification of a document submitted to the government may subject you to criminal punishment, including up to five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 3571.

13. Exclusive Presidential authority

The power to grant pardons is vested in the President alone. No hearing is held on the pardon application by either the Department of Justice or the White House. You will be notified in writing directed to the last address you provided during the pardon process when a final decision is made on your petition. There is no appeal from the President’s decision to deny a clemency request. The Office of the Pardon Attorney does not disclose information regarding the nature or results of any investigation that may have been undertaken in a particular case, or the exact point in the clemency process at which a particular petition is pending at a given time. As a matter of well-established policy, the specific reasons for the President’s decision to grant or deny a petition generally are not disclosed by either the White House or the Department of Justice. In addition, documents reflecting deliberative communications pertaining to presidential decision-making, such as the Department’s recommendation to the President in a clemency matter, are confidential and not available under the Freedom of Information Act. If your petition is denied, you may submit a new petition for consideration two years from the date of denial.

The information that we request from you on the accompanying pardon application form, and in any ensuing background investigation, is needed to develop the basis for an informed judgment about whether you should be granted a pardon. This is our only purpose in asking you to complete and sign the application and, if necessary, requesting that an investigation be made into your character and activities. You are under no obligation to furnish any information. However, if you do not provide all the information requested, we may be unable to process your application. Failure to provide your Social Security number will not prejudice your case.

Our authority for requesting the information solicited in the accompanying pardon application form is the United States Constitution, Article II, Section 2 (the pardon clause); Orders of the Attorney General Nos. 1798-93, 58 Fed. Reg. 53658 and 53659 (1993), 2317-2000, 65 Fed. Reg. 48381 (2000), and 2323-2000, 65 Fed. Reg. 58223 and 58224 (2000), codified in 28 C.F.R. §§ 1.1 et seq. (the rules governing petitions for executive clemency); and Order of the Attorney General No. 1012-83, 48 Fed. Reg. 22290 (1983), as codified in 28 C.F.R. §§ 0.35 and 0.36 (the authority of the Office of the Pardon Attorney).

In the course of investigating your application, an agent of the United States Government may interview you and those persons who have executed character affidavits or written letters of reference on your behalf. In addition, neighbors, former and present employers, associates, and other individuals who may be able to provide relevant information concerning you may be interviewed. While such inquiries are made discreetly and a reasonable effort is made not to disclose the underlying nature of the investigation, we cannot assure you that the reason for the inquiry will not become known to some or all of the persons interviewed.

After the President has taken favorable final action on an application, a public affairs notice is prepared describing each grant of clemency (such a notice may be prepared for a denial of clemency in cases of substantial public interest). A copy of each warrant of clemency is maintained in this office as a public and official record. Copies of the public affairs notices, clemency warrants, and lists of recent clemency recipients are routinely made available to the public upon request.

Executive clemency files are compiled and maintained to assist the President in exercising his constitutional pardon power and are routinely made available to him, members of his staff, and other government officials concerned with clemency proceedings. The Pardon Attorney may disclose the contents of executive clemency files to anyone when the disclosure is required by law or the ends of justice. In particular, public record documents that may be compiled in the course of processing a clemency application, such as the judgment order from the criminal case for which pardon is sought, trial or sentencing transcripts, court opinions, and newspaper articles, are generally made available upon request by third-parties (including representatives of the news media) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, unless such disclosure could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the petitioner’s personal privacy. In addition, unsolicited Congressional correspondence is treated in the same manner. On the other hand, non-public documents that may be compiled in the course of processing a clemency application, such as the petition and supporting documents, the presentence investigation report, the results of any background investigation, and the report and recommendation of the Department of Justice to the President, are not generally available under the Freedom of Information Act.

The foregoing rules apply to the disclosure of documents in the possession of the Department of Justice. However, the President and his immediate staff are not subject to the constraints of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts. Accordingly, while clemency-related documents in the possession of the White House traditionally have not been made public, they may be legally disclosed at the discretion of the President. In addition, clemency-related documents retained by the White House at the end of a presidential administration will become part of the President’s official library, where they become subject to the disclosure provisions of the Presidential Records Act.

Moreover, in accordance with the ruling by the federal court of the District of Columbia in Lardner v. Department of Justice, 638 F.Supp.2d 14 (D.D.C. 2009), affirmed, Lardner v. United States Department of Justice, No. 09-5337, 2010 WL 4366062 (D.C. Cir. Oct. 28, 2010) (unpublished), the Office of the Pardon Attorney is obliged to release existing lists of the names of persons who have been denied executive clemency by the President to anyone who requests such records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.  Given the frequency of such requests, the Office of the Pardon Attorney has started to proactively disclose the names of persons who have been denied executive clemency by the President on our website, in accordance with our Freedom of Information Act obligations

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