Yes, there are actually ways to get the commission of a crime forgiven, plus the penalty resulting from it. The process is called a pardon.
In many states, the governor of a state or the President usually grants a pardon for a crime and the forgiveness of the punishment for it. In some cases pardons go along with clemency, but this is not always the case, and they are different. “Clemency (a.k.a. reprieve) only reduces the punishment for the crime; it does not forgive the actual crime,” explained Jeremiah Denslow of Denslow Law, Dayton, Ohio.
There are circumstances where someone has been wrongfully convicted of a crime and is offered a pardon. Interestingly enough, most people will not take the pardon for fear of being considered guilty. Their first choice is to do the appeals route and have their sentence overturned.
The President actually has wider powers than one would realize, in that he may not only grant pardons, but he may also issue a conditional pardon, a commute sentence, conditionally commute a sentence, order a remission of forfeiture and fine, order respite, and grant amnesty. Although they are fairly wide-ranging powers, they are rarely invoked.
If we’re dealing with a federal pardon, this is another ball of wax,” said Jeremiah Denslow of Denslow Law in Dayton, Ohio. “Federal pardon petitions are always addressed to the President; and yes, they actually do get to his desk and he decides to say yea or nay,” explained Denslow. Understand that Presidential pardons can be a real can of worms for the Executive office, so they are chosen carefully, if at all. One only has to recall President Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, the fugitive billionaire.
The Department of Justice gets close to 600 applications for federal pardons yearly and only about 10% of those are granted. The numbers may vary depending on who happens to be in the President’s office at the time. Just a quick glance at the statistics after WW II indicates fewer pardons have been granted since then.
In most instances, the person who vets the pardon petitions, the Pardon Attorney, only gives the nod to people who have done their time and have stepped up to take responsibility for their lives; now this is federally speaking. “On a state level, there are a fair number of governors/special boards capable of granting pardons according to applicable state laws,” said Denslow.
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