Different Types of Pardons and Reprieves
Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that the President may "grant reprieves and pardons." So, what exactly is a reprieve? And what types of pardons can the President grant?
A reprieve is merely a temporary postponement of a criminal sentence. For example, the president may decide to delay the death penalty for an individual. However, a reprieve does not relieve the individual from serving the sentence. So, if the individual was sentenced to the death penalty he or she would still receive the death penalty at some later point (unless the president actually grants a pardon to the individual).
So, what types of pardons can the president grant? Well, the president can grant many different types of pardons including absolute, conditional, and partial pardons.
An absolute pardon completely releases the wrongdoer from punishment and grants back all the wrongdoer’s civil rights. For example, if an individual commits federal tax evasion (i.e. did not pay his or her federal taxes), and the president pardons that individual, then he or she would be relieved of facing any imprisonment for the tax evasion.
A conditional pardon requires the wrongdoer to satisfy some type of requirement before receiving the pardon (i.e. a prerequisite). For example, the president may require the wrongdoer to serve out a parole sentence before the conditional pardon takes effect. If the wrongdoer fails to meet the prerequisite, then the wrongdoer will likely not receive the pardon.
A partial pardon releases the wrongdoer from some, but not all, of the punishment of a crime. For example, if the wrongdoer was convicted on two separate criminal charges, the president may elect to pardon only one of the charges. So, if the wrongdoer was convicted of treason against the United States and attempted arson on a federal building, the President may elect to pardon the wrongdoer for just treason or just attempted arson, but not both.
Presidents may also give commutations or amnesties to wrongdoers. A commutation occurs when the president gives a less severe punishment for a crime that what has already been issued by a judge. For example, the president may reduce a judge’s order for the death penalty of an individual to a life in prison sentence. An amnesty is a type of pardon given to a group or class of individuals.
Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of pardons and reprieves available to the president, let’s explore the process of the presidential pardon.