Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution grants the President the power to pardon offenses. Over the years, federal clemency and pardon has been among the least-often used powers of the President. However, the recent attention on disproportionate sentences has prompted changes in federal clemency. Deputy Attorney General James Cole recently announced that the Department of Justice will broaden its criteria for federal inmates who qualify for clemency.
WHAT IS CLEMENCY?
Clemency is the power of the President to pardon a criminal or commute a criminal sentence. Here, we are discussing only commutation (the reduction of an inmate’s sentence), not pardon (forgiveness of the underlying offense). Previously, commutation of an inmate’s sentence was considered “an extraordinary remedy that is rarely granted.” The grounds for granting clemency included “disparity or undue severity of sentence, critical illness or old age, and meritorious service rendered to the government by the petitioner.” According to these statistics from the Department of Justice website, many years in our recent history have resulted in zero commutation requests being granted. In fact, President Obama has only granted one commutation request before 2014. So far in the 2014 fiscal year, nine commutation requests have been granted. Change is, however, around the corner, by way of a massive reform of when clemency will be granted.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO APPLY FOR FEDERAL CLEMENCY?
The Department of Justice will now be reviewing petitions from inmates who meet the following criteria:
- The inmate must be serving a federal sentence (the changes do not apply to inmates serving state sentences);
- The inmate must be serving a sentence that, if imposed today, would be substantially shorter;
- The inmate must have a non-violent history, with no significant ties to organized crime, gangs, or cartels;
- The inmate must have already served at least 10 years of his/her sentence;
- The inmate must have no significant prior convictions; and
- The inmate must have a history of good conduct while in prison.
HOW TO GET HELP WITH FEDERAL CLEMENCY
If you know someone who might qualify for federal clemency, call Varghese Summersett PLLC for more information about federal clemency. Even with the sweeping changes to the clemency program, only the best applications make it through. Contact the federal criminal defense lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC to discuss how a professionally prepared petition may result in a grant of federal clemency: 817-203-2220.
Image Credit Susan Walsh/Associated Press