Pub. date: 2005 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952514 | Print ISBN: 9780761927310 | Online ISBN: 9781412952514 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
A pardon is an official act, typically by someone in the executive branch of government, setting aside punishment for a crime. Although the term “pardon” is sometimes used interchangeably with “clemency” to refer generally to all nonjudicial reductions in punishment, it is more accurate to think of pardon as a distinct component of the executive clemency power. A pardon is the most expansive type of clemency recognized under American law. Courts generally hold that a pardon not only releases the offender from punishment, but also eliminates moral guilt for the offense, so that in the eyes of the law pardon recipients are as innocent as if they had never been charged or convicted. By contrast, commutations and reprieves are less expansive forms of clemency, with a commutation substituting a lesser punishment for a greater one, and a reprieve temporarily postponing punishment. The U.S. Constitution vests the power to pardon violations ...