Pardon Me! -- The Pardon Resource Center

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12 Steps to a Federal Pardon

Jerome P. Mullins, Attorney at Law of Silicon Valley, U.S.A.


Welcome to the federal section of "Pardon Me!" the Pardon Resource Center of the World Wide Web.

If you are a person who has been convicted of a felony offense in a federal court or by military court martial and who has an interest in improving the situation by applying for a presidential pardon, I hope you find this material to be very interesting and helpful.

If you assumed that the odds of success in applying for a presidential pardon are not encouraging, you are correct. President Clinton, for example, has granted fewer than 100 pardons so far in his term of office. The preparation required of you to apply is exacting and detailed. Reexamining a part of your life when your conduct was officially adjudged to be criminal will understandably create feelings you wanted to leave behind a long time ago. Your application will trigger an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that may lead them to visit with and interview your neighbors, friends, family and employer. If you make an honest mistake in the disclosure of all your indiscretions that led to even so much as a conviction of a minor traffic violation whether before or after your federal felony offense, you will be presumed to have misrepresented yourself under oath and deemed unfit for a pardon and possibly even prosecuted for perjury under federal law. So why even bother to apply for a presidential pardon? Who needs this?

You do, and there are several reasons.

What is the Value of a Presidential (federal) Pardon?

First, if you were convicted of a federal or military offense you undoubtedly suffered from and may be still suffering from what are usually termed "disabilities," "civil disabilities," "legal disabilities," or less commonly, "disqualifications." That is because in addition to the sentence which is imposed upon a convicted criminal offender, numerous "civil disabilities" are also very often imposed -- perhaps always imposed.

A civil disability is the lack or absence of legal capacity to perform an act and the term is generally used to indicate an incapacity for the full enjoyment of ordinary legal rights. The term civil disability is used as equivalent to legal disability, both these expressions meaning disabilities or disqualifications created by positive law, as distinguished from physical disabilities. Disabilities may be either general or special. A disability isgeneral when it incapacitates a person for the performance of all legal acts of a general class, or giving to them their ordinary legal effect; it is special when it bars him from one specific act.

Disabilities, which have a serious adverse affect on an offender both during his confinement and after his release or discharge from probation or parole, include denial of such privileges as voting, holding public office, obtaining many jobs and occupational licenses, entering legally-enforceable agreements, maintaining family relationships, and obtaining insurance and pension benefits. For example, a very common and well-known form of civil disability resulting from a conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol is the revocation or suspension of one's privilege to drive a motor vehicle. Another commonly known legal disability is the one that forbids a person convicted of a felony from possessing a firearm under penalty of additional criminal liability.

The significance of a presidential pardon is that it removes or eliminates all disabilities that arise from the federal or military offense that is the subject of the pardon.

Secondly, as a result of an appropriations restriction of the U.S. Congress now imbodied in Public Law 109-Stat.468, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ("ATF"), a division of the U.S. Department of Treasury, has been ordered to expend no public funds on what used to be called the Restoration of Disabilities Program. As a result, ATF cannot currently process applications of people convicted of federal felonies for restoration of the federal firearms privilege. At least for the moment then, this apparently leaves the presidential pardon process as the exclusive avenue for a person convicted of a federal felony offense to regain both state and federal firearm privileges that were lost because of the federal or military conviction. At least one California Court of Appeals has, in the Bradford case, expressly recognized the presidential pardon as eliminating certain state disabilities of this type, such as prospective criminal liability under the California "felon with a gun" statute.

An additional reason for seeking a pardon, as in mountain climbing, is "...because it is there." Do you really want to go to your grave without having done everything in your power to correct your mistake? Will the good in you be "... interred with your bones?" Do you want your grandchildren to know of you only as the "bank embezzler," or "the guy who ripped off the savings and loan?" To put it concisely, you may have the desire to "clear your name" in a general sense, to the fullest extent that you are legally able to do so.

The Federal Pardon Applicant's Workbook and the 12 Steps.

Because of the detailed nature and amount of information required for a federal pardon application, anyone considering this procedure should create and maintain a federal pardon workbook. It can be very simple. A plain 3-ring binder with at least 12 tabbed dividers in it should be adequate. The first 12 tabs of the dividers can be labeled to correspond to the 12 important catagories of information ("steps") needed to effectively apply for a federal pardon. Material gathered in support of the application can be stored and segregated in an orderly fashion behind the tabbed dividers. This material should be typed or printed by hand because it may be necessary at times to photostat the material and transmit it by FAX or to show it in person to others persons. If it is typed or printed, this will expedite the process of discussing the material with others and will avoid the possibility of confusion that can arise from reading handwritten notes. Any additional tabbed dividers can be used for miscellaneous personal notes. These may be handwritten because they are not intended to be communicated to anyone else.

This method has the additional advantage of keeping the material relatively private (within the dividers) so that if you are showing someone (e.g., a court clerk) one section, you will not be disclosing everything in your workbook to that person.

The essential catagories (steps) you should create in your workbook are:

Step1. Preliminary information

Step 2. Offense(s) for which pardon is sought

Step 3. Biographical information

Step 4. Residences

Step 5. Employment

Step 6. Criminal record prior and subsequent to the offense

Step 7. Civil and financial information

Step 8. Military record

Step 9. Civil rights restoration efforts

Step 10. Reasons for seeking a federal pardon

Step 11. Certification and personal oath

Step 12. Character affidavits

Although the material at this site is arranged primarily to anticipate the requirements of applying for a federal pardon, additional information has been added to anticipate the requirements of applying for federal Restoration of Firearms and/or Explosives Privileges so that the petitioner can conduct a parallel effort along those lines using the same workbook.

Who Can Apply for a Pardon.

No petition for pardon should be filed until the expiration of a waiting period of at least five years subsequent to the date of the release of the petitioner from confinement or, in case no prison sentence was imposed, until the expiration of a period of at least five years subsequent to the date of the conviction of the petitioner.

In some cases, such as those involving violent crimes, violation of narcotics laws, gun control laws, income tax laws, perjury, violation of public trust involving substantial sums of money, violations involving organized crime, or other crimes of a serious nature, no petition should be filed until the expiration of a waiting period of seven years.

The waiting period may be waived in cases of aliens seeking a pardon to avert deportation.

Generally, no petition should be submitted by a person who is on probation or parole.

Offenses against the laws of possessions or territories of the United States.

Applications for pardons shall relate only to violations of laws of the United States. Applications relating to violations of laws of the possessions of the United States or territories subject to the jurisdiction thereof should be submitted to the appropriate official or agency of the possession or territory concerned.

Disclosure of files.

Petitions, reports, memoranda and communications submitted or furnished in connection with the consideration of a petition for Executive clemency generally shall be available only to the officials concerned with the consideration of the petition. However, they may be made available for inspection, in whole or in part, when in the judgment of the Attorney General their disclosure is required by law or the ends of justice.

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Please note that the materials included in this page and all of its subpages are intended to be general information only and are not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship nor do they constitute legal advice. They are not intended to be a substitute for obtaining legal advice from your own legal counsel.

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