Federal Clemency


As of September 2018, the Trump Administration's approach to clemency has operated along two tracks. One track is the standard process. The other is an ad hoc approach that has a significant political character. In April 2018, the Administration denied 98 petitions for commutation and petitions for pardon. However, between August 2017 and July 2018, four commutations and 7 pardons were issued that involved highly political cases or celebrity involvement. Through the standard process no commutations or pardons were issued.

Standard Clemency Process:

Eligibility: Commutation requests are generally not accepted from a person who is currently challenging his or her conviction or sentence through appeal or other court proceedings.

Requests for a commutation of sentence generally are not accepted unless and until a person has begun serving the sentence for which they are applying for clemency.

If you had a previous petition denied, you may reapply one year after the date of denial.

Application Process: 

Click here for a printable application from the Office of the Pardon Attorney that you can use.

Or contact:

Office of the Pardon Attorney
145 N Street N.E.
Suite 5E
Washington, DC 20530
Tel: (202) 616-6070

The Office of the Pardon Attorney advises petitioners to carefully read Information and Instructions on Commutations and Remissions prior to completing the Petition for Commutation of Sentence. Click here for the document. The Pardon Attorney also provides petitioners with important disclosure information pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974. Click here for the document.

Applicants are instructed to type or print the answers in ink. Each question must be answered fully, truthfully, and accurately. If the space for any answer is insufficient, applicants may complete the answer on a separate sheet of paper and attach it to the petition. Applicants may attach any additional documentation that they believe is relevant to the petition. Petitioners are required to sign and date the Certification and Personal Oath found on page six of the petition. The failure to fully and accurately complete the application form may be construed as a falsification of the petition, which may provide a reason for denying the petition. In addition, the intentional falsification of a document submitted to the government may subject the applicant to criminal punishment, including up to five years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

No hearing is held on the commutation application by either the Department of Justice or the White House. Applicants will be notified when a final decision is made on their petition, and there is no appeal from the President's decision to deny a clemency request. The Office of the Pardon Attorney does not disclose information regarding the nature or results of any investigation that may have been undertaken in a particular case, or the exact point in the clemency process at which a particular petition is pending at any given time. The specific reasons for the President's decision to grant or deny a petition are generally not disclosed by either the White House or the Department of Justice. In addition, documents reflecting deliberative communications pertaining to presidential decision-making, such as the Department's recommendation to the President in a clemency matter, are not available under the Freedom of Information Act. If your petition is denied, you may reapply one year after the date of denial.

Important Notes:

Additional Criminal Record Disclosure

In response to question 6 of the Petition for Commutation of Sentence, applicants must disclose any additional arrest or charge by any civilian or military law enforcement authority, including any Federal, state, local, or foreign authority, whether it occurred before or after the offense for which commutation is sought. The petitioner's answer should list every violation, including traffic violations that resulted in an arrest or criminal charge, such as driving under the influence. Applicants should also include all convictions, whether or not they were counted in computing their criminal history category under the Sentencing Guidelines. Failure to disclose any arrest, whether it resulted in a conviction, may be considered a false statement.

Immigration Status:

If not a citizen of the United States, the applicant should be aware that a commutation of sentence only shortens the prison sentence and will not result in a change of his or her immigration status. A full pardon is the only form of executive clemency that might affect a person's immigration status, however, a person who is currently serving a prison term is not eligible to apply for that form of relief. Accordingly, if a deportation detainer has been lodged against an inmate, a commutation of sentence will not prevent their deportation and may actually hasten the deportation process. Inmates may wish to contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is the agency responsible for decisions regarding a person's immigration status, to determine whether any other relief from deportation or removal is available to them.

Every effort has been made to make this information accurate and up-to-date. Errors are inevitable and changes occur frequently. We would appreciate learning of any errors or inaccuracies regarding any information on this Webpage as soon as possible. Please write to info@cjpf.org

Last Updated: 09/04/18