Presidential pardons have been a part of the United States justice system almost since the beginning, starting in 1789. These powers have been used many times. For instance, FDR pardoned nearly 3,000 people while he was in office – though he did serve for four terms, which would be impossible now. For the sake of comparison, President Barack Obama pardoned 212 people.
But have you ever wondered why the president has this power? Why would one person be given the ability to do this?
The precedent in English law
Though there are many opinions on this, one thing that is clear is that English law, and the monarchy under which the early American politicians had lived, had also had pardon power. The practice was adopted to the office of the president of the United States. This is something that the people at the time would already have been used to seeing in action, and giving this power to the president allowed him to operate the same way that a king or queen would have in the past.
That said, the lawmakers at the time were careful to add some restrictions to this pardon power. It cannot be used for future crimes, for example, and it cannot be used in relation to impeachment. This means that a president cannot be impeached and then simply pardon himself. Even at the time, some opposed pardon power on the grounds that it was too much for one person to wield, especially if there was potential corruption. But the power remains, much as it did in English law before.
What are your options?
It’s important to understand how pardons work, but you also want to know about all of your other legal options. as shown above, presidential pardons are uncommon, but they are also not the only way to appeal a sentence or have a record sealed.