In the legal sense, clemency means leniency and compassion by a judicial office toward a criminal offender. It is less an individual legal action and more a gesture of forgiveness approved by the U.S. president.
Offenders can seek several forms of relief through a clemency position, such as a presidential pardon and a resentencing of the death penalty. Eligible offenders can also seek to lower the duration of a prison sentence.
Are you qualified for sentence commutation?
Before you take the trouble of applying to commute your prison sentence, make sure you are eligible. For example, it is generally improper to seek such action if you are not yet serving your sentence. Those who are appealing a conviction must wait until these remedies fail.
What are the grounds for commuting a sentence?
It depends on each situation, but commutation grounds may look similar to those used to grant probation or parole. Some circumstances that could qualify for clemency are when offenders:
- Have a critical illness or is infirm due to age
- Demonstrated rehabilitation while incarcerated
- Suffered a sentencing disparity or unduly fair penalties
The president also considers reducing the sentences of those who offer valuable services to the government. For example, aiding in an investigation or helping to ensure a prosecution occurs may pave the way for a successful clemency petition.
The thing about all forms of executive clemency is you never really know how your petition will conclude. Along with the examples above, the president may account for time served and other unknown factors. Clemency petitions benefit from legal representation to improve the odds of success.