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Do you have to admit guilt to accept a pardon?

On Behalf of | May 18, 2023 | Pardons & Clemency

People sometimes believe that you need to admit you are guilty if you accept a pardon for those alleged crimes. In fact, they may even be hesitant to accept the pardon on these grounds. They don’t want to face civil action afterward, or they don’t want to admit guilt if they feel like they were actually innocent.

But is this how the process works? Recently, a court ruled that accepting a pardon isn’t the same as admitting guilt, and they claim it should not be interpreted that way. Instead, they say that it just implies that the person may be guilty on the grounds that they wouldn’t need a pardon if they weren’t. But that is much different than the admission of guilt. In theory, a person who believed in their own innocence could still accept a pardon.

They would have been convicted

One thing to keep in mind is that an individual who accepts a pardon would already have been convicted as being guilty, even if they did not admit that guilt themselves. So, using the pardon may not be an admission of guilt, but that is a position the court already holds.

For example, in the story referenced above, a soldier had been accused of murdering two people while fighting in the war in Afghanistan. He had allegedly told his platoon to shoot at a number of civilians, and two of them passed away. He was then convicted in 2013 and given a pardon by President Trump in 2019.

Considering all of your options

Presidential pardons may not be common, but they are one of the legal options that people sometimes consider. Make sure you look into all of yours carefully if you are facing charges or appealing a decision that has already been made.