How to Get a Federal Pardon

How to get a federal pardon?

How to Get a Federal Pardon

A federal pardon is one of several remedies that are included in the President’s power to grant executive clemency. Aside from a federal pardon, executive clemency includes a reprieve, commutation, or remission of fine. The President is the only person who has the power to grant or deny a petition for a federal pardon. Additionally, the President’s decision to deny a request for executive clemency is final and cannot be appealed. Federal pardons are typically granted to people who have been law-abiding members of society for a substantial period of time after completing their sentence.

Who is Eligible for a Federal Pardon?

A person who has been convicted of a federal offense is eligible for a federal pardon. Individuals who have not been convicted of a federal crime cannot receive executive clemency. However, convictions for state offenses still maybe eligible for expungement or sealing under Illinois law.

A person applying for a federal pardon must complete a five-year waiting period before filing a petition for executive clemency. The five-year waiting period begins to run when the person is released from federal custody. An individual sentenced to federal probation, a sentence that is limited by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, can file a petition for a federal pardon five years from the date of the sentence.

What Is Considered Before Granting a Federal Pardon?

Aside from living a productive and crime-free life after completing their federal sentence, individuals seeking a federal pardon must also establish financial stability, a stable work history, responsibility towards their family, and their participation in their community. These factors are considered on an individual basis and what is considered an extraordinary post-conviction life for a person who comes from poverty may not be for another person who comes from a more fortunate environment.

Serious felony violations are less likely to receive a federal pardon unless a significant period of time has elapsed from the offense. Old violations of minor crimes are the most likely to receive a federal pardon. People who have accepted responsibility and have made restitution to the victims are also more likely to receive a federal pardon. That being said, federal pardons are granted in very limited situations to individuals who claim actual innocence or a denial of due process; however, those claims are best raised in a direct appeal or a habeas corpus petition.

The reasons for the federal pardon also play significant role in the President’s decision. Everyone convicted of a federal offense loses significant rights under Illinois and federal law such as losing a federal license or the right to vote. The most compelling reasons for a federal pardon are employment based. Even marginal cases have a great chance of success if the individual can establish that a federal pardon would remove a significant barrier to the person regaining employment and continuing their rehabilitation.

What Needs to Get Submitted to File for a Federal Pardon?

The applicant needs to file the proper application, which is available at the Department of Justice’s website. The completed application should be mailed to the Office of the Pardon Attorney except for military pardons. There is not a fee to file the application for a federal pardon. Aside from the official application, a person may submit any other documentation or recommendations when the file their application for a federal pardon.


A federal pardon or any other form of executive clemency is an extraordinary remedy that is rarely granted. The Obama administration since taking office has received over 15,000 petitions for executive clemency but it has only granted less than 1% of the petitions it has received. These numbers only highlight the fact that to be successful requires extensive planning and organization to present a compelling argument that warrants a federal pardon.

Jaleel Law P.C. can help you navigate the complex maze of executive clemency. If you have served your time and fulfilled your debt to society and you are ready to start fresh, contact Jaleel Law P.C. to discuss how we can help you get a federal pardon.