Executive clemency is a highly-debated issue in criminal law, and is considered by some to be unfair to both incarcerated inmates and to the victims of crime. Essentially, executive clemency gives certain officials, such as the President of the United States or the Governor of a state, the power to make decisions about the futures of incarcerated persons. A commutation of sentence means that the official has shortened the prison sentence to some degree.
A commutation of sentence can occur on either the state or the federal level, and in some cases can be overturned by the courts. However, executive clemency doesn’t happen as often in real life as it does on television, and most politicians are careful about when they are willing to invoke it. The most common reason is when the official feels that the sentence is excessive or unnecessary.
To receive a commutation of sentence in most states, you have to apply to the parole board for consideration. In some cases, you may not be eligible for executive clemency until you come up for parole, while other states allow inmates to apply at any time they are incarcerated. It is also important that you follow the specific instructions provided by your state, or your request will be denied.
Although just about anyone can apply for a commutation of sentence, it is doubtful that you will be successful unless you have a solid reason behind it. For example, successful appeals have been made by inmates who were given harsh sentences by over-zealous judges. Many officials have their own agendas, and will punish certain criminals more harshly. For example, a judge who is waging a war against judge might assign extremely stiff penalties for first-time drug offenders.
To receive a commutation of sentence, your request must be well-written and include all relevant information. You will need to state the offense for which you’ve been convicted, the dates on which that offense occurred, the exact sentence you were given, and why you feel that you should be granted executive clemency. It is best to have an attorney look it over before you submit it.
You can also include the existence of extenuating circumstances in your request for a commutation of sentence. For example, you might be granted executive clemency if you have an ailing parent at home who needs you to look after her, or perhaps there were events leading up to your crime that made it impossible for you to avoid it. Including these details will help increase the chances that your request will be at least considered.
If you are denied a commutation of sentence, some states allow you to re-apply whenever you wish, while others require you to wait a period of time before submitting a new request. You’ll have to talk to your attorney about your options, because if you don’t follow the law, you’ll just decrease your chances of receiving executive clemency.
You should also know that requests for a commutation of sentence do not mean that you will be let out of jail. A pardon is another matter entirely, and this type of executive clemency is only a shortening of the sentence. For example, you might be able to get out on parole ten years earlier than your sentence prescribed.