Executive Clemency

Executive clemency is also known as a “pardon.” Executive clemency constitutes forgiveness for the crime. It is not an expungement. However, after obtaining executive clemency, expungement of New Jersey convictions then become possible. Expunged or not, all legal consequences flowing from the conviction are removed. For federal crimes, executive clemency can be granted only by the President. For New Jersey crimes, executive clemency can be granted only by the governor. This page concerns itself only with New Jersey crimes. Margaret Love is a Washington D.C. lawyer with vast experience in executive clemency at the federal level. Persons wishing to pursue a federal pardon should consider using her services.

The governor can grant executive clemency before charges are filed; while charges are pending; or following conclusion of proceedings. “Following conclusion of proceedings” can mean the next day. It can also mean fifty or more years later and, of course, any time in between.

If executive clemency is granted before charges have been filed, then the threat of charges is completely removed. If executive clemency is granted while filed charges are still pending, then prosecution immediately terminates, and all legal jeopardy ends. If executive clemency is granted after completion of proceedings, all legal consequences associated with the conviction are removed. A pardon enables expunction of records relating to convictions that have been forgiven by executive clemency.

Expungement following receipt of executive clemency is not automatic. The applicant must still apply for it. In most instances, the expungement will then be granted. However, the prosecutor can still oppose it. Most grounds upon which the prosecutor can oppose it will be overruled. However, the prosecutor can still oppose it on the ground that public need for the records outweighs the benefits that the expungement would provide. In re Petition for Expungement of the Criminal Record Belonging to T.O. is the case that establishes that ability.

The procedure in New Jersey for obtaining executive clemency begins with submitting a completed application for executive clemency. Completed applications are filed with the Parole Board. Upon receipt, the Parole Board assigns an investigator. The investigator reviews the form, verifies information in the form, and makes a recommendation to the governor. The governor then processes the application.

“Processes” can mean granting the application; it can mean denying the application; and it can mean throwing the application into a trash can and not even looking at it. There is no body that has authority to second guess the governor's decision to grant executive clemency; or to withhold executive clemency; or to not review an application for executive clemency. The governor's discretion with regard to executive clemency is absolute.

The work involved in seeking executive clemency is comparable to the work involved in seeking a “compelling circumstances” expungement, and the fee that Expungement Lawyers in New Jersey™ charge is the same. In point of fact, the granting of executive clemency in New Jersey is about as rare as rocking horse manure. If you, or your brother-in-law, or the law firm you retain has made six-figure contributions to the governor's election campaign, or is politically well connected (very well connected), hope may exist. Everyone else has two friends: Slim and None, and Slim's busy.

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