Skip to comments.Standards for Considering Commutation Petitions
Posted on 01/19/2009 1:17:26 PM PST by DBCJR
Section 1-2.113 Standards for Considering Commutation Petitions
A commutation of sentence reduces the period of incarceration; it does not imply forgiveness of the underlying offense, but simply remits a portion of the punishment. It has no effect upon the underlying conviction and does not necessarily reflect upon the fairness of the sentence originally imposed. Requests for commutation generally are not accepted unless and until a person has begun serving that sentence. Nor are commutation requests generally accepted from persons who are presently challenging their convictions or sentences through appeal or other court proceeding.
The President may commute a sentence to time served or he may reduce a sentence, either merely for the purpose of advancing an inmate's parole eligibility or to achieve the inmate's release after a specified period of time. Commutation may be granted upon conditions similar to those imposed pursuant to parole or supervised release or, in the case of an alien, upon condition of deportation.
Generally, commutation of sentence is an extraordinary remedy that is rarely granted. Appropriate grounds for considering commutation have traditionally included disparity or undue severity of sentence, critical illness or old age, and meritorious service rendered to the government by the petitioner, e.g., cooperation with investigative or prosecutive efforts that has not been adequately rewarded by other official action. A combination of these and/or other equitable factors may also provide a basis for recommending commutation in the context of a particular case.
The amount of time already served and the availability of other remedies (such as parole) are taken into account in deciding whether to recommend clemency. The possibility that the Department itself could accomplish the same result by petitioning the sentencing court, through a motion to reward substantial assistance under Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a motion for modification or remission of fine under 18 U.S.C. § 3573, or a request for compassionate relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1), will also bear on the decision whether to recommend Presidential intervention in the form of clemency. When a commutation request is based on the serious illness of the petitioner, transmission of the United States Attorney's response by facsimile in advance of mailing the original is always appreciated.
When a petitioner seeks remission of fine or restitution, the ability to pay and any good faith efforts to discharge the obligation are important considerations. Petitioners for remission also should demonstrate satisfactory post-conviction conduct.
On January 21, 1977, the President by Proclamation 4483 granted pardon to persons who committed non-violent violations of the Selective Service Act between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973 and who were not Selective Service employees. Although a person who comes within the described class was immediately pardoned by the proclamation, the Pardon Attorney issues certificates of pardon to those within the class who were actually convicted of a draft violation and who make written application to the Department on official forms. When these applications are received by the Pardon Attorney, they are forwarded to the United States Attorney for the district in which the applicant was convicted to verify the facts of the case. The verification should be returned to the Pardon Attorney promptly.