Archived Opinion

Are fixed-period pardons legal?

Are fixed-period pardons legal?

To the Editor:

In 1974 Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he committed, may have committed, or may have taken part in during the period from Jan. 20, 1969, through Aug. 9, 1974.

A vast majority of the citizens were greatly disturbed by President Ford’s action. They contended that Nixon must be indicted, tried, and convicted before being exonerated.

Today the question still arises: How can you be pardoned if you haven’t been convicted? The Supreme Court has never ruled on the legality of these so-called fixed-period pardons. Later presidents must have been under the assumption that the reprieve by President Ford set a precedent.

The Honorable Sen. Sam J. Ervin of North Carolina was picked by the Senate to chair a select committee to investigate the Watergate affair. Sen. Ervin was adamantly opposed to the Nixon pardon unless charges were carried out through court proceedings.

It appears the easiest and quickest way to receive amnesty or commutation is to be a crooked crony of the president. The leniency President Trump bestowed on Joe Arpaio, Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn are excellent examples. Before an everyday American can apply for a pardon they must receive a criminal conviction in U.S. District Court.

If sentenced to probation there is a five-year waiting period, beginning when sentenced, until an application for a pardon can be submitted. The waiting period for those confined is also five years, beginning on the day of their release. After the pardon application is returned to the U.S. Department of Justice it may be two years before it is adjudicated. If the pardon request is refused there’s a two-year waiting period before it can be resubmitted for consideration. 

Charles Miller


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