If you are charged with a felony and go to prison, there is always a possibility that you could be released or have your penalty changed. You may be able to get out of prison or have your penalties reduced through clemency, a pardon, commuted sentence, or a reprieve. The following is some information on what these terms mean and how they are different:
What Is Clemency?
Clemency is a general term that refers to reducing the penalties for a crime through different methods that are only authorized by state or federal executives. Your record is not cleared of your charges, but you can get out of prison early. If you are released through clemency, it does not mean you are without guilt. It just means your sentence is reduced. For instance, a pardon is a type of clemency. Only the governor of a state can grant clemency for a state crime. The President of the United States has the authority to grant clemency for federal crimes.
What Is a Pardon?
A pardon occurs when a certain criminal crime is forgiven by an executive decision. The crime will remain on your record, but you will not be subject to additional penalties that others who were guilty of similar crimes have to endure. While the governor is the only one to grand a pardon for state crimes, some states allow an acting parole board to grant a pardon on behalf of the state.
A pardon forgives you of a crime. It is typically used if you were wrongfully accused of the crime. They are also used if the executive determines that your penalty is too harsh for your crime.
What Is a Commuted Sentence?
A commuted sentence is a method of changing a sentence from one that was deemed too harsh. This is an act of mercy that is meant to commonly used in death penalty cases. A death sentence can be commuted to a life sentence. Commuted sentences are also used to allow a person out of prison. It will not restore your civil rights, however. Just like in other forms of clemency, the governor or president has the power to commute a sentence.
What Is a Reprieve?
A reprieve halts the punishment for a crime for a period of time. Reprieves occur when more information is necessary before an appropriate sentence can be applied. Some of the more common uses for reprieves are the discovery of new evidence, errors in an investigation, an appeal that was filed late, or in cases of unusually harsh sentences.
Felony lawyers can help you if you feel like any of these situations could apply to your case.