Commutation, Clemency, Pardon, Or Reprieve: What Is The Difference?

In New Jersey, the legislature has created a Parole Board that has the authority to accept, investigate, and make recommendations regarding parole applications. The Parole Board sees the application before the Governor, who then determines whether or not a pardon or other action will be made.

Generally, every state within the United States has rules regarding clemency. Clemency is the broad category of rights that a governor or president has to lessen a sentence that has already been imposed by a court of law.

In New Jersey, the Governor has the right to grant a pardon or commutation of sentence for any crime but impeachment and treason. Below are the categories of actions the governor has the right to take.

Commutation of Sentence – A commutation of sentence is a reduction of a sentence to a lesser period of time. This may occur for some of the same reasons a pardon may be granted.

Pardon – A pardon is a complete forgiveness and restores full rights of citizenship. Normally, those who have been convicted of a crime forfeit certain rights, such as to serve in certain roles, and to hold public office or vote in an election. But a pardon restores those rights. Those pardoned can apply to be expunged, and be able to say that you were not convicted of a crime.

Reprieve – A reprieve is a delay or temporary suspension of punishment. Typically, reprieves are granted for very specific and unusual circumstances, such as illness or family emergency.

Those who wish to apply for any of the above do not have to pay any fees, and do not have to meet eligibility requirements, other than that the crime they are applying for may not have been treason or impeachment.

In most cases, pardons and commutations are granted only because of exceptional circumstances. If sentences were unjust, there is proof of innocence or a lack of evidence of guilt, or the law itself was antiquated or against public policy, you may be able to seek a pardon or commutation.

This information is not intended as legal advice.

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