The president or chief executive of the government is vested with certain powers he or she is only authorized to exercise. One such power is that of executive clemency, a power that pardons a convicted criminal of his or her crime or to reduce or commute the sentence of a convicted criminal. Granting of an executive clemency is usually done as a show of mercy and benevolence. It is usually given to those who may have been sentenced too harshly or to those who were proclaimed guilty despite excessive doubt of having committed the crime.
A pardon is the most significantly highest form of executive clemency in that it completely absolves an individual of the crime he or she has committed. Once a pardon has been bestowed upon a convicted criminal, his or her criminal records are erased of the conviction. His or her records within the judicial system no longer reflect the crime he or she has been pardoned for. Executive clemency of this kind is hardly given out and when it is, it is usually given to those who have already undergone a full prison sentence or those who have done something of merit.
A commutation or reduction of a sentence is a lower form of executive clemency in that it merely lessens the severity of the punishment or lessens the time spent in prison. Because the sentence is merely replaced with that of a less severe punishment, the records of the convicted criminal will still reflect the crime he or she has committed.