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What Is a Pardon?

A pardon is official forgiveness of a crime and the penalty/penalties associated with it, granted by the head of state (like a president or monarch) or a church authority. In many countries, a pardon is granted after those who have committed an offense have fulfilled their debt to society or are deserving of the pardon as determined by the pardoning official. Pardons are sometimes offered to people falsely accused and wrongfully convicted of a crime or penalty. Pardons sometimes imply an admission of guilt and in many cases, a pardon petition is refused and frequently handled with an appeal.

Laws and rules regarding pardons vary from country to country. Within the United States, the President can only pardon offenses recognized under federal law. State laws indicate governors within most 50 states can grant pardons (or reprieves) for offenses recognized under state criminal laws or through an appointed agency or board. In some states, the agency is a parole board.

A pardon is similar to but not the same as a reprieve, clemency, amnesty, commutation, or remission.

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