DOJ Commutation Instructions
Department Of Justice

1. Submit the petition to the Office of the Pardon Attorney

All petitions for commutation of sentence should be forwarded to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice. The completed commutation petition must be entirely legible; therefore, please type or print in ink. The form must be completed fully and accurately in order to be considered. You may attach to the petition additional pages and documents that amplify or clarify your answer to any question.

2. Federal convictions only

Under the Constitution, the President has the authority to commute sentences for federal criminal convictions, which are those obtained in the United States District Courts. In addition, the President's clemency power extends to convictions obtained in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. However, the President cannot commute a state criminal sentence. Accordingly, if you are seeking clemency for a state criminal conviction, you should not complete and submit this petition. Instead, you should contact the Governor or other appropriate authorities of the state where you were convicted (such as the state board of pardons and paroles) to determine whether any relief is available to you under state law.

3. Reduction of sentence only

The President's clemency power includes the authority to commute, or reduce, a sentence imposed upon conviction of a federal offense, including the authority to remit, or reduce, the amount of a fine or restitution order that has not already been paid. This form of clemency is different from a pardon after completion of sentence. Under the current regulations governing petitions for executive clemency, a person may not apply for a full pardon until at least five years after his or her release from incarceration. Accordingly, the commutation form should be used only for the purpose of seeking a reduction of sentence.

4. Completion of court challenges

Requests for commutation of a prison sentence generally are not accepted unless and until a person has begun serving that sentence. In addition, commutation requests are generally not accepted from a person who is currently challenging his or her conviction or sentence through appeal or other court proceeding. Accordingly, you should not complete and submit this petition until you have concluded all judicial challenges to your conviction and sentence and you have begun serving your sentence. You should also be aware that, in evaluating the merits of a commutation petition, clemency authorities take into consideration the amount of time the petitioner has already served and the availability of other remedies to secure the relief sought (such as parole or judicial action).

5. Special assessment

Requests for the remission of a special assessment are not accepted. The special assessment is not considered to be a fine, and should not be included in describing any fine that might have been imposed upon you.

6. Commutation of probation, supervised release, or special parole.

If you are seeking reduction of a period of probation, supervised release, or special parole, you should state that specifically on the form and set forth the particular reasons why this portion of your sentence should be reduced, including the reasons that being on probation, supervised release, or special parole would be an unusual hardship for you. You should also explain why requesting the sentencing court to grant early termination of a term of supervision, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(1) or 18 U.S.C. § 4211, is not an adequate remedy.

7. Immigration status

If you are not a citizen of the United States, you should be aware that commutation of your sentence only shortens the prison sentence and will not result in a change of your immigration status. A full pardon is the only form of executive clemency that might affect a person's immigration status; however, as noted in paragraph 3 above, a person who is currently serving a prison term is not eligible to apply for that form of relief. Accordingly, if a detainer has been lodged against you for deportation or removal, commutation of sentence, even if granted, will not prevent your deportation or removal from the United States and may actually hasten the process. You may wish to contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is the agency responsible for decisions regarding a person's immigration status, to determine whether any other relief from deportation or removal is available to you.

8. Additional criminal record

In response to question 6, you must disclose any additional arrest or charge by any civilian or military law enforcement authority, including any federal, state, local, or foreign authority, whether it occurred before or after the offense for which you are seeking commutation. Your answer should list every violation, including traffic violations that resulted in an arrest or criminal charge, such as driving under the influence. You should also include all convictions, whether or not they were counted in computing your criminal history category under the Sentencing Guidelines. Your failure to disclose any arrest, whether or not it resulted in a conviction, and every conviction may be considered a false statement.

9. Penalty for false statements

The failure to fully and accurately complete the application form may be construed as a falsification of the petition, which may provide a reason for denying your petition. In addition, the intentional falsification of a document submitted to the government may subject you to criminal punishment, including up to five years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 3571.

10. Exclusive Presidential authority

The power to commute a sentence for a federal offense is vested in the President alone. It is an extraordinary remedy that is very rarely granted. No hearing is held on the commutation application by either the Department of Justice or the White House. You will be notified when a final decision is made on your petition, and there is no appeal from the President's decision to deny a clemency request. The Office of the Pardon Attorney does not disclose information regarding the nature or results of any investigation that may have been undertaken in a particular case, or the exact point in the clemency process at which a particular petition is pending at a given time. As a matter of well-established policy, the specific reasons for the President's decision to grant or deny a petition are generally not disclosed by either the White House or the Department of Justice. In addition, documents reflecting deliberative communications pertaining to presidential decision-making, such as the Department's recommendation to the President in a clemency matter, are confidential and not available under the Freedom of Information Act. If your petition is denied, you may reapply one year after the date of denial.

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