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Understand your options and make your best case for a federal pardon.

If you have been convicted of a felony offense in federal court or by military court martial, you are subject to many “civil disabilities” even after you complete your sentence—

⦁    As a convicted felon, you are prohibited by law from possessing a firearm,               even for recreational hunting purposes.  
⦁    You are subject to a bewildering array of employment and licensing                           restrictions under state and federal laws that may limit your career options.
⦁    Your state political rights, such as the right to vote, serve on a jury, or run for         elected office, may be restricted.
⦁    If you are a non-U.S. citizen, you may be subject to deportation, even for a             first offense.  


So, even after you have paid your debt to society, there is a real sense in which any felony conviction carries a life sentence.

The Framers of the Constitution recognized that no criminal justice system, no matter how carefully conceived, is infallible. For that reason, they included the mechanism of executive clemency, which gives the President broad authority to grant official forgiveness and limit the consequences of a crime or fully restore an offender’s civil rights. When the President grants executive clemency, he is not “interfering” in the operation of the federal criminal justice system. Rather, he is exercising his constitutionally assigned authority within the criminal justice system.

A pardon from the President does not erase the historical fact of your conviction. Your criminal record still shows that you committed the offense. What a pardon does do is lessen the stigma of a conviction by bestowing official forgiveness for the offense and, as a legal matter, restores the civil rights that you lost as a result of your conviction.


Under the administrative rules governing the submission of pardon petitions, in order to apply for a pardon, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:

⦁    Be a resident of the United States.

⦁    Have committed a federal offense. The President cannot pardon state           offenses. (Federal offenses are prosecuted in federal district courts, the           Superior Court for the District of Columbia, and military courts                     martial).

⦁    Satisfy a five-year waiting period after release from incarceration or, if           no prison sentence was imposed, date of sentencing.

Application Process

An application for a pardon is typically submitted to the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA), the agency within the Department of Justice that is responsible for advising the President on clemency decisions. The OPA evaluates each petition and makes a recommendation, which the President almost always follows.

The preparation of a strong clemency application is an exacting process. The OPA follows a set of internal guidelines when evaluating petitions—some of which are not explicit or obvious on the application form. As an agency within the Department of Justice, which is responsible for prosecuting federal crimes, the OPA is predisposed to recommend denial of a petition unless your story is compelling and persuasive enough to overcome their reservations.

Since the majority of petitions submitted to the OPA are forwarded to the White House with a negative recommendation, you need the expertise of a lawyer who understands how the process works to prepare a persuasive application. With 13 years of experience as a staff attorney in the OPA, Samuel Morison is uniquely qualified to help applicants for federal clemency through this process. Contact our office for more information.

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