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Jack Bauer's Magic Wand: Prospective Pardons

Under Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” Traditionally, a pardon is given for a crime that has occurred in the past. For example, in his last month in office President Obama granted 78 pardons and 153 commutations of sentences for individuals who had committed crimes. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/12/19/obama-grants-78-pre-christmas-pardons/95615810/ (last visited January 6, 2017).

However, what about a pardon for a prospective or future crime? This scenario played out in the television series 24 where one of the characters asks the President for a pardon for the potential murder of Jack Bauer, which would become effective immediately. See Damned If you Do: Dilemmas of Action in Literature and Pop Culture p. 103 by Margaret S. Hrezo and John M. Parrish.

Can a prospective pardon be given by a president in real life? Yes. Dating back to 1866, the Supreme Court ruled in Ex Parte Garland that the power of a presidential pardon extends to every offense under the law and may be exercised at any time after it has been committed, but before, during, or after legal proceedings have occurred. In Garland, a confederate solider petitioned the court to uphold a pardon, which precluded him from being disbarred. While a president may not be able to give a pardon for a future act, the law is clear that he or she can give one for any act that has occurred whether that individually has been criminally charged or indicted or not.

Looking for a Marion County criminal defense attorney that understands your criminal and constitutional rights? Contact the attorneys at Keffer Barnhart LLP today if you have questions or believe your rights have been violated. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case. Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.