U.S. Military Lawyer - The Law Office of Stephen P. Karns

Clemency, Parole, Pardons, and Correction of Military Records

Clemency. Clemency is an action by either the court-martial convening authority or a Clemency and Parole Board which may result in the mitigation, remission, or suspension of the whole or any part of an individual's court-martial sentence. To receive clemency from the convening authority, the accused may submit a request for clemency after the sentence is announced but before the convening authority takes final action. Pursuant to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Service Secretaries may also grant clemency on unexecuted portions of a court-martial sentence. Primarily the Service’s Clemency and Parole Boards exercise these clemency powers. Each board consists of five senior officers and provides recommendations and advice to the respective Service Secretary. Automatic clemency review is available to an accused depending on the length of confinement awarded and the branch of service. Clemency review can be waived.

Parole. Parole is the conditional release of an accused from confinement. The servicemember’s Service regulations should be reviewed to determine eligibility criteria. The eligible applicant must submit a parole plan to the appropriate Service’s Clemency and Parole Board. The parole plan must provide at a minimum a residence requirement, a requirement that the prisoner have either guaranteed employment, an offer of effective assistance to obtain employment, or acceptance in a bona fide educational or vocational program. Military prisoners transferred to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to serve their sentence are paroled at the discretion of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The U. S. Probation office supervises all parolees.

In general, the Clemency and Parole Board looks at the following factors: the nature and circumstances of the crime; the military and civilian background of the offender; a substantial post-conviction educational or rehabilitative effort; post trial progress reports; recommendations of the military judge and legal officer; psychiatric evaluations; any statement by the victim; and, any restitution made to the victim.

Pardon. An individual may also petition for the highest form of clemency, a Presidential Pardon. Under Article II, Clause 1 of the Constitution, the President has the power to grant pardons for federal offenders. The pardon signifies forgiveness of an offense. However, a pardon will not change the nature of a discharge or expunge a record of conviction. Requests for pardons are handled through the Office of the Pardon Attorney, U. S. Department of Justice.

Correction of Military Records. Once an accused has exhausted all other possible remedies, another method for an accused to either modify or reduce a sentence may be by petition to the Board for the Correction of Military Records. Each Service has established a Board for the Correction of Service Records in order to correct military records, where such action is necessary or appropriate to correct an error or an injustice. These civilian boards are established pursuant to the statutory provisions of 10 U.S.C. § 1552. These boards cannot set aside a court-martial conviction, but may reduce or modify a sentence as a matter of clemency, even if the sentence has already been executed.


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