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Pardon After Completion of Sentence

The President can grant a pardon to a person who was convicted in a United States District Court, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, or a military court-martial. Generally, a pardon is an expression of forgiveness. A pardon can help eliminate some of the consequences of a conviction.

Under Department of Justice rules, there is a five-year waiting period before a person can apply for pardon. The waiting period begins when a person is released from confinement. Or, if there was no prison sentence, the waiting period begins on the date of sentencing.

  • Download the pardon application instructions, privacy statement, and Rules Governing Petitions for Executive Clemency (PDF)
  • Download the pardon application form (PDF)
  • Standards for considering pardon petitions (Justice Manual Section 9-140.112)


It is the general policy of the Department of Justice not to accept for processing applications for posthumous pardons for federal convictions. The policy against processing posthumous pardon petitions is grounded in the belief that the time of the officials involved in the clemency process is better spent on the pardon and commutation requests of living persons. Many posthumous pardon requests would likely be based on a claim of manifest injustice, and given that decades have passed since the commission of the offense and the historical record would have to be scoured objectively and comprehensively to investigate such claims, it is the Department’s position that the limited resources available to process applications for Presidential pardon are best dedicated to applications submitted by living persons who can truly benefit from a grant of clemency. The policy also recognizes that applications for posthumous pardons are less likely to involve the issues that generally are explored in routine pardon investigations (such as the recent, or ongoing, rehabilitative efforts of a defendant), and are therefore less likely to benefit from the investigative techniques commonly used in the pardon process.

Notwithstanding the Department's policy, there have been a few instances in which Presidents have pardoned persons known to be deceased at the time clemency was granted. A few examples include:

Henry Ossian Flipper - granted by President William Clinton on February 19, 1999 (download clemency warrant)

Charles Winters - granted by President George W. Bush on January 1, 2009 (download clemency warrant)

John Arthur "Jack" Johnson - granted by President Donald J. Trump on May 24, 2018 (download clemency warrant)

It is the general policy of the Department of Justice not to process applications for pardon of federal misdemeanor convictions, since most civil disabilities imposed as the result of a federal conviction are triggered by conviction for a felony offense rather than a misdemeanor crime. Given this fact, it is the view of the Department of Justice that the limited resources of the Office of the Pardon Attorney are best utilized to review and process applications for pardon of federal felony convictions, since in those circumstances, the relief requested would, if granted, remove civil disabilities and have a more meaningful effect upon the clemency recipient. In order to be considered for a waiver of this policy, an applicant must provide concrete evidence in his pardon application of a specific harm or disability suffered that is directly and solely attributable to the misdemeanor federal conviction.

It is the general policy of the Department of Justice not to accept pardon applications submitted by non-residents of the United States. This policy is predicated upon the difficulty that an applicant’s non-residency poses when conducting a thorough and exacting investigation into the applicant’s personal background and activities. A thorough investigation is conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to determine the applicant’s worthiness for pardon. Therefore, we will not open a new clemency casefile for a non-resident unless instructed by Department leadership or the President.

If you are requesting pardon of a court-martial conviction only, you should submit your completed petition directly to the Secretary of the military department that had original jurisdiction in your case, and listing in your responses to questions 2 through 6 and question 15 of the petition form all pertinent information concerning your court-martial trial and conviction. The addresses for submitting a request for a pardon of a court-martial conviction are as follows:

U.S. Army:
Secretary of the Army
Department of the Army
Washington, DC 20310

U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps:
Office of the Judge Advocate General
Criminal Law Division (Code 20)
1254 Charles Morris Street S.E.,
Suite B01
Washington Navy Yard, D.C. 20374

U.S. Air Force:
Secretary of the Air Force
Attention: AFLOA/JAJR
1500 W. Perimeter Road,
Suite 1170
Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, MD 20762

Please be aware that receiving a pardon for a military offense will not change the character of a military discharge. An upgrade or other change to a military discharge may only be accomplished by action of the appropriate military authorities. To apply for a review of a military discharge, you should write to the relevant military branch, at the address listed below:

U.S. Army:
Army Review Boards Agency
251 18th Street South
Arlington, Virginia 22202-4508

U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps:
Secretary of the Navy
Naval Council of Personnel Records
702 Kennon Street, SE
Suite 309
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5023

U.S. Air Force:
Air Force Review Boards Agency
550C Street West
Suite 40
Randolph Air Force Base, Texas 78150-4742

Updated August 24, 2023