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In law, a commutation is the substitution of a lesser penalty for that given after a conviction for a crime. The penalty can be lessened in severity, in duration, or both.Unlike most pardons by government and overturnings by the court (a full overturning is equal to an acquittal), a commutation does not affect the status of a defendant's underlying criminal conviction.
In law, a conviction is the verdict that usually results when a court of law finds a defendant guilty of a crime. The opposite of a conviction is an acquittal. In Scotland and in the Netherlands, there can also be a verdict of "not proven", which counts as an acquittal. There are also cases in which the court orders that a defendant not be convicted, despite being found guilty; in England, Wales, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand the mechanism for this is a discharge.
A pardon is a government decision to allow a person to be absolved of guilt for an alleged crime or other legal offense, as if the act never occurred. The pardon may be granted before or after conviction for the crime, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction.
In common law jurisdictions, an acquittal certifies that the accused is free from the charge of an offense, as far as the criminal law is concerned. This is so even where the prosecution is simply abandoned by the prosecution. The finality of an acquittal is dependent on the jurisdiction. In some countries, such as the United States, an acquittal operates to bar the retrial of the accused for the same offense, even if new evidence surfaces that further implicates the accused. The effect of an acquittal on criminal proceedings is the same whether it results from a jury verdict, or whether it results from the operation of some other rule that discharges the accused. In other countries, the prosecuting authority may appeal an acquittal similar to how a defendant may appeal a conviction.
Although the concept of commutation may be used to broadly describe the substitution of a lesser criminal penalty for the original sentence, some jurisdictions have historically used the term only for the substitution of a sentence of a different character than was originally imposed by the court.For example, the substitution of a sentence of parole for the original sentence of incarceration. A jurisdiction that uses that definition of commutation would use another term, such as a remission, to describe a reduction of a penalty that does not change its character.
A commutation does not reverse a conviction and the recipient of a commutation remains guilty in accordance with the original conviction.For example, someone convicted of capital murder may have their sentence of death commuted to life imprisonment, a lessening of the punishment that does not affect the underlying criminal conviction, as may occur on a discretionary basis or following upon a change in the law or judicial ruling that limits or eliminates the death penalty.
In some jurisdictions a commutation of sentence may be conditional, meaning that the convicted person may be required to abide by specified conditions or may lose the benefit of the commutation. The conditions must be lawful and reasonable, and will typically expire when the convicted completes any remaining portion of his or her sentence. For example, the pardon may be conditioned upon the person's being a law-abiding citizen, such that if the beneficiary of the commutation commits a new crime before the condition expires the original sentence may be restored.
The term felony, in some common law countries, is defined as a serious crime. The word originates from English common law, where felonies were originally crimes involving confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods. Other crimes were called misdemeanors. Many common law countries have now abolished the felony/misdemeanor distinction and replaced it with other distinctions, such as between indictable offences and summary offences. A felony is generally considered a crime of high seriousness, but a misdemeanor is not.
Probation in criminal law is a period of supervision over an offender, ordered by the court instead of serving time in prison.
A parole board is a panel of people who decide whether an offender should be released from prison on parole after serving at least a minimum portion of their sentence as prescribed by the sentencing judge. Parole boards are used in many jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, the United States, and New Zealand. A related concept is the board of pardons and paroles, which may deal with pardons and commutations as well as paroles.
In the United States, habitual offender laws were first implemented on March 7, 1994 and are part of the United States Justice Department's Anti-Violence Strategy. These laws require a person guilty of committing both a severe violent felony and two other previous convictions to serve a mandatory life sentence in prison. The purpose of the laws is to drastically increase the punishment of those convicted of more than two serious crimes.
A suspended sentence is a legal term for a judge's delaying of a defendant's serving of a sentence after they have been found guilty, in order to allow the defendant to perform a period of probation. If the defendant does not break the law during that period, and fulfills the particular conditions of the probation, the judge usually dismisses the sentence.
Mandatory sentencing requires that offenders serve a predefined term for certain crimes, commonly serious and violent offenses. Judges are bound by law; these sentences are produced through the legislature, not the judicial system. They are instituted to expedite the sentencing process and limit the possibility of irregularity of outcomes due to judicial discretion. Mandatory sentences are typically given to people who are convicted of certain serious and/or violent crimes, and require a prison sentence. Mandatory sentencing laws vary across nations; they are more prevalent in common law jurisdictions because civil law jurisdictions usually prescribe minimum and maximum sentences for every type of crime in explicit laws.
In the English and British tradition, the royal prerogative of mercy is one of the historic royal prerogatives of the British monarch, by which he or she can grant pardons to convicted persons. The royal prerogative of mercy was originally used to permit the monarch to withdraw, or provide alternatives to death sentences; the alternative of penal transportation to "partes abroade" has been used since at least 1617. It is now used to change any sentence or penalty. A royal pardon does not itself overturn a conviction.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Texas.
A discharge is a type of sentence where no punishment is imposed, and which vitiates the court's guilty verdict, thus resulting in a non-conviction.
The Parole Board of Canada is a Canadian government agency that operates under the auspices of Public Safety Canada.
In the common law legal system, an expungement proceeding is a type of lawsuit in which a first time offender of a prior criminal conviction seeks that the records of that earlier process be sealed, making the records unavailable through the state or Federal repositories. If successful, the records are said to be "expunged". Black's Law Dictionary defines "expungement of record" as the "Process by which record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from the state or Federal repository." While expungement deals with an underlying criminal record, it is a civil action in which the subject is the petitioner or plaintiff asking a court to declare that the records be expunged.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Colorado.
The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: "[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb..." The four essential protections included are prohibitions against, for the same offense:
The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles is a five-member panel authorized to grant paroles, pardons, reprieves, remissions, commutations, and to remove civil and political disabilities imposed by law. Created by Constitutional amendment in 1943, it is part of the executive branch of Georgia's government. Members are appointed by the governor to staggered, renewable seven-year terms subject to confirmation by the State Senate.
In Canada, the criminal law is governed by the Criminal Code, a federal statute. The Criminal Code includes the principles and powers in relation to criminal sentences.
Death sentence with reprieve is a criminal punishment found in the law of the People's Republic of China. According to the criminal law chapter 5, section 48, 50 and 51, it gives the death row inmate a two-year suspended sentence of the execution. The convicted person will be executed if found to intentionally commit further crimes during the two years following the sentence; otherwise, the sentence is automatically reduced to life imprisonment or, if the person is found to have performed deeds of merit during the two years, fixed-term imprisonment.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) is a state agency of Texas, with a central office in Austin. In making parole and clemency decisions, the board seeks to preserve public safety while restoring human potential through the supervised reintegration of offenders into society.
A federal pardon in the United States is the action of the President of the United States that completely sets aside or commutes (lessens) the punishment for a federal crime. The authority to take such action is granted to the president by Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution. Under the Constitution, the president's clemency power extends only to federal criminal offenses. All requests for executive clemency for federal offenses are directed to the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice for investigation and review. The beneficiary of a pardon needs to accept the pardon and acknowledge that the crime did take place.