Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary
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- To use the executive power of a governor or president to forgive a person charged with a crime or convicted of a crime, thus preventing any prosecution and removing any remaining penalties or punishments. A pardon is distinguished from "a commutation of sentence," which cuts short the term; "a reprieve," which is a temporary halt to punishment, particularly the death penalty, pending appeal or determination of whether the penalty should be reduced; "amnesty," which is a blanket forgiving of possible criminal charges due to a change in public circumstances (such as the end of a war or the draft system); or a "reduction in sentence," which shortens a sentence and can be granted by a judge or an executive. Sometimes called a commutation.