10

The pardon power of the U.S. president is generally characterized as rather unlimited. It says

[...] he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

This does not say that only natural persons can be pardoned, and if legal persons are held to be able to commit crimes, could the President pardon them?

Would the pardon affect what evidence a corporation has to produce under a subpoena?

Are there any precedents in this regard?

  • 1
    Pretty sure you can't sentence a corporation to serve a prison sentence or death, so I'm guessing the answer is "No." – Joe Jun 20 at 10:15
  • @Joe: actually, you can, sort of: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_dissolution. Also related: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_manslaughter – Steve Melnikoff Jun 20 at 10:42
  • 1
    Plus, there's nothing I'm aware of that says the President can't pardon fine-only sentences. – Bobson Jun 20 at 12:11
  • 1
    @joe Many US Federal statutes make violations punishable by imprisonments, or fine, or both, as the court sees fit. Some are punishable only by a fine. When corporations are found guilty of a crime, as does happen, the usual punishment is a file, sometimes along with a civil penalty, an injunction, or a consent agreement. – David Siegel Jun 20 at 15:56
  • 1
    @KDog, that would require a corrupt President. I was asking about legitimate uses of the pardon power, even if I didn't spell that out. – o.m. Sep 22 at 4:34
9

Corporations can be, and often are, found guilty of criminal violations, which are normally punished by fines, although in some cases loss of some license, or a ban from being eligible for government contracts (partial or total) could also be imposed.

The pardon power of the US President extends to all offenses charged (or that could be charged, as a pardon can be issued for past conduct where charges have not yet been filed) under US Federal law, with the sole exception of impeachment. (There is argument about whether a US President can pardon his or her own acts. No president has ever tried, so this has never been ruled on by any court.)

Article II section 2 paragraph 1 of the US federal constitution reads, in pertinent part:

... and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

The is no exception for offenses by corporations.

A president can pardon a corporation that has been, or might be, charged with a criminal offense under US Federal law, which would remit any fine.

I have not found any case in which a US President has pardoned a corporation, nor in which the validity of any such pardon has been challenged in court. This list of pardons from Wikipedia does not list any companies, but it does not purport to be complete.

  • 1
    Nice answer, but it'd be better if you could add a citation to this? Maybe a case where this happened in the past? – divibisan Jun 20 at 16:13
  • 1
    @divibisan since I can't find any case where it has happened, I can't very well cite such a case. I will add a citation to the constitutional provision granting the President this power. – David Siegel Sep 21 at 18:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.