Refusing a “Get out of Jail Free” Card – When Pardon’s Aren’t Accepted

Anyone who has ever been arrested probably wishes, like the game of Monopoly, that there was such thing as a “get out of Jail free” card to magically grant them another chance at a crime free life. While that idea seems too good to be true, such a thing does exist as clemency in the form of a pardon.

Clemency

Photo by: The White House

Clemency is defined as: mercy or lenience, and when used in legal terms it can be defined as having mercy or leniency regarding criminal punishments or the severity of them. According to clemency statistics from the United States Department of Justice, there are four different petitions that can be granted: Respites, remissions, commutation, or pardons.

• Respite. A respite is not a forgiveness of a crime; it is merely an issuance of extra time until the carrying out of their sentence. One of the instances of when this type of clemency would arise is when someone is on death row and is hoping to get life in prison instead. They would file a petition for a respite to hold off the day of their execution until they’ve had more time for their appeal for another type of clemency such as a remission or pardon to be granted.

• Remission. Remissions are used to remove or relieve a person from a legal obligation they may have such as a fine or restitution.

• Commutation. A commutation reduces the punishment for a crime. Someone who may have been convicted of a crime and given a sentence may petition for commutation either to have their sentence reduced or removed all together. If a sentence is completely removed, the person convicted will not serve the time behind bars but may still lose certain liberties such as owning a firearm or serving on a jury.

• One well known type of clemency is known as a pardon. A pardon is complete forgiveness of a crime. When a person receives a pardon for their crime, said crime is entirely erased from their criminal history. They are not required to serve time behind bars, pay a fine, or ever face any repercussions related to that crime including lost civil liberties. For the person pardoned, it is as though the crime never took place. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution defines pardons as “. . . an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime has committed.” There are two different types of pardons.

o A full pardon which is complete legal and civil restoration to the convicted no strings attached; or

o A conditional pardon, which is a full pardon if the person agrees to something else in return. Failure to hold up there part of the deal would result in the pardon becoming void.

Power of a clean slate

Pardons are one of the more well-known types of clemency because it is a complete forgiveness of a crime, without the person serving any time or monetary restitution. A pardon could save a person from spending a lifetime behind bars – even to escape the death penalty. If the crime for which a pardon is requested is committed on a state level, only the governor of that state has the power to issue a pardon. If the crime is federal, the pardon must come from the very top – The President of the United States. According to the clemency statistics from the United States Department of Justice, our current president has granted seven of the 762 petitions for pardons he has received during his time in office. The previous president granted only 212 of the 3,395 petitions received during his eight years as commander in chief. Pardons, especially on a federal level are not granted easily, which makes it hard to understand why with the extraordinary opportunity for a second chance that the offer of a pardon would ever be refused.

Refusing a pardon

In 1830, two men, James Porter and George Wilson were found guilty of robbing and threatening the life of a U.S. postal carrier. They were both sentenced to death by hanging. James Porter was executed as planned. George Wilson however had friends in high places who begged the current president Andrew Jackson for clemency. President Jackson agreed, giving Wilson a full pardon for the crimes of which he was on death row for. Wilson would still have to serve prison time for other crimes, but he would not be executed and still have many years after prison to carry on with his life. Surprisingly however, Wilson refused the pardon.

Void if not accepted

You can’t force someone to consent to help; the same can be said for pardons. A pardon can be offered but it is void if the person to whom it is given won’t receive it. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states “ . . . A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him.” While some individuals refuse pardons to protect themselves against self-incrimination, others may stubbornly refuse any government handout. Regardless of their reasons, pardons are only good if they are accepted. For more information on clemency regarding a specific case, contact an experienced attorney.

Felony Charges for Possession of an Escape Tool

No one wants to be incarcerated, and although people may joke about breaking out, actually being in possession of an escape tool can result in felony charges for inmates or visitors.

Escape tools

Photo by: Bill Selak

Time behind bars can drag on for those incarcerated and while they may daydream about attempting an escape, possessing any tool that could be used to institute such an escape is against the law. Utah Code 76-8-311.3 states: “a correctional or mental health facility may provide by rule that no . . . implement of escape [escape plan] . . . may be:

(a) transported to or upon a correctional or mental health facility;
(b) sold or given away at any correctional or mental health facility;
(c) given to or used by any offender at a correctional or mental health facility; or
(d) knowingly or intentionally possessed at a correctional or mental health facility.”

Inmates or visitors

Section 76-8-311.3 warns inmates that “Any offender who possesses at a correctional facility or any detainee who possesses at a secure area of a mental health facility, any . . . implement of escape is guilty of a second degree felony.” That same section warns visitors that if someone “transports to or upon a correctional facility, or into a secure area of a mental health facility, any . . . [escape tool] with intent to provide or sell it to any offender, [they are also] guilty of a second degree felony.”

Get out of jail early

Photo by: Jar

Inmates or their loved ones who wish to shorten the amount of time spent behind bars are encouraged to seek out legal ways to do so. Options such as appealing a case, having an attorney review sentencing for errors, offering information on another case, or showing good behavior while incarcerated are all lawful ways that could shorten a prison sentence. For more information on the possibility of these options with your specific case, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Communications Fraud and Theft from a Utah School District

A southern Utah man was placed being bars Friday for communications fraud as well as theft after he installed audio and video equipment for a school district that was inferior to what they had purchased.

Not what they ordered

Communications Fraud

Photo by: MiNe

An investigation into Dustin Taylor, a former manager of a St. George company that sells audio and video systems began last year after the Washington County School District as well as a local theater company discovered that although they had ordered high quality equipment for their facilities, what ended up being installed was far lower value. Police discovered Taylor had been running his own business on the side and had allegedly taken the better equipment before installing it for a job contract through his side business. Taylor was arrested for communications fraud as well as multiple charges of theft.

Communications fraud

Utah Code 76-10-1801 states “Any person who has devised any scheme or artifice to defraud another or to obtain from another money, property, or anything of value by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, or material omissions, and who communicates directly or indirectly with any person by any means for the purpose of executing or concealing the scheme or artifice is guilty of:

a) A class B misdemeanor when the value of the property ( . . . ) is less than $500;

b) A class A misdemeanor when the value ( . . . ) is [between $500 and $1,500];

c) A third degree felony when the value ( . . . ) is [between $1,500 and $5,000];

d) A second degree felony when the value of the property ( . . . ) exceeds $5,000.

The monetary loss of the customers who were defrauded by Taylor was estimated to be around $34,000.

Theft by deception

Not only did Taylor deceive customers by installing inferior equipment, but he took the high quality equipment from the company he was working for to install elsewhere without their knowledge. As Utah Code 76-6-405 states, he “obtain[ed] or exercise[d] control over property of another person: by deception; and with a purpose to deprive the other person of property.” The charges for theft by deception depend on the value of the item stolen and are identical to the charges by value for communications fraud. In Taylor’s case, the value of the audio and video equipment that Taylor had appropriated and resold or had in his possession was estimated to be as high as $89,000. This resulted in multiple theft charges; each being another second degree felony. Each second degree felony charge for communications fraud and theft is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Reduced sentencing for first-time offender

Photo by: Mark Strozier

Photo by: Mark Strozier

It is unknown whether Taylor intentionally concocted a plan to deceive the school district and other companies or if an opportunity to make more money fell into his lap and he thought no one would be the wiser. Either way, what he did was against the law and he risked spending nearly a lifetime in jail, especially if his sentences were to be run consecutively. Fortunately, Taylor had a clean record and was an outstanding citizen prior to his theft and communications fraud charges. This was likely his saving grace.

What a deal

As part of a plea deal that reduced his charges to third degree felonies, Taylor was sentenced for up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000 for communications fraud and five years each for multiple theft charges as well. The judge also ordered these to be run consecutively. Following this sentencing, the judge changed the sentencing to a single term of a five months and then even further reduced the prison term to 60 days for the 39 year old father of four. After his two months in jail which began Friday, Taylor is ordered to be on probation for three years and offer 100 hours of community service. He was also ordered to write letters of apology to the customers he victimized. For multiple second degree felonies to end in a single two month prison sentence is incredible. The probable explanation for the judge’s mercy, beyond the obvious help of an experienced defense attorney, is likely due to Taylor’s lack of a criminal record prior to the communication fraud and theft charges. For anyone facing charges that seem too immense to handle, don’t lose hope until discussing what a criminal defense attorney can do for you.