Donald Trump

Pardon vs. Commutation: What's the Difference?

President Trump commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday, but what does that mean?

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After years of saying he was considering the move, President Donald Trump officially commuted the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday.

The decision means that the former governor can be released from federal prison. Blagojevich had originally been sentenced to 14 years in prison, and wasn’t set to be released until 2024. The president’s commutation of his sentence eliminates the remainder of the penalty.

Trump also had the option to pardon Blagojevich, but opted to simply commute his sentence instead.

What is the Difference Between Commutation and a Pardon?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a commutation reduces a sentence, either totally or partially, but does not change the fact of conviction, imply innocence or remove civil disabilities, such as the right to vote or to hold public office.

In 2017, Rod Blagojevich broke his silence for the first time since entering prison in an exclusive interview with NBC 5’s Phil Rogers. 

A commutation can also eliminate financial penalties associated with a federal conviction, but that forgiveness is offered at the discretion of the president.

A pardon is “an expression of the President’s forgiveness,” according to the DOJ. Pardons are typically granted to recognize that the person has accepted responsibility and established good conduct for a significant period of time.

A pardon does not signify innocence, but removes civil disabilities associated with convictions, including giving the recipient of the pardon back their right to vote and to serve on juries, among other freedoms and privileges.

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