In an unprecedented legal twist, former President Donald Trump may have to wait five years before he becomes eligible for a pardon if convicted in Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s new criminal case against him. Unlike most states where the governor holds pardon power, Georgia entrusts it to an independent board that lacks authority for preemptive pardons.
Willis’s case alleges that Trump and 18 associates formed an illegal enterprise to maintain power and committed multiple violations of the law. The charges against Trump include racketeering, which carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison. In federal cases, Trump might have relied on a presidential or Republican governor’s pardon, but Georgia’s constitution designates the Board of Paroles and Pardons as the sole authority for pardons.
The board, composed of members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate, operates independently to ensure impartial decisions. However, legal experts confirm that preemptive pardons are not applicable under the Georgia Constitution, limiting the board’s power to grant pardons only “after conviction.” Despite the current board members being appointed by Republicans, the absence of Democratic governors in Georgia suggests that political alignment is unlikely to influence their decisions.
Furthermore, Georgia’s pardon guidelines dictate that an applicant must fulfill their entire sentence, pay fines, and avoid any criminal involvement or supervision for a minimum of five consecutive years before and after applying for a pardon. According to legal analysts like Ronald Carlson from the University of Georgia School of Law, Trump would need to serve at least five years of his sentence before becoming eligible to apply for a pardon from the board.
These peculiarities in Georgia’s pardon process highlight the unique legal challenges that Trump faces.