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Can A Presidential Pardon Be Reversed? Here Is What Can Happen 

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So, can a presidential pardon be reversed? The number of people entering this search term on Google increases once a presidential pardon is issued. 

People will revolt when criminals are pardoned. Unfortunately, only the president can issue a pardon. In addition, the president can pardon anyone, even though the people disagree. 

In this post, we will discuss the possibility of reversing a pardon. Is it doable? Here is all you need to know about this topic.

Read on for more details. 

Can A Presidential Pardon Be Reversed?

No, a presidential pardon cannot be reversed once issued and delivered. In other words, if the pardon has been completed, the incoming president cannot revoke it. 

The U.S. Constitution states that pardons aren’t subjected to judicial or legislative review. However, there are cases where a successor and even the president that issued the pardon revoked it. We’ll discuss both scenarios shortly. 

How A Presidential Pardon Can Be Reversed

A presidential pardon can be revoked or reversed only when it’s incomplete. In other words, the pardon hasn’t reached the receiver. 

The Congressional Research Service provided details of what transpired in 1869 when President Andrew Johnson issued a pardon as the outgoing president. But Ulysses S. Grant, the incoming president, revoked it. 

President Grant could revoke the pardon Johnson issued because it never got to the receiver. The court even upheld President Grant’s decision to rescind the pardon. 

The case is popular in the history of the United States of America and will continue to serve as a reference from generation to generation. 

“The law is undoubted is that when a pardon is complete, there’s no power to revoke it, any more than there is the power to revoke any other complete act.” 

President George W. Bush revoked a pardon he issued Isaac Toussie. What happened? FOLLOWING A PUBLIC OUTCRY, George W. Bush decided to pardon Toussie. 

Unfortunately, the president and his advisers didn’t know that Toussie had donated $30,800 to the Republicans some weeks before issuing the pardon. Toussie’s action moved George W. Bush to revoke the pardon.

Again, the president could revoke the pardon because it wasn’t complete. It had not been delivered to Isaac Toussie. 

These are the only two scenarios where presidential pardons have been revoked. And the presidents involved could withdraw them before they got to the receivers. 

Can A President Pardon Himself Or Herself?

The issue of presidents pardoning themselves didn’t begin during Trump’s presidency. It was a hot topic in the 1960s under President Richard Nixon. 

During that period, the Department of Justice’s legal department stood their ground. They made it clear that a president cannot pardon him or herself. Why? They focused their point on the fundamental rule, which states that no individual can be the judge in his case. 

The Department of Justice legal team’s position was apparent. However, they based their point on the law and not the Constitution.  

President Richard Nixon was later pardoned by his vice, Gerald Ford, who became president when he left office. He was pardoned for all the crimes and allegations against him from January 20, 1969, to August 9, 1974. 

The wording of the presidential pardon Ford issued Nixon showed that he was given immunity from any criminal charges emanating from the Watergate scandal. 

What Are The Limitations Of Presidential Pardon? 

A presidential pardon is powerful and helpful, but it has its limitations. What are those limitations? Let’s discuss them.

1: Presidents can only pardon federal offenses:

A presidential pardon can only work if the offenses that sent you to jail are federal offenses. A pardon won’t be effective if the crimes committed are against a state. 

The law is clear on this. The president cannot issue a pardon that will impact the state’s prosecution. The president doesn’t have the power to interfere in state prosecutions. 

2: Presidential pardoning authority only covers criminal offenses but doesn’t preclude civil actions:

Presidential pardoning authority only covers criminal offenses but doesn’t preclude civil actions. In a related case, regardless of the robust separation of power arguments to the contrary, a U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the president has the power to pardon an individual jailed for criminal contempt of court.  

3: Presidential pardon might not erase conviction:

Is the presidential pardon based on innocence? If yes, then it can erase one’s conviction. Besides this, a presidential pardon cannot erase a conviction. 

In this case, a pardon can remove the penalties, including specific disabilities attendant on one’s conviction.  

4: You will have to answer “yes” when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime:

When asked if you have ever committed a crime, you have to answer “yes.” It doesn’t matter if your presidential pardon is complete and erases the penalties attached to the conviction. You have to answer “yes” when filling out a form or asked by an interviewer. 

5: You might be ineligible to vote in some states:

Most states don’t allow people who have received a presidential pardon for a crime to vote. If you are a voter in the state, you will lose your voting rights.

Even with the presidential pardon, you can’t vote in such states. 

 6: You cannot retrieve money and properties seized as proceeds from the crime:

A presidential pardon doesn’t give you the right to request a refund of a fine paid or properties seized and transferred to the treasure after conviction. 

In addition, you have no right to seek compensation from the individual that purchased the property seized as proceeds from the crime committed. A presidential pardon doesn’t give you the power to request such. 

In the same way, it doesn’t empower you to request compensation or payment from an informant rewarded with cash tokens from the proceeds of crime before the pardon was issued. 

7: Pardon doesn’t interfere with the third party’s rights:

Even though the president has issued you a pardon, it doesn’t stop a third party from demanding compensation for damages incurred due to the crime committed. 

8: A presidential pardon cannot be forced on an individual: 

An individual has the right to accept or reject a pardon. However, note that taking a pardon means you committed a crime. That’s how the public views it. 

The president cannot force a pardon on someone or claim a pardon has been completed without the recipient’s consent. The receiver must acknowledge that they have received the pardon because it can be considered complete.

A Handy Tip: The president cannot use a pardon to overturn Congress’ impeachment power. In addition, the president doesn’t have the power to pardon people for state crimes committed. That power is vested in the state governors. 

Pardon vs. Commutation: What Is The Difference? 

Commutation and pardon are different. However, the president has the power to issue both. 

So, what’s the difference? A commutation is a reduction of an individual’s sentence or fine. However, your right to vote won’t be restored when issued a commutation by the president. 

With a pardon, your right to vote is restored, though not for some states where voting rights won’t be restored even when a pardon has been issued. 

 Is There Timing For Presidential Pardons?

The president has the power to issue a pardon whenever he wants. There is no time limit. In a similar case in the Supreme Court, the judge ruled that a president can issue a pardon after a crime has been committed. 

Another unique thing about presidential pardons is that you don’t need to be charged with a crime before you can be eligible to receive a pardon.  


Can a presidential pardon be reversed? It is impossible to reverse a presidential pardon. It can only be reversed when the pardon hasn’t been completed. 

If the pardon has been completed, the president cannot reverse it. A completed pardon means the pardon has gotten into the hands of the receiver.  

The case of George W. Bush and Isaac Toussie is a clear example. Bush issued a pardon to Toussie following a public outcry, unknown to the president and his advisers that Toussie had donated $30,800 to Republicans a week before. 

Bush could retract the pardon since it hadn’t gotten to Issac Toussie. Perhaps, if the pardon were completed before the president recalled it, the court would have been approached to give its stand on the matter. 


Jason Cooper
Jason Cooper
Jason Cooper is a dedicated news blogger with a zeal for storytelling. Enthusiastically covering current events, he constantly seeks fresh angles and innovative ways to refine his craft and engage his readers.


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