This answer indicates that accepting, for example, a presidential pardon, is considered an admission of guilt.

If a person were to accept such a pardon, can they then still be held liable in a civil court for the same offense they were pardoned for? It would seem that the act of accepting the pardon could then be used as evidence in such a trial.


2 Answers 2


Yes, they can be sued civilly

Or, for that matter, be prosecuted by another jurisdiction- pardons only work within the jurisdiction that issued them.

In a common law jurisdiction, the pardon cannot be used as evidence

Nor, for that matter, can a criminal conviction.

This is partly because the elements that need to be proved for the civil wrong won’t correspond to the elements of the crime. But mostly, because it just isn’t allowed.

  • And also because the pardon is intended for use (in addition to other uses) as the power to cast down false convictions.
    – Joshua
    Aug 11, 2022 at 20:15

I would agree that a person may be sued for civil damages by someone harmed by the wrongful conduct for which they were pardoned.

A pardon also does not relieve a party of civil contempt sanctions (i.e. contempt sanctions that can be terminated upon compliance by the person held in contempt of court with a court order) even though it may relieve a party of criminal contempt sanctions (a court imposed punishment for disrespectful conduct in the presence of a judge or a court sanction for violating a court order that cannot be purged by compliance with the court order).

I would not agree that statement regarding admission of guilt in Burdick v. United States, 236 U.S. 79 (1915) (cited in the answer linked in the question) is still good law on that point, at least in most common law jurisdictions. This is probably best regarded a non-binding dicta rather than a binding precedent.

The majority modern position is that a grant of clemency is not dependent upon being accepted by the person to whom it is granted. See, e.g., Haugen v. Kitzhaber, 306 P.3d 592, 599 (Or. 2013).

Even to the extent it involves an imputation of guilt, it does not have "collateral estoppel" effect because it is not based upon litigation resolved on the basis of facts and evidence presented to a tribunal.

And. since a pardon is generally granted by a person without personal knowledge of the facts, it is also not relevant evidence of whether the act was committed or not.

A Presidential pardon also does not bar ethics board sanctions for the same underlying conduct as the conduct pardoned.

Disciplinary proceedings were instituted against attorney. The Court of Appeals ruled that sanctions could not be imposed on attorney following presidential pardon for underlying conduct, 662 A.2d 867, and rehearing en banc was granted. The Court of Appeals, Schwelb, J., held that: (1) presidential pardon setting aside attorney's convictions on charges arising from his false testimony to three congressional committees did not nullify Court of Appeals' authority to impose professional discipline, and (2) attorney's conduct warranted public censure.

In re Abrams, 689 A.2d 6 (D.C. App. 1997) (official synopsis).

Some of the confusion arises from the fact that a pardon of someone who has been convicted of a crime does not itself mean that a person was not guilty, something that is conclusively presumed following a conviction, and moots litigation to overturn the conviction that has been pardoned, thus preventing a court exoneration of the judicial guilt determination.

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