Pardons, except for amnesties, are typically given after a person has been convicted of a crime, and they specifically reference that crime. In this respect, President Trump’s pardons of Scooter Libby, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos and Roger Stone are typical. After asserting that the recipient is given a “Full and Unconditional Pardon,” they go on to specify the statutes each was charged with violating and describe in detail the punishments given. Their pardons extend to the named crimes and no other. The pardon given to Michael Flynn is somewhat different. After referencing the charge of lying to federal investigators for which Flynn was convicted, the president goes on to pardon Flynn not just for this crime but also for “any and all possible offenses” within the jurisdiction of the Special Counsel’s investigating authority or relating in any manner to the Special Counsel’s investigation [of Russia’s attempted interference in the 2016 presidential election and links to the Trump campaign].


If a pardon is specifically referencing a crime a person has been convicted of, can an individual or a government sue the pardoned person for a different crime committed at the same time? Let's say a person committed crime A, B, C and D, but he was only convicted for crime A and B, then after a pardon was handed, can people still sue that person for crime C and D even though the crimes were committed by the same act? It seems like it's the case since Michael Flynn's pardon was particularly architectured in a way to avoid this.

  • 2
    You don't sue people for crimes - you have civil and criminal law confused, it seems. Civil case: a private person (or perhaps the government) sues the defendant, hoping to collect damages or an order for the defendant to do something. Criminal case: the government (only) prosecutes the defendant, hoping to have them fined or imprisoned. But generally a pardon has no effect on the right of injured parties to sue in civil court. Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 1:37
  • @NateEldredge I think this can safely be read to mean "try" rather than "sue". And the part about an individual suing is a separate matter.
    – grovkin
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 1:40
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    @grovkin That may be so, but in this case the incorrect usage changes the very nature of the question because whether or not a person has been convicted or pardoned of crimes A and B is irrelevant to whether or not someone can sue them for A, B, C, or D, while the ability for the person to be tried is affected. The fact that the OP wrote "can an individual sue him" adds further to the confusion as it implies a civil suit, and appears to invite answers for such.
    – JBentley
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 1:45
  • @JBentley he also mentions the government suing in the body of the question. So, yes, the civil action part of the question is a separate matter. But since he mentioned the government "suing" for a crime, the main inquiry seems to be about double jeopardy.
    – grovkin
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 1:47
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    The blog post is incorrect, or at least the quoted passage is misleading. Pardons are often granted for alleged crimes which a person has been accused of, or even just suspected of, but not charged with, far less convicted of.Pardons after conviction may be more common pattern, but the other patter is not so very rare, and has been used for centuries, it is in no way new. Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 4:34

2 Answers 2


The pardon does what it says it does

Typically, the pardon is given for which the accused has already been convicted. Therefore, the principle of double jeopardy applies: the person has already been tried on the facts and all the charges that were or should have been brought have been determined. This, of course, doesn't prevent charges from being laid for other crimes allegedly committed at other times over different events.

In the case where a person is pardoned more broadly, as in the Michael Flynn example, in addition to the double jeopardy limitation, a prosecutor is prevented from charging anything that falls within the scope of the pardon.

Pardons do not constrain civil suits

If you are pardoned of say, murder, that does not prevent the victim's dependants from bringing a wrongful death suit, just as being found not guilty wouldn't. These are different cases with different parties and the pardon has no effect.

Similarly, a Federal pardon does not prevent a State (or another country) from laying charges over the same matter and vice-versa.

  • In the absence of a Federal conviction a pardon would not apply to State. But if the charges have already been filed in the Federal court, and the matter has been brought to a resolution (with a pardon), double jeopardy rule would not allow for a state charge. You can't be tried both in a Federal court and in a state court for the same event.
    – grovkin
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 17:16
  • @grovkin yes, you can. As a matter of policy it’s not done but it’s not legally prohibited.
    – Dale M
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 21:01
  • Are you really suggesting that you can have both a state and a federal trial for the same crime? I am fairly certain that double jeopardy would apply. But if you want, we can explore this in a separate question so that people have a chance to weigh in with references. Just fyi, the 5th amendment clause mentioning double jeopardy dose not say that it is limited to crimes against the United States.
    – grovkin
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 22:03
  • @grovkin I'm not suggesting it, its an established fact of Federal law in most federated nations including the US and is known as dual sovereignty (shouselaw.com/ca/blog/federal-crimes/…). However, please feel free to ask the question.
    – Dale M
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 22:29


If the same event is chargeable as multiple crimes, then they all have to be charged.

It's why prosecutors sometimes elect to only charge the most egregious offense at trial. So that the jury knows that if they don't convict someone of murder 1 (for example), then the same person cannot later be tried for murder 2. But usually a person would be charged with all the crimes committed during the event.

The double jeopardy attaches to the event for which a person has been tried rather than attaching to the crime with which the person has been charged.

  • I wonder how often that has backfired. Say I'm in the jury. I heard all the evidence. I'm 100% sure that the defendant should be found guilty of 2nd degree murder. And since 1st degree murder has been explained to me, I'm also 100% sure that the defendant should NOT be found guilty of 1st degree murder. In that situation, if I either have to find him guilty of something he's not guilty of, or let him go without punishment for something he's guilty off, I'd say "**** the prosecutor, he's not guilty of 1st degree murder".
    – gnasher729
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 10:19

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