Each new president sees a deluge of pardon applications. The desire of people to obtain forgiveness for past criminal transgressions springs anew when a new administration takes the oath of office.
The Department of Justice has established certain minimum standards for those wishing to apply for a presidential pardon. The Department of Justice has established the Office of the Pardon Attorney, whose sole responsibility is to review and evaluate each pardon application. Your application for a presidential pardon must be well-drafted, fully meet all the requirements, and present your best case for deserving clemency. Before you start anything, you must wait until at least five years have passed since the termination of your period of incarceration. Supervised release, which often comes after incarceration in the federal system, does not have to be completed prior to the five year waiting period terminating. This is neither a Constitutional nor statutory requirement - it is completely an internal requirement by the Department of Justice. The government believes the waiting period is necessary "to demonstrate an ability to lead a responsible, productive and law-abiding life." Needless to say, there is also a requirement that your behavior be completely lawful since the completion of your federal sentence. Probationary sentences begin the five year period on the date of sentencing.
Three sworn character references should also be included with your pardon application. You are not limited to three, but the main three references must be designated as primary. Character references cannot be from relatives or spouses. Your application rests on the strength of your personal references. If other upstanding individuals consider you worthy of their endorsement, the Office of the Pardon Attorney will be more likely to look favorably on your application.
You must not only satisfy the waiting period and avoid any unlawful behavior, but should also provide an official copy of your criminal arrest history. Copies of your credit report and records related to any civil law suit in which you have been involved must also be assembled. This step is more important than it sounds. Any omissions or incorrect entries in your application could be interpreted by the Department of Justice as a falsification. A federal indictment could be issued against you. It is more important to be honest. Negative entries in your past can be explained, and this is the preferred way to address imperfections in your pardon application.
The final part of the application is your reason for wanting a pardon. Good reasons are related to work, education and professional certifications. Without a valid need for a pardon, you are likely to have your application denied outright without even full consideration. Retaining an attorney experienced in the presidential pardon process is vital to make sure this part, among the others, is done correctly. Without a well-crafted rationale for forgiveness, your application will not receive full consideration by the Department of Justice.
The pardon power is exclusive to the president per the terms of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, so the decision on whether or not to grant a pardon is final. The Department of Justice has not felt it necessary to set up an internal appeals process. Further, there is no hearing to determine your pardon worthiness, unlike many states which will grant a hearing to the petitioner before making the final decision. The presidential pardon application is something you really only get one shot at per administration. You want to make sure you get it right the first time.