Expert says Trump must serve 5 years in prison before being pardoned in Georgia.

Expert says Trump must serve 5 years in prison before being pardoned in Georgia.

Trump’s Pardon Conundrum: No Easy Way Out for the Former President

Georgia Pardons


In a surprising twist, former President Donald Trump may find himself in a tight spot with regards to pardons. Unlike his federal convictions, where he may have hoped for a sympathetic Republican president to grant him clemency, the state of Georgia poses a unique challenge. Here, a pardon can only be granted by the state’s Board of Paroles and Pardons, making his path to freedom far from straightforward.

The Battle in Georgia

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has brought a new criminal case against Trump and 18 of his associates. The case accuses them of orchestrating an illegal enterprise to retain power, resulting in numerous violations of the law. Trump himself faces charges on 13 different counts, with the most severe carrying a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. However, even if he is convicted, a pardon seems elusive.

Georgia stands out as one of the few states that does not grant pardon power to the governor. Instead, the state’s constitution allocates this authority to the independent five-member Board of Paroles and Pardons. This unique system restricts the possibility of a preemptive pardon for Trump and his associates. To make matters worse for the former president, he must serve a minimum of five years before even being eligible to apply.

The Independent Board with Statutory Independence

The members of Georgia’s Board of Paroles and Pardons are appointed by the governor for seven-year terms. They undergo confirmation by the state senate and are granted statutory independence under the state constitution. While the board may face limitations imposed by legislators when it comes to sentencing, it stands as the sole mechanism for granting pardons in Georgia.

“It’s set up in a statute here that’s pretty insulated from political pressure,” says Ronald Carlson, a professor at the University of Georgia School of Law. “And that’s the way it should be.” The current board members, all appointed by Republicans, reflect the Republican stronghold in Georgia, with the state having not seen a Democratic governor since the 1990s. However, their sympathy towards Trump’s situation may offer little assistance due to the board’s inability to issue preemptive pardons.

No Preemptive Pardons Allowed

Even if all the board members were sympathetic to Trump, they lack the power to grant him a preemptive pardon. Legal experts highlight that there is no case history in Georgia that supports such pardons before a conviction. The language of the Georgia Constitution is unequivocal, stating that the board may only grant pardons “after conviction,” as outlined in a Brookings Institution analysis.

The guidelines for pardon applications in Georgia are clear as well. The board will only consider applications from those who have completed their “full sentence obligation,” paid all fines, and have remained free of supervision or involvement in criminal activities for at least five consecutive years prior to applying. In other words, Trump would have to serve a minimum of five years in a Georgia penitentiary before becoming eligible to apply for a pardon.

A Challenging Road Ahead

So, what lies ahead for Trump and his associates? While they may attempt to prolong the trial, there is no legal avenue that would shield them from the charges. Trump’s hopes for a sympathetic Republican president or governor offering a pardon may only apply to federal convictions. In the state of Georgia, the path is clear – serve the time, complete the sentence, and then, and only then, can the Board of Paroles and Pardons consider a pardon application.

Whether Trump will end up behind bars in a Georgia penitentiary or eventually navigate through the web of legal challenges, only time will tell. Until then, the former president finds himself in an unexpected and undoubtedly challenging situation – without an easy way out.