If you have been wrongly convicted of a criminal offense, you may be resigned to the sentence handed down.

Recent events have served as a timely reminder that this need not be the case. The president’s recent decision to commute a former advisor’s sentence has thrown the topic into the limelight. Unfortunately, only the president has the power to commute or pardon federal crimes. However, if you were convicted of a state crime in Tennessee, the governor has that power.

Tennessee law offers three options:

  • Pardon: The governor shows you mercy. You need to be close to the end of your sentence to be pardoned.
  • Commutation: The governor reduces your sentence, such as lessening the length of time you must serve before parole.
  • Exoneration: You are cleared of the crime, and the charge will be wiped from your record.

Neither a commutation nor a pardon declares you are innocent, although a pardon can help restore your rights and expunge your record. If you did not do the crime, only an exoneration could clear your name. The problem is, these things take time. You will never recover the time taken away from you. Nothing can make up for the abuse you and your family have probably received due to your conviction. Above all, if you have a family, you will never be able to rewind the clock and watch your kids grow up. In turn, they can never be compensated for having to grow up without you.

If convicted of a criminal offense, it is vital to keep fighting for an acquittal through the appeals system, rather than sit and wait in the hope a governor or president decides to help you out.