AMNESTY, government. An act of oblivion of past offences, granted by the government to those who have been guilty of any neglect or crime, usually upon condition that they return to their duty within a certain period.
2. An amnesty is either express or implied; it is express, when so declared in direct terms; and it is implied, when a treaty of peace is made between contending parties. Vide Vattel, liv. 4, c. 2, 20, 21, 22; Encycl. Amer. h.t.
3. Amnesty and pardon, are very different. The former is an act of the sove reign power, the object of which is to efface and to cause to be forgotten, a crime or misdemeanor; the latter, is an act of the same authority, which exempts the individual on whom it is bestowed from the punishment the law inflicts for the crime he has committed. 7 Pet. 160. Amnesty is the abolition and forgetfulness of the offence; pardon is forgiveness. A pardon is given to one who is certainly guilty, or has been convicted; amnesty, to those who may have been so.
4. Their effects are also different. That of pardon, is the remission of the whole or a part of the punishment awarded by the law; the conviction remaining unaffected when only a partial pardon is granted: an amnesty on the concrary, has the effect of destroying the criminal act, so that it is as if it had not been committed, as far as the public interests are concerned.
5. Their application also differs. Pardon is always given to individuals, and properly only after judgment or conviction: amnesty may be granted either before judgment or afterwards, and it is in general given to whole classes of criminals or supposed criminals, for the purpose of restoring tranquillity in the state. But sometimes amnesties are limited, and certain classes are excluded from their operation.