Amnesty Law, in criminal law, is the act of a government "forgetting" about criminal offenses committed by a group of one or a group of persons, usually related to crimes considered political in nature. It is often conditioned upon a return to the obedience of the law within a prescribed period. Amnesty is commonly found in cases where a group has committed an offense against the state, such as treason, immigration violations, or desertion from the military. Amnesty does not grant a license to commit future crimes, nor does it pardon offenses not yet committed.

The President can grant amnesties in the United States, but Congress may also grant amnesty to criminals acting according to an act of Congress. A pardon does not erase a criminal act nor condone or forgive it but merely enables a political reconciliation.

After the War

Governments belonging to the dictatorial regime have used amnesties to rule over the state. The government typically insists on pardons of the citizens and leaders of a country accused of crimes.

In the feudal state, amnesties, the enforcement of knighthood, and the remission of crimes were widely used to preserve the continuity of the state. Under newly born totalitarian regimes, pardons were one of the essential ploys taken by dictators in their efforts to win and solidify their lives and rule.

President Abraham Lincoln offered multiple amnesties to Union deserters under the requirement that they return to their regiments. Following the war, President Lincoln granted a proclamation of amnesty for any who had taken part in the rebellion. Though Congress opposed the leniency of the plan, it was helpless to stop it. Lincoln's amnesty required a loyalty pledge but did not apply to high-ranking officers and political officials. However, it was not until President Andrew Johnson's Christmas Amnesty Proclamation of 1868 that absolute amnesty was granted to all participants in the Civil War.

Immigration Amnesty

Immigration amnesty refers to policies that, among other things, allow people residing illegally in the country to come forward and either apply for legal citizenship or be offered some different type of relief.