46-23-301. Cases of executive clemency -- application for clemency -- definitions. (1) (a) "Clemency" means kindness, mercy, or leniency that may be exercised by the governor toward a convicted person. The governor may grant clemency in the form of:
(i) the remission of fines or forfeitures;
(ii) the commutation of a sentence to one that is less severe;
(iii) respite; or
(b) "Pardon" means a declaration of record that an individual is to be relieved of all legal consequences of a prior conviction.
(2) A person convicted of a crime need not exhaust judicial or administrative remedies before filing an application for clemency, except that an application may not be filed with respect to a sentence of death while an automatic review proceeding is pending before the Montana supreme court under 46-18-307 through 46-18-310. The board shall consider cases of executive clemency only upon application. All applications for executive clemency must be made to the board. An application for executive clemency in capital cases may be filed with the board no later than 10 days after the district court sets a date of execution. Applications may be filed only by the person convicted of the crime, by the person's attorney acting on the person's behalf and with the person's consent, or by a court-appointed next friend, guardian, or conservator acting on the person's behalf.
(3) (a) After a hearing panel has considered an application for executive clemency and has by majority vote favored a hearing, the hearing panel shall cause an investigation to be made of and base any recommendation it makes on:
(i) all the circumstances surrounding the crime for which the applicant was convicted;
(ii) the applicant's criminal record; and
(iii) the individual circumstances relating to social conditions of the applicant prior to commission of the crime, at the time the offense was committed, and at the time of the application for clemency.
(b) If the hearing panel does not favor a hearing by majority vote, the hearing panel shall transmit the application to the governor. The governor shall review the application and determine whether a hearing is appropriate. If the governor determines that a hearing is appropriate, the governor shall transmit the application back to the hearing panel. The hearing panel shall cause an investigation to be made of and base any recommendation it makes on the factors set forth in subsection (3)(a).
(4) A hearing panel may recommend that clemency be granted or denied. The hearing panel shall transmit the application and either a recommendation that clemency be granted or a recommendation that clemency be denied to the governor. The governor is not bound by any recommendation of the hearing panel, but the governor shall review the record of the hearing and the hearing panel's recommendation before granting or denying clemency. The governor has the final authority to grant or deny clemency. An appeal may not be taken from the governor's decision to grant or deny clemency.
(5) (a) A hearing panel may not recommend clemency if the applicant:
(i) is related or connected to the governor by consanguinity within the fourth degree or by affinity within the second degree as provided in 1-1-219; or
(ii) works or has worked in the office of the governor since the governor took office.
(b) The governor may not grant clemency to an applicant described in subsection (5)(a).