Some people have asked: Does accepting a presidential or gubernatorial pardon imply an admission of guilt? The answer turns out to be complicated.
1. In 1915, the Supreme Court indeed said, of pardons, that “acceptance” carries “a confession of” guilt. Burdick v. United States (1915). Other courts have echoed that since.
2. On the other hand, a pardon has historically been seen as serving several different functions, one of which is protecting people who were convicted even though they were legally innocent. In the words of Justice Joseph Story, the most respected early commentator on the Constitution (writing in 1833),