The Difference Between a Pardon and Expungement

If you believe you qualify for either a pardon or expungement you must have all of the facts about these two distinct court processes so that you can make an informed decision about what best serves your needs. Continue reading as we discuss the specific details related to pardons and expungements, who qualifies for either option and advice from our seasoned attorneys on what may be the most optimal legal resolution for your unique situation.

What is a Pardon and How Does it Work

A pardon is a kind of exemption granted by the President or a state governor that can grant legal forgiveness for convictions and restore certain civil rights. It does not erase, expunge, or seal the conviction – although a pardon may make it easier to have an expungement approved – but rather formally acknowledges that a convicted individual has paid their debt to society in full.

Types of pardons may vary however, they are usually granted in cases that demonstrate the individual's rehabilitation or service to the community. Eligibility requirements also generally vary, though overall those seeking a pardon must typically meet specific criteria such as demonstrating exceptional behavior during incarceration and good judgment post-incarceration.

There are generally four types of pardons:

  • Full: Unconditional absolution of the conviction and its consequences
  • Partial: Relief from a portion of the punishment
  • Absolute: Total relief without conditions
  • Conditional: Some conditions must be observed for the pardon to take effect

Ultimately, pardons provide relief from some or all consequences of a crime but they do not necessarily remove records of the crime from a person’s criminal record.

What is Expungement and Who Qualifies for It

Expungement is the process of removing or erasing a criminal conviction from a person’s public criminal record. This can allow individuals to legally deny they were ever convicted of a crime, and it also allows eligible individuals to benefit from more available job opportunities and other advantages. Because the legal process for expungement varies by state and has very strict eligibility requirements, individuals need to understand their rights before attempting the process.

Eligibility for expungement depends upon the nature of the offense, how much time has passed since the conviction, and any court-ordered parole or rehabilitation period which may be applied to an individual. With a proper understanding of how this process works and individual assessment of qualifications, people can get started on having their records sealed or erased in order to live life with greater freedom.

Advantages of a Pardon vs Expungement

When considering the benefits of a pardon versus expungement, it is important to understand the distinctions between both. A pardon from the governor or President may provide relief from certain civil disabilities associated with a conviction and can be seen as a formal recognition of rehabilitation.

Contrastingly, expungement enables those convicted of offenses to clear their records by having the conviction vacated through the court for their particular situation. While each person's case should be evaluated individually, individuals who may qualify for either a pardon or an expungement could enjoy advantages like better options for employment or housing opportunities and a cleaner background check.

Why You Need an Attorney

Petitioning for a pardon or expungement is a complicated process and should only be done with the help of an attorney. A good attorney can provide invaluable guidance and assistance in navigating potential obstacles during this sensitive process. Qualified lawyers can assist in gathering the relevant documentation necessary to achieve success. Furthermore, they often have working relationships with prosecutors that could expedite the request. Having an attorney handle your case might make all the difference in helping you move forward from any criminal records you may have on file.

Contact Nichols Dixon PLLC for more information.