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The difference between an expungement and a pardon

Convictions can be a very scary and jarring experience, not only for the person convicted but for their loved ones as well. It's hard watching a loved one be convicted and trying to support them through the stress of the litigation process. You may worry that it could permanently hinder or ruin them. However, there are options to lessen or erase the legal effects of a conviction or arrest for your loved one.

Expungement and pardons are both options for those facing convictions, but they are two very different things for different circumstances. While a pardon can immediately excuse someone from criminal punishment, an expungement erases arrests from a person's record as if the arrest never happened.

Expungements are most common for misdemeanor arrests, and they erase record of the person's arrest altogether. There are a handful of times that an expunged criminal offense can still be viewed by law enforcement or other government agencies, but generally, an expungement completely "clears" someone's record by not allowing that offense to be accessible in the person's record. This means that the person no longer has to disclose that they were ever arrested to potential employers, landlords, creditors, etc. This protects the person against legal discrimination in the future, such as when they are trying to get a job or rent a living space.

A pardon does not clear the person's record from a crime, but it dismisses penalties that are in effect, such as jail time. It also prevents restrictions that ex-offenders may have to face after jail time. Ex-offenders can face many penalties, like having their driver's license revoked or being unable to vote. A pardon may be able to restore those rights or prevent those penalties from occurring.

A conviction does not have to ruin your loved one, but understanding what course of action you should take can be complicated. An experienced criminal defense attorney can talk through your case with you and advise you on your options.

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