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Expungement of Criminal Records Vs. Pardoning: What’s the Difference?

The legal world can be full of legalese and terms that no one outside of a legal profession would understand. However, there is a good chance that you have heard of expunging and pardoning. Even still, you are probably having a hard time finding the difference between the two. The truth is that there are many differences. In fact, they are almost two completely different legal methods of removing or wiping clean a criminal record or removing yourself from incarceration. Indeed, a lot of people convicted of a crime that they perhaps didn’t commit would be glad to have either. Although, understanding the difference between the two is important if you want to have a conversation with your lawyer about applying for either an expungement or a pardon. Here are some of the differences between an expungement and a pardon.

First of all, an expungement works by literally wiping clean your criminal record. With an expungement, your records are also destroyed so that you that you don’t have any criminal status in your permanent file. This legal measure is usually reserved for extremely minor offenses, like low priority misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. It is not reserved for individuals who have committed serious crimes.

When you want to apply for an expungement, you will usually work with a specialized lawyer who specializes in these types of cases. For instance, if you were convicted of a minor crime in Texas, you may want to look for an Austin expungement lawyer. Your lawyer will usually file your papers for you and then a court date may be set where you and your counsel can discuss your case in front of a judge. Ultimately, the court will decide to expunge or not.

On to pardons – a pardon is a legal measure that removes a person from the consequences of a crime. For instance, if you are in jail and get a pardon, you are allowed to leave. If you are on probation, you are effectively released from supervision. When it comes to pardons, they are extremely hard to get and you must go through an intensive appeals process. Plus, pardons differ from expungement because when you are pardoned by your state, you are still required to maintain convict status. Meaning, you will still have a criminal record for as long as you live, especially if you were pardoned from a serious felony.

Lastly, there are only so many avenues to get a pardon. Usually, a parole board will oversee your case and will determine whether you should be granted pardon status. They will look at your behavior while incarcerated and a number of other factors to deem whether or not it would be in society’s best interest to have you released. You may also get a pardon if you are cleared of your crime by some later evidence that states the fact. In some extreme circumstances, you may also get a presidential pardon, especially if you were committed for past political crimes. In the end, you can usually differentiate a pardon from an expungement by the seriousness of the crime.

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