Is a pardon the same as expungement?

Answer: A pardon and an expungement are two different things; they are sometimes compared to forgiving and forgetting. If you are pardoned for an offense, the government “forgives” you for your crime, but -- depending on the state -- your criminal record may not be erased. On the other hand, if your record is expunged, it is “forgotten.” In other words, your record is destroyed or sealed and, for most purposes, treated as though it never existed.

Receiving a pardon frees you from the conditions of your sentence and restores your civil rights. In some states, a pardon also completely clears your record or seals it from public view, but in many states, it does not. For example, many states continue to allow public access to the record, simply adding a notation that you have been pardoned for the crime.

In states that do not clear your record when you are granted a pardon, you must apply separately to have your record expunged. To learn more about how to expunge or seal a criminal record in your state, see Expunging or Sealing an Adult Criminal Record.

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