Expungement vs. Pardon: What’s the Difference?

The difference between expungement and a pardon, and when each option may be appropriate

If you have a criminal record, you may be wondering what your options are to clear your name and move forward with your life. Two common options are expungement and pardon. But what’s the difference between the two?


The process of legally erasing or sealing a criminal record, so it’s no longer accessible to the public. A successful expungement means that the record will not show up on a background check, and you won’t need to disclose the conviction in most situations.

A pardon

On the other hand, is a form of clemency that may be granted by a governor or the President. A pardon does not erase the conviction from your record, but it does offer forgiveness for the offense. It may also restore certain rights that were lost due to the conviction, such as the right to vote or own a firearm.

It’s important to note that pardons are relatively rare, and they’re typically reserved for cases where there is evidence of a wrongful conviction or where an individual has shown significant rehabilitation since the conviction. In contrast, expungement is a legal process that is available to many individuals who have completed their sentence and have met certain requirements.

If you’re unsure whether you should pursue expungement or a pardon, it’s best to consult with an experienced attorney who can help you understand your options and determine the best course of action for your situation.

In summary

Expungement and pardon are two separate legal processes that can help individuals with criminal records move forward with their lives. While expungement is the process of erasing or sealing a criminal record, a pardon is a form of forgiveness that may restore certain rights lost due to a conviction. If you’re considering pursuing either option, it’s important to consult with an attorney to understand the process and eligibility requirements.