Does a federal pardon erase anyone’s criminal conviction? Does it result in “wiping the record clean?”

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a federal court’s orders in Arizona. After the conviction but before any sentence was imposed, President Trump pardoned Arpaio. After the pardon was issued, Arpaio’s attorneys filed a motion asking the Court to expunge all records of his conviction.

That motion was denied by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton last week, who ordered the government’s attorneys to not even bother filing a response to Arpaio’s motion…

Does a pardon result in expungement of the conviction?

What is a Federal Pardon?

A federal pardon, like a state pardon in South Carolina, says that the government has “forgiven” the crime. It does not mean that the case has been dismissed, that the person is innocent, or that the conviction has been overturned.

It does mean that the person’s civil rights are restored to them. Like other recipients of federal or state pardons, Arpaio’s conviction cannot be used against him to deny them him his right to own a weapon, hold a concealed weapon permit (CWP), hold occupational licenses, or to vote. It also forecloses any possibility of a jail sentence as punishment.

Like other recipients of pardons, it probably does not mean that he is entitled to expungement of his criminal record. Although there are circumstances when even a federal conviction may be eligible for expungement, it is not a part of the pardon process.

As a matter of policy, applicants for pardons are required to acknowledge their guilt and show remorse. By its very nature, a pardon is not an “exoneration” or reversal of a conviction. It is an acknowledgment by the government that, although it has been proven that the crime occurred, the convicted person has been rehabilitated and deserves forgiveness.

What Types of Federal Clemency are Possible?

The President of the United States or the Governor of the State of South Carolina has the authority to pardon crimes. They also can simply commute a person’s sentence. The difference is that the pardon “relieves all disabilities under the law” by restoring a person’s civil rights, while a commutation only relieves a person from the sentence that they are serving.

For example, a President or Governor can commute a death sentence, but that person will still serve a sentence of life in prison. They could commute a prison sentence which would allow a person to be released but they will still suffer the collateral consequences of their conviction.

Or, they could issue a blanket pardon which restores civil rights, commutes any unserved portion of their sentence, and gets rid of any collateral consequences that may still be affecting the person.

Help with Pardons and Expungements in South Carolina

Fortunately, a SC pardon is much easier to obtain than a federal pardon, and it does not require you to have political connections to make it happen. If the SC Pardon Board believes that you have acknowledged your crime, you are remorseful, and you have been rehabilitated, there is a good chance that you will receive a pardon in SC.

Unfortunately, the grant of a pardon does not mean that your record will be expunged

If you have questions about SC pardons, expungements, and what they mean, call Coastal Law, LLC’s SC expungement and pardon attorneys now at (843) 488-5000 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.

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