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Matthew A. Radefeld and Daniel A. Juengel

Is an expungement the same as a pardon?

On Behalf of | Nov 13, 2021 | Criminal Law |

“Expungement” and “pardon” are legal terms that are often used interchangeably. However, these are two different processes. If you have a criminal record, it is important to understand the difference between the two.

What is an expungement?

An expungement erases or seals a criminal record. People seek expungements because a criminal record can be a barrier to many opportunities, including renting an apartment, acquiring a professional license or applying for a job. 

Each state has its own rules for the expungement process and certain crimes may not be eligible. And you should keep in mind that expungements are not guaranteed; just because you apply for one does not necessarily mean that you will receive it. 

While an expungement can erase or seal your criminal record, it will not remove all traces of your arrest or conviction. Newspaper articles, police blotters, and other written accounts will still exist.   

What is a legal pardon?

Legal pardons are relatively rare and can only be issued by the U.S. President or a state’s governor. Most people are familiar with pardons because they are one of the last actions that a President takes before leaving office. 

Unlike an expungement, a legal pardon may not necessarily erase or seal a criminal record. Rather, a legal pardon absolves the individual of guilt and exempts them from punishment. A pardon may also restore certain rights of citizenship, such as the ability to vote in elections. 

If you have a criminal record, you may wonder if an expungement or a legal pardon is something you can pursue. You should consult with a criminal defense attorney who is both experienced in this area and is licensed to practice in the state where your conviction occurred. You should not attempt to represent yourself. Expungements and pardons are complicated and a lot is at stake. 

Expungements in Missouri

You cannot seek an expungement in Missouri right after a conviction.  At a minimum, you must have completed your sentencing, paid any fines and then sat through a waiting period. 

There is financial help for expungements in Missouri. Individuals who cannot afford the expungement surcharge may file a Motion and Affidavit in Support of Request to Proceed as a Poor Person. You will be asked to provide information about assets, debts, income, expenses and family size.

Legal Pardons in Missouri

The official term for a legal pardon in Missouri is “executive clemency.” Applicants can be confined (i.e., incarcerated) or non-confined. The requirements for each type of applicant vary. There is no cost to apply for a legal pardon in Missouri.

All requests for legal pardons are investigated by the Missouri Parole board and then passed onto the governor for approval.