Pardon vs. expungement.
Which one is right for you?
To decide what you should ask the court for, you need to understand the key differences between each – and you should talk to a NC expungement lawyer who understands the law and how it may apply in your case.
What is a Pardon?
A pardon is an official statement the governor of North Carolina issues some people. The statement is attached to your criminal record – it doesn't delete your record in any way. (In some cases, people who have been pardoned are eligible for expunction, but that's not always true.)
A pardon is up to the governor to grant; nobody else can make the decision.
Statistically, your chances of actually being pardoned are pretty low.
What is Expungement?
Expungement (commonly called expunction) is a different story. It seals your criminal record completely – it's like it never even happened. Essentially, it restores the person who receives it to his or her former status.
Nobody will know that you've been convicted of a crime unless you tell them.
Why Do People Want Expungement?
When you have a criminal record following you around, life can get pretty tough. You can be denied employment, landlords can turn you down when you apply to live at a new house or apartment, and you might even have trouble getting a loan.
If your record is expunged, though, you no longer have that criminal record following you around. You're free to tell people that you've never been convicted of a crime.
Pardon vs. Expungement: Which is Right for You?
Generally speaking, your chances of getting an expungement are much higher than they are of getting a pardon. While it's always best to talk to an attorney to find out whether you even qualify, it's more likely that you'll clear your criminal record through expunction.
Crimes That Qualify for Expunction
While every case is different and not everyone qualifies to have his or her record expunged, there's a long list of statutes that allow North Carolinians to get the fresh start they deserve. Some of the most common expunctions involve:
- Any dismissed charges. If you were charged with a crime and those charges were dropped, or if you were found not guilty, you can ask the court to expunge your record (as long as you don't have a prior felony conviction).
- Misdemeanors you committed while under the age of 18. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor as a first-time offender while you were under 18, you are allowed to file for expungement.
- Nonviolent felonies you committed while under the age of 18. If you were convicted of a nonviolent felony before you were 18, you can file for expungement. (Nonviolent felonies are those that aren't Class A through Class G, didn't include assault as an essential element of the offense, and didn't require you to register as a sex offender. There are a few other exceptions, too, so talk to your attorney if you're not sure.)
- Misdemeanor possession of alcohol. If you were convicted of misdemeanor possession of alcohol before you turned 21, you could be eligible to have that record expunged.
- Misdemeanors and felonies you committed as an adult. You can ask the courts to expunge misdemeanors and felonies that you committed as an adult, but they can't be traffic violations or violent felonies (such as Class A through Class G felonies, those that included assault as an essential element of the offense, those that required you to register as a sex offender, and a handful of other felonies).
- Some gang offenses. If you were under 18 at the time you committed a gang-related offense, you might be able to have it expunged. These are typically Class H felonies.
- Driving while impaired. If your DWI charge was dismissed, or if you were found not guilty, you can apply to have it expunged (as long as you haven't been found guilty of a felony here or in another state).
- Some drug charges. If you were convicted of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance or felony possession of a controlled substance under G.S. 90-95(a)(3), and if you were under the age of 22 when you committed the offense, you can ask the court to expunge your record.
- Prostitution. Some people convicted of prostitution can apply for expungement, including those who were victims of human trafficking or sexual servitude and those who have no prior prostitution convictions, as well as those who received a conditional discharge.
- Cases of identity theft. If you were charged with a crime because someone stole your identity, or in cases of mistaken identity, you can apply for expungement of the charge.
What if You're Not Eligible?
If you aren't eligible for expungement, talk to an expungement attorney anyway – there may be options available to help you get a fresh start, even if it's not the fresh start you were hoping for. In some cases, attorneys are able to help.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Expungement?
If you're thinking about clearing your criminal record, you may want to talk to an attorney about pardons vs. expungement to find out what's right for your situation.
Call us right now at 704-470-2440 for a free case review. We'll ask about your current situation, what's on your record and what happened with your case – and if we can help you, we will.