18 Sep 23

Expungement and Pardons in Federal Criminal Cases

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Last Updated on: 19th September 2023, 05:06 am

Clearing Your Federal Criminal Record: Expungement and Presidential Pardons

Having a federal criminal conviction can feel like a life sentence. Your criminal record closes doors and limits opportunities long after you’ve served your time. Fortunately, there are a couple legal options to clear your federal record – expungement and presidential pardons. This article explains how each process works so you can get your rights back.

Trying to Get Your Record Expunged

First, what is expungement? It’s the process of having your criminal record destroyed or sealed as if the conviction never happened. It offers a true fresh start. Unfortunately, expungement is really limited at the federal level compared to state courts. Here’s why:

  • Only minor federal crimes like simple drug possession are eligible for expungement.
  • You have to meet strict requirements like having no prior felonies.
  • It requires petitioning the court and hiring a federal defense attorney.
  • Most federal offenses, including all felonies, can’t be expunged.

As you can see, expungement gives you a clean slate but is only available in rare cases in federal court. For most people with a federal conviction, especially for a felony, expungement just isn’t possible. So for the majority of federal offenses, a presidential pardon is the only path to clearing your record.

How Presidential Pardons Work

A presidential pardon is the main way to remove a federal conviction from your record. Here’s a quick overview of the pardon process:

  • The president can pardon any federal crime, no limits.
  • Pardons forgive your crime but don’t erase the conviction itself.
  • You have to wait 5 years after conviction before applying.
  • It involves submitting a detailed application to the Office of the Pardon Attorney.
  • If approved, your prison sentence and other penalties go away.
  • Your conviction still shows on background checks but lists as “pardoned.”

While pardons don’t completely expunge your record, they show your conviction has been forgiven. This can help get your rights back and improve your job chances. But getting a pardon is tough. You have to convince the president you deserve mercy. That’s why having an experienced pardon lawyer is so important.

Restoring Your Rights After a Pardon

In addition to removing punishments, a presidential pardon can restore critical rights you lost with your conviction. For instance:

  • Pardons let you legally own firearms again.
  • You can hold public office and get government licenses back.
  • In some states, pardons give back your right to vote.
  • Immigrants avoid deportation if their crime is pardoned.

In short, a pardon eliminates many barriers to living a normal life after your sentence. It’s the most effective way to get your civil rights back.

The Limits of Presidential Pardons

While powerful, pardons do have some limits:

  • Your conviction remains on record, just shows as pardoned.
  • Private businesses can still consider your conviction when hiring.
  • A pardoned crime can still count as a prior offense if you break the law again.
  • Pardons only apply to federal convictions, not state or local.

This means a pardon isn’t a complete expungement. Some effects of your conviction may linger even after being pardoned. But it’s still the best chance you have to move on with your life.

Applying for a Presidential Pardon

Requesting a presidential pardon is a long, complicated process. Here are the key steps involved:

  1. Hire an experienced pardon attorney to boost your chances.
  2. Wait at least 5 years after your conviction before applying.
  3. Obtain the official pardon application and fill it out carefully.
  4. Gather supporting documents like court records, proof of rehabilitation, job offers, etc.
  5. Submit the huge application and documents to the Office of the Pardon Attorney.
  6. The pardon attorney reviews your case and recommends approval or denial to the president.
  7. If approved, the president formally signs your pardon.

This whole process usually takes over a year. Having a skilled pardon lawyer prepare your application is critical. They can also follow up with officials to check the status.

Tips to Increase Your Odds of Getting a Pardon

Only a fraction of pardon applications get approved each year. Here are some tips to boost your chances:

  • Show sincere remorse and take full responsibility for your actions.
  • Highlight your rehabilitation efforts like school, work, volunteering.
  • Get strong support letters from employers, clergy, community leaders.
  • If possible, first get a Certificate of Rehabilitation from your state.
  • Provide proof you paid all restitution and court fees.
  • Keep your record clean for many years before applying.
  • Secure steady employment and become a productive, taxpaying citizen.
  • Disclose your full criminal history in your application.
  • Be patient through the long process, often more than a year.

The pardon application is your chance to show compelling proof you deserve forgiveness and a second chance. With an experienced lawyer’s help, you can convince the president to show you mercy.