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What is the Difference Between an Expungement and a Pardon?

Most of us have done something in our past that we wish we could erase. For some of us, that something resulted in being convicted of a crime that now appears on your record. There are a few select situations where you may have the opportunity to clear your record. Let’s discuss further.

There are two options to clearing your record: an expungement and a pardon. Expungements are granted by a court order usually through a process run by your local Solicitor’s office. The process is primarily administration with an application process, waiting period and, eventually, a decision by a judge who must sign an Order granting expungement. You will likely be notified in writing.

Pardons, on the other hand, are granted by the S.C. Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole. The application process is extensive and your case must be presented at a hearing in Columbia, South Carolina before a committee. Pardons require a lot of time and preparation for a criminal defense attorney, and can be difficult to obtain. When you are convicted of a crime, you lose your basic civil rights such as the right to vote, own a gun, or run for public office. When seeking a pardon, your main goal should be to restore those basic civil rights that have been taken away due to a serious felony conviction. Pardons do not result in the destruction (or expungement) of your criminal history and a record will be kept of the arrest and conviction on the charge, as well as the pardon.

Expungements are allowed by law in only in a few specific scenarios, and generally require the destruction of all records pertaining to criminal proceedings before the charge is dismissed. There are five specific situations where an expungement may be an option:

  1. You successfully complete a Pre-Trial Intervention Program;
  2. You have been convicted of certain offenses in the magistrate’s or municipal court;
  3. You have been convicted of a first offense fraudulent check;
  4. You have been granted a conditional discharge on a controlled substance violation; and
  5. You have been charged with certain offenses that involve points violations of your hunting or fishing privileges.

Driving Under the Influence convictions are not eligible for expungement and, in the state of South Carolina, young adults age 25 years or less who were convicted and sentenced under the S.C. Youthful Offender Act may be eligible for an expungement depending on the offense.

If you are interested in learning more about how to clear your record by seeking an expungement or pardon, you should contact a qualified and experienced criminal defense lawyer who can help you determine if you are eligible and further evaluate the likelihood of obtaining that goal.