What Is the Difference Between a Pardon & an Expungement?

What Is the Difference Between a Pardon & an Expungement?

What Is the Difference Between a Pardon ,an Expungement and Limited Access?

It’s difficult to make positive life changes when you’re haunted by your past. If you aren’t diligent in taking legal action, your criminal record will follow you for the rest of your life. After all, criminal background checks are likely performed every time you turn in an application for employment, apply for a professional or occupational license or even apply for a loan. If you are hindered by your criminal record, Pennsylvania has  three options for your consideration: pardons, expungements and limited access.


A state pardon performed by the Governor “forgives” a conviction on your criminal record and restores any rights and privileges that were forfeited upon your conviction. Receiving a pardon is a far more complex process than an expungement; it can take up to four years to complete and involves many complicated legal steps. When you receive a state pardon,  and once you properly initiate the expungement process in Court, the Judge is required to expunge your record of any crime for which you have been pardoned, regardless of the severity of your crime. Presidential pardons for federal crimes also exist, but do not affect state-level offenses.


You can also bypass the Pardons process and request an expungement of your criminal record in certain situations. A successful expungement will effectively erase specific charges from your criminal record. Once the expungement process is complete, you will legally be able to claim that you were never charged with a crime, regardless of your record once existing.  There are 7 main ways for an individual to attempt to clear up or remove the record of past criminal charges or convictions: (1) dismissal and expungement after successful completion of ARD; (2) expungement after "aging out;” (3) expungement of summary offenses; (4) discretionary expungement after dismissed charges or nolle pross’d; (5) expungement of acquitted charges; (6) expungement of pardoned charges; and (7) expungement of certain Protection from Abuse orders and petitions (PFA)

Limited Access

Limited Access is a provision of law allowing a person who has been free of arrest or prosecution for a period of 10 years to obtain an order sealing their criminal record(s), maintained by any criminal justice agency. Once the Limited Access Order is obtained the public, including future employers or banks, are precluded from gaining access to your court record. However, government agencies including licensing agencies still have access to these records. Also, Limited Access is available only for certain convictions. 

Anyone with a criminal record can apply for a pardon, expungement or limited access. If you are ready to set your life back on track, contact Scaringi Law at (717) 775-7195. Our experienced lawyers can review the details of your case and help you initiate the process to clear or seal your criminal record.


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