Does Getting a Pardon from the Governor Automatically Mean That You Can Get Your Criminal Record Sealed or Expunged?
Assuming you are fortunate enough to obtain a pardon, does that automatically mean that you can get your criminal record sealed or expunged?
In that case, an individual with the initials “R.J.L.” was convicted of kidnapping but was later granted a full pardon. 40 years after receiving that pardon, R.J.L. applied to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (“FDLE”) for a certificate of eligibility to have his criminal record expunged. FDLE denied the application because according to Florida law, a person cannot get his record expunged if he was adjudicated guilty of the crime that he is applying to have expunged from his record. When R.J.L. pointed out that he had been granted a full pardon, FDLE responded that the pardon did not remove the fact that he was adjudicated guilty of kidnapping and therefore legally ineligible to have his record expunged. R.J.L. ultimately appealed to Florida’s Supreme Court.
The issue decided by the Supreme Court was whether R.J.L.’s pardon acted to eliminate his adjudication of guilt so as to make him legally eligible to have his record expunged.
Unfortunately for R.J.L. and for those in a similar situation, Florida’s Supreme Court sided with FDLE and against R.J.L. In doing so, the Court stated:
A pardon is the equivalent of forgiveness for a crime, it does not declare the pardoned individual innocent of the crime. While a pardon removes the legal consequences of a crime, it does not remove the historical fact that the conviction occurred; a pardon does not mean that the conviction is gone. If a pardon had the effect of allowing an individual to declare that he had not been adjudicated guilty of a crime, the end result would be that all pardoned individuals would be eligible for expungement of their criminal history records. Today, we hold that a pardon does not have the effect of erasing guilt so that a conviction is treated as though it had never occurred. A pardoned individual can therefore not satisfy the requirements of [the law pertaining to the expunction of criminal records] and cannot qualify for a certificate of eligibility.
If you are interested in getting your criminal record sealed or expunged in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, St. Lucie County, Martin County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, or Miami-Dade County, please call me, attorney Ron Chapman, at 561-832-4348 to discuss your case and see how I might be able to help you.