The governor of Vermont, who signed the bill into law in the state to decriminalize marijuana possession, has just issued 192 pardons to individuals convicted of marijuana crimes. The pardons, which were all for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, also required that the offenses not be in relation to a DUI charge or violent crime. However, the pro-pot governor decided that issuing pardons for these pot convictions would be one of the last things he did before leaving office.
With the populace's shifting mentality towards marijuana legalization across the country, these pardons make sense. After all, the state law in Vermont provides for decriminalization, which means that possession of marijuana should not even be a criminal matter anymore than a traffic ticket is. Unfortunately, many people still have criminal records for offenses that, today, would not even lead to a criminal record.
Unlike an expungement, however, a governor's pardon will not remove a conviction from a person's criminal record. The pardon forgives the crime and will remove the remainder of any criminal punishment a convicted individual would need to satisfy, such as parole, probation, or actual time in prison. When a person who has been pardoned applies for a job, they will still have disclose that they were convicted on their application.
When a person receives an expungement, that is when, legally, they no longer have to disclose convictions on forms like job applications. An expungement is a court process by which a person who has completed their sentence for a criminal offense can have that offense removed from their record (note that an expungement will not remove a criminal offense from a person's immigration records).
How to Get an Expungement
The process for getting your criminal record expunged varies from state to state. Certain, more serious, crimes often cannot be expunged. Generally though, you will need to have completed every last aspect of your sentence, and not have committed any subsequent crimes for a given period of time. Because the process varies from state to state, seeking the assistance of a qualified attorney local to where the conviction occurred can often make the process much simpler.