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The Differences Between Clemency and Expungement

A criminal sentence can impact your finances and freedom in many ways. Even when you have finished your sentence, having a criminal record can then impact many aspects of your life. Employers or landlords might conduct background checks and reject your application if you have arrests, charges, or convictions in your past.

The law provides relief for some individuals from their current criminal sentences or past criminal records, and you should discuss possible options in your situation with an experienced Hartford criminal defense attorney.


Clemency is a term that generally refers to the reduction of criminal penalties. Clemency might involve the commutation of a criminal sentence, a reprieve, or even a pardon. Clemency does not officially overturn or erase a criminal conviction, but it provides relief from the penalties you face for a conviction. You might be released from prison earlier, receive a stay of your sentence, or even receive a full pardon of your offense.

On the federal level, the President of the United States awards clemency to convicted offenders. For Connecticut state-level offenses, clemency comes from the Board of Pardons. If you would like to request clemency, you should always have the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.


Another avenue of relief from a criminal conviction in Connecticut is an expungement pardon. An expungement does not impact a current criminal sentence but instead addresses issues from the past that are on your permanent criminal record.

First, there are certain things that should be automatically erased from your record, including:

  • Charges that ended in a not-guilty finding
  • Charges that were dismissed by the court
  • Charges that were “nolled” or dropped by the prosecution more than 13 months prior
  • Charges that were held or continued more than 13 months ago with no additional prosecution

If any of these remain on your record, a defense lawyer can assist you with a petition for the court to erase them from your record.

If you were convicted of a crime, you will need to petition for an expungement if you qualify. Expungement pardons are reviewed and granted by the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole. The following might be eligible for an expungement pardon:

  • Misdemeanor convictions after a waiting period of three years
  • Felony convictions after a waiting period of five years

You cannot have any pending criminal cases in any state or federal jurisdiction, you cannot actively be on probation or parole, and you cannot have any charges that were nolled within the past 13 months. If you qualify, an expungement pardon will effectively wipe the conviction off your record for background check purposes.

Speak with a Hartford Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Options

Both clemency and expungements provide relief from the effects of a criminal case, though in different ways. The Hartford criminal defense team at Berman & Russo can help you petition the Board of Pardons for possible relief if you are eligible. Contact us for more information about possible legal relief from your criminal record.