The following is a video transcript.
Boy, there’s nothing sadder (I think) than losing some of your rights. The Second Amendment right (or article one, section 21 under Pennsylvania state constitution) to keep and bear arms is a very important one. And what we want to do in this video is talk to you about two separate, but very distinct outcomes that can help either restore or not restore your right to possess, own, use, or transfer firearms.
The first one is an expungement. In Pennsylvania, we do have a vehicle of expungement. It never applies to someone who pleads guilty. That’s the first thing. If you pled guilty, then expungement is not going to be your answer when it comes to a prohibiting offense. We’re talking about a misdemeanor in the first degree, felony three, felony two, or felony one. Expungements are not going to be available.
Who is eligible for an expungement?
- If the case is dismissed by the district attorney at any stage—preliminary hearing or past preliminary hearing;
- If you’re acquitted at trial, meaning found “not guilty;”
- Following the completion of our first-timer program here in Pennsylvania, called ARD (accelerated rehabilitative disposition); or
- If you’re 70 years of age and arrest-free for 10 years prior to the date of your request.
With an expungement, you’re getting rid of the public record of it, but it is not undiscoverable to a district attorney’s office or similar.
Pardons, on the other hand, are a totally different animal. Anyone can apply. It includes convictions, and I’ve even had people who are serving murder sentences (meaning life without the possibility of parole) apply for pardons or commutations. No matter what the outcome is, anyone can apply. It is a lengthy process. You should be aware of that. There is a humongous line of people that are trying to get pardons or commutations. Typically, the turnaround time is greater than two years.
The governor from Pennsylvania can only pardon you for crimes that are committed in the Pennsylvania criminal justice system. If you have something from South Carolina, you would have to go through the South Carolina pardon process.
When it comes to federal pardons, those are extremely rare and hardly even worth talking about because of how rare they are. If your gubernatorial—or governor—granted pardon is granted, then it’s as if it never happened, provided that it completely restores all of your rights. Sometimes, governors in the past have made conditional pardons (for example, you are pardoned, but you may not possess, own, or use a firearm). That happens all across the United States.
In order to get your firearms rights reinstated, the best process is a full and complete pardon that restores all of your rights and all of your privileges as if the offenses had never happened.
If you have any other questions about the difference between expungements or pardons, please feel free to give U.S. LawShield a call. We’ll be happy to talk to you as your Independent Program Attorneys.