In the United States, a felony is a serious criminal act punishable by more than one year in jail. Common felony convictions result from robbery, assault, drug possession and driving under the influence. Once someone is convicted, the crime will usually remain on the person's record unless the conviction is expunged or the person receives a pardon. The requirements for expunging a felony record vary by country and jurisdiction, though some crimes generally are not eligible for a pardon.
A criminal record can be a serious barrier to employment, adoption or securing a loan. Most background checks performed on convicted felons will reveal the arrest and conviction. Felons often end up limited to menial jobs with limited chance for advancement. In the U.S., people with a felony record usually have restrictions placed on their ownership of firearms and can be limited in their choice of residence. A felon should consult with his attorney about the possibility of getting the crime expunged from his record once his time has been served.
Jurisdictions have different laws governing the expunging of a felony record. Most U.S. states limit the type of crimes eligible to be cleared or sealed. Serious crimes such as murder, rape and crimes involving children will typically not be expunged. In many states, juvenile records are automatically sealed, but some do allow select juvenile convictions also to be removed from the record.
Most people convicted of a felony in the U.S. will have to meet certain requirements before the state will consider clearing their record. Generally, a petitioner for expunging a felony record cannot have been convicted of another crime in the time since the original conviction, and he must have fulfilled the terms of his sentence by completing a prison term and/or paying any fines or restitution. Petitioners typically have to go through a waiting period of several years to be eligible. The state may consider a person's age and whether the crime in question was a first offense.
People wanting to clear their felony record should carefully research the laws of the jurisdiction in which they were convicted and make sure they meet all of the requirements before petitioning the court. In some states, the petition can be made online; in others the felon may want to hire an attorney to represent him during the process. Expert legal advice can make the difference when trying to get a conviction removed.
In states that do not allow criminal records to be expunged, a person convicted of a felony may request a pardon from the governor or from the pardon and parole board. The option for people convicted of a federal crime is to receive a pardon from the president. While rare, such pardons are occasionally granted. Some countries, such as Canada, are more lenient in granting pardons to convicts who have shown themselves to be good citizens in the years since their conviction.