Virginia Record Sealing & Expungement Blog

The Virginia Simple Pardon: Official Forgiveness Awaits

Last updated: February 26, 2024

In Virginia’s criminal justice system, a simple pardon is a beacon of hope for individuals looking to move forward and rebuild their lives. While it may not erase the conviction from one’s record, it holds significant value by officially granting forgiveness. This article explores the concept of a simple pardon, its eligibility criteria, and the positive impacts it can have on employment, education, and self-esteem.

Understanding a Simple Pardon

A simple pardon is essentially a statement of official forgiveness issued by the Virginia Governor. It signifies that while the conviction remains on the record, the petitioner is absolved of any further legal consequences. Importantly, a “pardon” notation is added next to the conviction, marking it as officially forgiven.

Benefits of a Simple Pardon

A simple pardon offers numerous advantages:
1. Advancement in Employment
One of the primary benefits of a simple pardon is its potential to open doors in the job market. Employers may view applicants with a pardon more favorably, as it indicates a commitment to rehabilitation and a clean record moving forward.

2. Access to Education
For individuals seeking higher education, a simple pardon can be pivotal. Many educational institutions conduct background checks, and a pardon can improve the chances of admission.

3. Boosting Self-Esteem
Obtaining a simple pardon can significantly boost self-esteem and overall well-being. It signifies a fresh start and a chance to leave the past behind.

The Process of Applying for a Simple Pardon

The process of seeking a simple pardon is relatively easy in Virginia. In order to apply for a simple pardon in Virginia, you must be free of any conviction obligations (probation and good behavior) followed by a waiting period of five years and then have your civil rights restored prior to application.

The Notation on the Criminal Record

Once a simple pardon is granted, a critical change occurs in the individual’s criminal record. A notation reading “pardon” is added next to the conviction, signifying the official forgiveness granted by the governing authority.

The Impact on Employment

A simple pardon can significantly impact an individual’s employment prospects. Many employers are more willing to hire applicants with a pardon, seeing it as a commitment to rehabilitation.

The Impact on Education

Higher education institutions often conduct background checks on applicants. With a simple pardon, individuals may have a better chance of gaining admission to the educational programs of their choice.

The Impact on Self-Esteem

Perhaps one of the most profound effects of a simple pardon is the boost it provides to an individual’s self-esteem. It symbolizes a fresh start and a second chance at a productive and fulfilling life.

Record sealing “expungement” and Simple Pardons in Virginia

Virginia’s new record sealing laws (often incorrectly referred to as “expungement”) can be much more impactful that a simple pardon. Virginia Code § 19.2-392.15 says that when a criminal conviction is sealed most employers cannot ask about a sealed conviction and the applicant can deny the arrest and conviction. This puts applicants with sealed convictions on equal footing when applying for new jobs. Virginia Code Section § 19.2-392.15 also says that when a criminal conviction is sealed, landlords cannot ask about a sealed conviction and the applicant can deny the arrest and conviction. Sealed convictions are also removed from the Virginia online docketing system which removes the public stigma of criminal convictions.

These are unique benefits of record sealing that go further than the limited benefits of a simple pardon in Virginia.


In conclusion, a simple pardon serves as a powerful tool for individuals seeking official forgiveness and a chance to move forward. While it may not erase the conviction, it opens doors to employment, education, and improved self-esteem. Understanding the eligibility criteria and the process involved is essential for those considering this path to a brighter future.


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