The contemporary justice system of the US is characterized by a significant differentiation of forms of relief from a criminal record. Basically, along with the difference in the form of relief, there is the difference in its application which may vary substantially from state to state. It should be pointed out that, at the present moment, there is no common view on the application of some specific forms of reliefs and, as a rule, courts on different levels may apply different forms of relief. Such diversity is mainly determined by the historical diversity and differences in legislative and judicial systems that existed and still exist between states. At the same time, it is very important to analyze different forms of reliefs and evaluate them in order to identify whether some forms of reliefs are more effective than others and what forms are particularly perspective in the future, in regard to the main objective of the contemporary judicial system ”“ prevention of crimes and possibly faster inclusion of offenders into the normal social life.
First of all, it should be said that, among the most widely spread and popular forms of relief from criminal record, it is possible to name pardon and clemency. Basically, these two forms of relief originate from past epochs and they may be viewed as traditional forms which are widely applied not only in the US but in other countries and, what is more, it is possible to estimate that these forms were inherited by American judicial system from the traditional Anglo-Saxon judicial system. In this respect, it should be pointed out that historically pardon was applied to totally forgive offenders and, as a rule, it was a monarch that exercised the right to forgive offender, or, in minor cases, it was the authorities, either civil or religious, that granted offenders with the forgiveness of crime and penalty associated with it. As for clemency, it is similar in a way to pardon but clemency does not admit the forgiveness, instead, it implies the possibility of the lessening of the penalty making it less severe and more affordable for an offender.
Basically, both forms, pardon and clemency, are widely applied in the contemporary justice system, but, it is worth mentioning the fact that pardon, as a rule, refers to minor crimes or crimes committed by juveniles since pardon implies that an offender is not socially dangerous and could lead a normal social life, while clemency is applied to more serious crimes on the condition that an offender has changed his/her behavior and is conscious of the unacceptability of any anti-social behavior.
Furthermore, it is also possible to name expungement and sealing, which are similar, to a significant extent. These forms of relief imply a type of lawsuit in which an offender seeks that records of earlier processes were sealed or destroyed (Gorr, 1992, p.210). The major difference between sealing and expungement is the possibility of destroying records in case of expungement, while in the case of sealing they are sealed that means that they could be potentially used against the offender in the future. It is important to underline that sealing is a procedure that does not lead to the destruction of previous records. As a result, this form of relief does not lead to the total “purification”ť of an offender from his/her past crimes, while expungement is a more liberal form, which implementation is based on the belief that an offender’s past records are insignificant and, instead, a person should be responsible only for the actions he/she commits at the moment. In contrast, sealing leaves the room for the possibility of taking into consideration the past of an offender that may help reveal whether the behavior and actions of an offender are trends or not.
Some states, such as Florida, often tend to use different forms of relief such as adjudication. Basically, adjudication is the process by which a judge reviews and argumentations including legal reasoning set forth by opposing parties to come to a decision which determines rights and obligations between the parties involved (Gearty, 2005, p.129). As a rule, adjudication involves disputes between individuals and corporations, disputes between individuals and public officials, and disputes between corporations and public officials. This form of relief gives an opportunity for agreement on the subject of the trial. This form of relief may be compared to non-disclosure, which is a form of a contract or agreement between parties involved. However, unlike adjudication, non-disclosure implies only the agreement on not disclosing confidential information which may hurt the parties involved.
Finally, in recent years in such states as New York and California, certificates of rehabilitation are applied as a form of relief. Basically, a certificate of rehabilitation may be granted to relieve an eligible offender of any forfeiture or disability, or to remove any bar to his employment, automatically imposed by law by reason of his conviction of the crime or of the offense specified therein (Dworkin, 2005, p.269).