1974: President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon for any crimes he may have committed or participated in while in office. This was very controversial at the time and many pundits believe it cost President Ford the 1976 election. Years later, former President Ford was presented with the JFK Profile in Courage medal for putting the interests of the country before his own.
The power of the President to pardon comes from Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the US Constitution: "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."
On the State level, The North Carolina Constitution grants the governor the power to grant a pardon for a conviction of any criminal offense (except for impeachment). The granting of a pardon is in the governor’s discretion. N.C. Const. art III, sec. 5(6). Unlike in the federal system, a pardon from the Governor may not be granted until after conviction.
Of course, most people that have committed a crime will never get a pardon. However, for those that made a mistake and have found the right path forward, there are sometimes other ways to get out from under the cloud of a criminal conviction.
From the UNC School of Government: “Expunction is a procedure by which a person obtains a court order to expunge the record of prior proceedings against him or her. In North Carolina, an expunction means that paper and electronic records of the proceedings are deleted or destroyed with limited exceptions. The right to obtain an expunction depends on North Carolina statutes. If no statute authorizes an expunction of a conviction, a person generally has no right to one. Recent studies have found that record clearing mechanisms such as expunctions boosted employment rates and earnings.”
The last 13 years have brought a lot of changes to the NC law on expungements and a lot more opportunities for a fresh start through various expansions. This is was some of the most bi-partisan work the General Assembly did during my time there. Here is a summary of the bills we considered during that time: https://www.sog.unc.edu/.../relief.../recent-legislation
Interested in learning more to figure out if you might qualify? Try the school of government site for more information or you might want to read a recent guide: https://www.ncjustice.org/publications/summary-of-north-carolina-expunctions-2020/?fbclid=IwAR27BMj6WtSkvEzNvIpVPJoC4Z_uFNrSY3Ld-6JrBYbYMgEKBrLBOQkr1rw