President Donald Trump pardoned Michael Milken long after he had been released from prison. (Source)

What is the purpose of such a pardon? Is it merely designed to whitewash a convicted person's public image, or does it essentially erase their conviction, so they can no longer be legally discriminated against as a criminal? To put it another way, can such a person still be called a criminal?

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    He was a convicted criminal. Now he is not a convicted criminal anymore. That can make a huge practical difference to someone’s life. You can get jobs that you couldn’t get before, for example.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 6 at 17:53
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    sometimes criminals are pardoned even if they are already dead and even if the laws are unjust. like alan turing iirc. but then again this should've been a posthumous exoneration. Michael Milken is definitely something else. very good question. it's of course a dumb question if you change pardon to exonerate. but really pardon...wonder what good this will do? let's find out what the answers have to say.
    – BCLC
    Sep 7 at 8:03

In the US, you can still call a pardoned person a criminal. However, there are other consequences of a criminal conviction that a pardon can wipe away. For instance, a criminal record can stop you from getting professional licenses, owning a firearm, and in some states even voting or running for office. A pardon removes those consequences.

Separately, while a pardon doesn't stop anyone from calling you a convicted felon, it does serve as a form of official forgiveness. After having called him a felon, the US government has now said that Michael Milken has repaid his debt to society. You'll sometimes see pardons for dead people where the forgiveness is the only point.

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    What I didn’t like at all was the pardon for Alan Turing. As you say, pardon = forgiveness. Alan Turing didn’t need forgiveness, what he needed was some medieval laws getting changed 15 years earlier.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 6 at 18:56
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    @gnasher729 surely there are other instances of people being pardoned after society comes to the conclusion that the law under which they were convicted was unjust.
    – phoog
    Sep 7 at 2:30
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    @gnasher729 you are correct. It is very hard for the government to admit error, but in this case they have done the right thing: theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/11/pm-apology-to-alan-turing. Most wrongly convicted people just suffer. Some are granted official government forgiveness for their non-transgressions. A very select few get government apologies.
    – emory
    Sep 7 at 2:44
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    A pardon is what it is. Whether to interpret it as "forgiveness" or "leniency" or "apology" or "retroactive acquittal" is sort of in the eye of the beholder. The legal system doesn't really have separate mechanisms for those, so the pardon plays multiple roles. Sep 7 at 5:30
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    @NateEldredge agreed re the forgiveness. a pardon i think is more like a reconciliation than forgiveness. i'm no law expert or anything, but i hate the idea presented here (whether the idea is incorrectly presented or is correctly presented but is kinda horrifying, so you know [gasai] i won't shoot the messenger with a downvote or anything. and if it's not shoot the messenger, then still not a law expert or anything) of how pardon means debt is paid when actually debt is paid as soon as you've served your time.
    – BCLC
    Sep 7 at 8:08

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