Downey's criminal past was scrubbed from his record in a special Christmas Eve pardon

By Lindsay Kimble
Updated December 25, 2015 09:30 AM
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Credit: Trisha Leeper/Getty

Robert Downey Jr. got a one-of-a-kind Christmas present on Thursday when California Gov. Jerry Brown granted the actor clemency for his past crimes.

Downey, who struggled with drug problems in the late 1990s, had his criminal record scrubbed in the Christmas Eve pardon, which has become a tradition in California, according to Los Angeles Times.

The 50-year-old star spent several stints in jail for drug-related charges. After repeated arrests in 1996 – including for possession of a controlled substance and driving under the influence – he served, in total, two years and eight months behind bars. He completed his parole in 2002, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“I accidentally [got] involved in heroin after smoking crack for the first time. It finally tied my shoelaces together,” Downey Jr. told Rolling Stone back in 2010 of his former struggles. “Smoking dope and smoking coke, you are rendered defenseless. The only way out of that hopeless state is intervention.”

The pardon notes Downey’s “good conduct in the community” in the time since his release, and asserts that he “has paid his debt to society and earned a full and unconditional pardon.”

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The Iron Man star is one of 91 people who received a pardon, most of whom had also been charged with minor drug offenses. In order to be eligible, the convicted individuals must keep their records clean for more than a decade after release from prison, CNN reported.

The clemency follows the actor’s induction into the California Hall of Fame in October.

The ceremony, which was established in 2006, honors “legendary people who embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history.”

While Downey didn’t directly address the exciting news of his pardon on Thursday, he did issue holiday wishes to his fans on social media.

“You’re only on the naughty list if you get caught,” he wrote, with the hashtag “#HappyAlmostChristmas.”

Alongside the note Downey shared an old clip of himself sneakily adjusting a Christmas stocking.