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What Is an Expunged Record?

An expunged record refers to a criminal record that has been erased, or that has had its access restricted to the general public. An expunged record usually indicates that the person has satisfied all of their sentencing and/or probation requirements, and is in good standing with the courts. In some jurisdictions this is known as a “record sealing” or “purging” of the record.

Can an Expunged Record Still Be Accessed?

Typically, an expunged record can’t be accessed by the general public. For instance, a person’s expunged criminal record can’t be referenced in a job application or when applying for housing. 

However, in some instances, a judge may still make references to the general fact of whether a person was convicted of a crime or not. They generally can’t refer to details of the case, but they can make note of certain criminal charges. This is usually done when the court is dealing with a repeat conviction, and needs to know how to prescribe a sentence for the offender.

Again, each state will have different rules and regulations when it comes to expunged records and other post-conviction procedures. Rules may also differ for felony expungement as compared to the process for misdemeanors (felonies are generally more difficult to erase from the record).

Is an Expunged Record the Same as a Sealed Record?

Most jurisdictions use the terms “expunged record” and “sealed record” interchangeably. However, the two terms can have slightly different meanings. With an expunged record, it’s usually as if the offender legally didn’t commit the crimes in question. That is, they no longer exist in any records of the person. 

In comparison, a “sealed” record might still contain information regarding previous claims. Some criminal records might be “temporarily sealed”, or sealed for the purposes of just one court proceeding, to be reopened later on. As mentioned, the exact details will differ depending on the case. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Expunged Record?

Obtaining a criminal record expungement is not always available in every case. You may wish to hire a criminal defense lawyer if you need assistance with expunging a record, or if you need help with a previous case record. Your attorney will be able to advise you on how to proceed so that you can deal with your criminal record according to state laws and guidelines. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 02-22-2017 02:16 PM PST

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