Whenever a person has a conviction on their record, it can cause many problems in obtaining employment, professional licensing, and the right to vote. Even if a criminal case doesn’t result in a formal conviction, the record of the arrest and the criminal prosecution can sometimes remain, causing similar issues.

In certain situations, many convictions and records of arrest can be sealed so that they are off limits to all but law enforcement personnel. In other cases, the person’s record can be subject to a process known as expungement, wherein criminal file is removed from public records completely.

How is Record Sealing Different from Expungement?

The main difference between record sealing and expungement is that the criminal records still “exist” if the records are sealed. The files and records are still there, but they just can’t be accessed by employers and other persons. It is usually standard proceedings that a person’s juvenile criminal files are sealed once they turn 18 years old (though they can sometimes still be accessed via court order).

In comparison, expungement results in the actual deletion or erasing of criminal charges and arrest files, as if they never occurred. Certain charges may be more difficult to get expunged than others. For instance, misdemeanor charges are usually more easily expunged than felony charges.

Laws regarding criminal record sealing and expungement can vary widely from state to state. Eligibility for such procedures can often depend on the type of crime involved.

Eligibility for Record Sealing or Expungement

Eligibility for record sealing varies from state to state, but generally the procedure is as follows:

  • Apply for record sealing in writing with the court where the conviction occurred
  • The original sentence must have been served
  • The person is not facing any new charges
  • The burden is on the applicant to prove that probation requirements have been fulfilled

When filing for an expungement, the person will often file in the same court where the prosecution takes place. The petition for expungement will usually only be good for one case; if they want to expunge multiple records, they must usually file separate petitions. The judge will then review the petition and determine their eligibility. Individual courts may sometimes have their own procedures for expungement or record sealing.

Additional Information about Record Sealing or Expungement

It is important to keep in mind that:

  • Many felonies are not eligible for expungement
  • Nearly every sex offense is not eligible for record sealing
  • Expungement usually applies to juvenile offenses or misdemeanors
  • In some states, even though records are sealed, the original sealed conviction may still be used to increase the severity of a future sentence

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Record Sealing or Expungement?

If you have any questions about record sealing or expungement, you should speak to a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Your attorney can explain the sealing/expungement process in your state and what rights you have.