What’s the Difference Between a Sealed and an Expunged Record?
When your record is sealed or expunged, most people won’t be able to see it. Neither will show up on some background checks. But there are key differences between the two. A sealed record can help you, but getting your record expunged can help you even more. You also need to know, however, that neither are perfect. Even if your record is expunged, people can still find it.
How is a sealed record different from an expunged record?
The key difference between a sealed and an expunged record is that a sealed record still exists. As the name suggests, when your record is sealed, it essentially has a seal over it. This means that someone needs a court order to look at it. That makes it difficult for most people to see it.
But expungement is different. When your record is expunged, it is actually removed from the official court record. This means that if someone requests to see the record at the courthouse, there will not be one. An expungement also removes the record of your arrest. This makes it even harder for people to find records of your criminal history.
How can you get your record expunged?
If you want to ask a court to expunge your record, you must file a petition. This petition must go to the court that prosecuted your case the first time. You can only address one criminal case at a time. If you want to expunge more than one case, you will need to file a petition for each one. A judge will review your file. During their review, they will decide whether or not you meet certain requirements.
What are the requirements for having your record expunged?
Every jurisdiction has its own requirements for expungement. In some states, you’ll only be able to have your record expunged if your charges were dismissed before a plea. An example of this is if you’ve completed a deferral agreement. Other states allow for expungements after a conviction. But this is usually only for misdemeanors and minor felonies. Serious felonies are only eligible in very rare cases.
There are some common criteria between jurisdictions.
- Enough time has passed since the end of the case.
- You don’t have any criminal history since your case finished.
- You don’t have a major criminal history before this offense.
- You’ve completed all terms of your sentence, including deferrals, probation, parole or a prison sentence.
What happens if your record gets expunged?
If you meet the criteria, the court may grant you an expungement. Usually, the governing body will update your record through the main file. This is typically kept by the clerk of court. But in some cases, you may have to get the order from the court and deliver it yourself to certain departments. Anyone that handled your case should get a copy.
That could be any of the following:
- the police,
- the local jail,
- your probation or parole officer,
- a drug or alcohol treatment program, or
- a community service program.
Once your record is expunged, that’s it. The charge and the arrest and conviction will no longer be on your record. You need to know, though, that people can still find it. There may have been media reports about your charges. Those will still exist. Employers are also using better background investigators now, so they may be able to find it as well.
There is a key difference between a sealed and an expunged record. When a record is sealed, someone needs a court order to see it. If it is expunged, it is removed from the court’s file. You can request to have your record expunged by filing a petition. To qualify, you must fit certain criteria. If you fit the criteria, a judge can grant you an expungement. Once your record is expunged, there is no longer an official record of your arrest or conviction. That does not mean, however, that people won’t find out about your criminal history.