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What Is the Difference Between an Expungement and Sealing a Record?

If you’ve been convicted of a crime, your criminal record may still cause problems, even after you complete your sentence. People with criminal records often find it more difficult to find jobs, get benefits, or find places to live. In many states, however, there are ways to clear your record so you will no longer have to say you have a criminal conviction. These include expungement and sealing your records.

If you are eligible to have your criminal record erased, it can make a big difference in your future. It may be too late to avoid a conviction in the first place, but a fresh start is still possible. After you complete your sentence, you can talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer for advice on expungements or record sealing.

Is Sealing Your Record the Same As Expungement?

Expungement and sealing a record are related but they may be different, depending on the state law. Normally, criminal records are available to the public. In general, with an expungement, the criminal records are destroyed. When your records are sealed, they are kept out of public view, but law enforcement or government agencies may still access them. People may use the term expungement when they mean record-sealing. In some states, it may be the same process.

What Is Expungement?

Expungement is the legal process of having criminal arrests, charges, or convictions erased from your criminal record. Expungement generally results in having your criminal records destroyed. A search of your criminal record would show nothing after an expungement. However, when most people talk about getting their records expunged, the state only seals their records.

What Is Sealing a Criminal Record?

When your criminal record is sealed, it effectively keeps your arrest and conviction history out of public searches. The court, law enforcement, and government agencies may still be able to access your records after they are sealed. However, public records searches and basic background checks will not show that you were arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime. When applying for a job, you can generally answer that you don’t have a criminal record.

How Do I Get My Charges Expunged?

If you are interested in the expungement of an arrest, charges, or conviction, talk to your attorney for advice. First, you have to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements in your state. Depending on the state and the criminal charges, there may be a waiting period after the offense was committed, at the end of all proceedings, or after release from probation or parole.

Not all offenses are eligible to be cleared from your record. Expungable offenses depend on the state. Many states limit expungements to minor offenses. Some states do not allow for the expunging of drunk driving, homicide, or sex crimes.

How Much Does It Cost?

There are usually costs and fees associated with getting your record sealed. This may include background check fees and court filing fees. However, the benefits of an expungement often outweigh the costs. Once you have your record sealed it can open up employment opportunities and make it easier for you to find housing.

There may be legal resources available at your court for self-help options. Generally, the simplest way to get your criminal history sealed is to contact an experienced lawyer for a consultation. Attorneys will be able to give you a good idea of what will be involved, the chances of success, and the total cost to clear your record.

Clearing Your Juvenile Record

Crimes and violations that were committed when you were under the age of 18 should not have to ruin the rest of your life. In some states, juvenile delinquent records can be expunged and destroyed. Getting rid of past juvenile offenses is one of the most common types of expungement.

Generally, the person petitions the court to have their juvenile record expunged. In some states, after a set amount of time or after the offender reaches the age of 18, the courts automatically expunge their delinquency records. However, not all juvenile offenses can be expunged. Some offenses, even if committed while a minor, cannot be dismissed. If your petition is approved, the judge can issue a court order to have your record sealed or expunged.

Getting Criminal Defense Attorney Help For Expungement and Record Sealing

A lot may have changed since you got into trouble with the law. You deserve a second chance, and an old criminal history should not dictate your future. A sealed record can open up employment opportunities and save your reputation. A criminal defense lawyer can help you file a petition to have your crimes erased.

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