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Difference Between Expunged and Sealed Records

Posted in Criminal Defense,Expungement on April 12, 2021

If you or somebody you care about has been charged with and convicted of a crime, then you understand how a criminal record can affect your life. A criminal conviction of a misdemeanor or a felony offense can significantly affect a person’s ability to gain employment, find adequate housing, attend school, and more. Even a relatively minor arrest and conviction can lead to a criminal record that follows a person for the rest of their life. However, there are ways for a person to wipe the slate clean by having their record either expunged or the records sealed. However, even though these two terms may be used interchangeably in the general public, they actually mean different things. Here, we want to discuss the difference between a record expungement and sealing records.

What is an expungement?

The process of clearing an arrest and/or conviction off of a person’s criminal record is called expungement. We used the “and/or” in that previous sentence because it is important to point out that even if a person is arrested and not convicted of an offense, the arrest will still show up on their record. That is why it is important to have a record expunged regardless of whether or not a person is convicted after an arrest.

When an expungement is granted, this means that the entire record of the arrest and conviction is completely taken away. It will be if the incident never happened. The arrest and the conviction will not show up on any background check because it will be as if the person never experienced any of the criminal court processes. A person who has the record expunged will be able to honestly answer “No” to any questions regarding if they have ever had a criminal conviction.

What does it mean to have your record sealed?

Sealed records are a bit different than expungement. While an expungement will completely take off an arrest or conviction from a person’s records, sealing a person’s records does not make the conviction or arrest go away. However, it will, in a sense, give the appearance that the conviction or arrest has been cleared because it will hide the arrest or conviction from most people that can see the records.

However, sealed records can still be accessed by certain parties or even re-opened through a court order in certain circumstances.

How can an attorney help with an expungement or sealing your record?

The process of having a record expunged or sealed can be complicated. It is important to understand that there are various requirements that must be met in order for a person to be eligible for expungement or a sealing of their records. We strongly suggest working with a skilled expungement attorney in Riverside who can thoroughly examine your case and determine whether or not you are eligible.

It is important to understand that when asking for records to be sealed or expunged, an individual is still going up against the “machine” that brought the charges against them in the first place. By “machine,” we are referring to the law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges that typically have a strict “law and order” mindset. They also have significant resources that they can use in these situations.

It is not uncommon for prosecutors to make objections that have very little merit when arguing that a record should not be sealed or expunged. This leaves individuals who do not have proper legal representation at a significant disadvantage when it comes to making legal arguments about why they should have their records sealed or expunged. An attorney will level the playing field and help ensure that all of the requirements are met before filing have the records sealed or expunged.