Understanding Expungement

What Is The Difference Between Expunging And Sealing A Record?

Expungement

Expungement is more thorough than sealing because your record is destroyed or returned to you and your name removed from the public record. It is only available for charges that did not result in a conviction, meaning either the charges were dropped, you were found not guilty or you successfully completed court supervision or certain types of alternative probation. Except for a few specific circumstances, you also must not have any prior convictions. As a general rule, most misdemeanors can be expunged and most felonies cannot.

There may be a waiting period for you to petition for expungement. If your charges are dropped or you are found not guilty, you can immediately file a petition to expunge your record. If you successfully complete supervision, you must wait either two or five years depending on the charges. If you successfully complete alternative probation, you must wait five years.

Sealing

If your record is sealed, it is not destroyed or returned, but the files are generally not available and your name is removed from the public record. However, law enforcement and certain types of employers still have access to them. While convictions cannot be expunged, certain convictions can be sealed. Thus, if you do not qualify to have your record expunged, it is a good idea to see if you do qualify to have your record sealed.

Do I Have To Disclose Expunged Or Sealed Records?

Generally, no. Most employers are not allowed to ask if you have had your record expunged or sealed. If your record is expunged, it is completely gone and no one will have access to it. If your record is sealed, certain types of employers do have access to it. If you are seeking a job with the government, in finance or in health care, you will want to see if you need to disclose sealed records or if the employer can access them.

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