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Understanding Expungement vs. Sealing Records in Criminal Cases: What You Need to Know

If you have a criminal record, you may be wondering if there is any way to have your record cleared or sealed. Two options that may be available to you are expungement and record sealing. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to two different processes.

What is Expungement?

Expungement is the process of completely removing a criminal record from your file. This means that the record will no longer be accessible to the public or to most government agencies. In some cases, you may be able to deny the existence of the record altogether. This is a powerful tool for those who want to start fresh and leave their criminal past behind them.

However, not all criminal records can be expunged. The rules and requirements for expungement vary by state and can be complicated. In general, you may be eligible for expungement if you:

  • Were arrested but not convicted
  • Completed a diversion or deferred prosecution program
  • Were convicted of a minor offense
  • Were a juvenile at the time of the offense

What is Record Sealing?

Record sealing, also known as record expungement or record clearance, is the process of sealing a criminal record so that it is no longer visible to the public. Unlike expungement, the record is not completely removed from your file, but it is hidden from most employers, landlords, and other members of the public. Record sealing is generally available for those who have been convicted of a crime, but the rules and requirements vary by state.

Which Option is Right for You?

Determining whether to pursue expungement or record sealing can be a complex process. In general, expungement is the more powerful tool, as it completely removes the record from your file. However, record sealing may be a better option if you are not eligible for expungement or if you are concerned about the cost or time involved in pursuing expungement.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding which option is right for you:

  • Eligibility: Are you eligible for expungement? If not, record sealing may be your only option.
  • Time: Expungement can take several months or even years to complete. Record sealing is generally faster.
  • Employment: If you are concerned about finding employment with a criminal record, expungement may be the better option, as it completely removes the record from your file. However, record sealing may be sufficient in some cases.

If you are unsure whether expungement or record sealing is right for you, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can help you navigate the process and determine the best course of action for your specific situation.

At The Brannen Law Office, P.C., we understand the challenges that come with having a criminal record. We are committed to helping our clients achieve a fresh start and move forward with their lives.

If you are interested in learning more about expungement or record sealing, please contact us today to schedule a consultation.