Most of us made mistakes during our youth that we’re not exactly proud of. For some, however, these youthful blunders ended up in criminal conviction. Although those people have paid for their mistakes, their criminal record acts as a constant reminder and lifelong punishment. Fortunately, the legal system does provide them with the means to either expunge or seal those records.
According to Thomas C. Grajek, Attorney At Law, it’s essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before your case is heard in court. Failure to do so may result in the charges not being resolved correctly, harming your chances to expunge or seal your arrest.
Although both hide your information from public view, there’s a considerable difference between expunging and sealing your record. Expungement completely erases the data, making it appear as though the incident never happened. On the other hand, sealing hides your info from the majority of the public’s view, but employers and specific agencies can still access it.
To better explain these terms, we need to take a closer, more in-depth look at each.
Expungement refers to the process of completely removing court supervision, arrest, and specific probation from an individual’s criminal record. Although this is by far the optimal choice, it doesn’t apply to all cases. The availability of this option primarily depends on the jurisdiction where the event occurred.
Convictions, when an individual is found guilty and sentenced, can’t be expunged. It includes:
- Time considered served
- Regular probation
- Ordinance violation fines
- Qualified probations or supervisions that aren’t entirely completed
- Conditional discharge
- Prison or jail time
If the jurisdiction allows for expungement, it needs to be determined if the individual court supervision, arrest, or probation is eligible for removal. For instance, the state may require a specified amount of time elapsed after the event has been dealt with before you can erase it. Should your request be approved, the following will happen:
- The FBI, state police department, and arresting authority will officially remove your court supervision, arrest, or probation record from their files
- Without anyone seeing it, your name will be removed from the public records by the circuit clerk
- Even though it’ll officially clear your history, law enforcement agencies and the DOC (department of corrections) will still be able to access your removed records for any offenses requiring a five-year waiting period
- Background checks will no longer display your criminal record
Should your record be sealed, it’ll effectively hide your information from the general public. However, felony convictions will still be visible to all employers that are, by law, required to take your fingerprints and do background checks. This type of employment includes:
- Police departments
- Government or public jobs
- Fire departments
- Organizations that work with or around children, such as daycare centers and schools
All other employers and landlords are prohibited from seeing any record that’s been sealed legally. On the other hand, law enforcement agencies, such as state attorneys, the courts, and police departments, have access to concealed information.
However, a court order is needed by anyone, including yourself, that wishes to access sealed or expunged data.
Even though it’s not always possible to expunge or seal all criminal records, it does remain an option worth exploring. It’s essential, though, to obtain a professional’s services that understand the specifics of how the jurisdiction system works. Hiring and discussing your case with an experienced criminal defense lawyer will ensure that you’ve got all your bases covered.