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Expunging vs. Sealing your Criminal Record: What’s the difference?

On Behalf of | Jan 17, 2022 | Expungement

Expungement and record sealing seem pretty much the same at first. Both of them refer to shielding your criminal record from background checks. Both of them require you to go through a legal process, usually several years after you finish serving your sentence. And both can help make your life much easier without the burden of a long-ago conviction holding you back.

While expunging your record has similar benefits to sealing it, they are not the same thing. There is a key difference that might affect your ability to sign a lease, get a bank loan or receive an offer for a promising new job.

Expungement or Record Sealing?

The difference is this: an expungement erases an arrest or conviction from your official record. It will never show up on an official background check again, and there is no way anyone can find out about it unless you choose to disclose it. A seal accomplishes almost the same thing — except that your record still exists. A party can go to court and ask the judge for an order to unseal your record. This most often occurs when you apply for certain jobs like police officer or if you are convicted of a new crime, and the court wants to consider your sealed conviction for purposes of enhancing your sentence.

Another difference is that some crimes are not eligible for expungement. Thus, the details of your record could affect whether you should pursue expunging or sealing it.

The process of sealing or expunging your record can be complicated and require patience. But it can open up many possibilities in your life and be a symbolic closing of the door on your past mistakes.