When a judge rules you guilty, that verdict becomes part of the public record. Anyone can find out this information. If people learn about your past, it has the potential to impact your life in negative ways.
Expungement and sealing are the two methods by which you may prevent the world from accessing this knowledge. Although they remain similar, the differences have significance.
What separates sealing a record from an expungement?
Expungement means all files relating to a crime are permanently destroyed. This includes documents from arresting officers, probation officers and prosecutors. Sealing a case means the information will be under lock and key. In either scenario, you earn the right to deny the charges in most circumstances.
What are the requirements for sealing a record or an expungement?
Only individuals who plead guilty or no contest are eligible to seal their records. The type of crime you have on your record also plays a role, as not all offenses qualify.
To receive an expungement, you must have no prior convictions. Also, dismissal of the charges is a prerequisite. This can come in the form of a prosecutor dropping the case, a judge granting a motion to dismiss or winning an acquittal at trial. Additionally, expungement is possible with cases sealed for at least a decade.
Note that the specifics surrounding expungement and record sealing differ in every state.
There is no reason to live the rest of your years with a conviction following you around. Putting an unfortunate event in the past is possible through courtroom relief.