How to Seal a Criminal Record

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How Do I Seal My Criminal Record?

A lapse in judgment could affect you for the rest of your life if it resulted in an arrest and a criminal conviction. Long after you complete the conditions of the sentence handed down by a judge, the stigma of a criminal record stays with you. Employers, landlords and even colleges you apply to for admission can access the public records to reveal that you were convicted of committing a crime. You may, however, be able to prevent or limit the public from having access to it by knowing how to seal a criminal record.

What Does It Mean To Seal a Criminal Record

\Depending upon the laws in the state in which you were convicted of committing a crime, your criminal record could follow you for the rest of your life. A conviction for commission of a misdemeanor or a felony, the two classifications of crimes used by state and federal criminal law, results in a criminal record.

Laws controlling how long a conviction remains a matter of public record vary from state to state, but as a general rule, felony and misdemeanor convictions remain on your record for the rest of your life unless you take steps to seal them. If you were not convicted, sealing your criminal record will ensure that information about your arrest, including your fingerprints and mug shots, will be restricted from access by the public.

Sealing a criminal record means it continues to exist and is not destroyed, but it cannot be accessed by the public. Once a record is sealed, most states permit it to be accessed by law enforcement agencies through a request made to a court. Some states expand access to include anyone to whom you give written authorization or by a prospective employer if the job requires that you carry a firearm.

Seal a Criminal RecordKnow Whats In Your Criminal Record

The first thing to do if you wish to seal a criminal record is to do a criminal record search on yourself. It is important to know what types of records you need to seal and the state in which you must file your request. The application to seal a criminal record must be made where the conviction occurred.

A court order is required to seal a criminal record. States have procedures for requesting that your criminal record be sealed that usually begin with a written application filed with a court proving that you meet the eligibility requirements of the law of the state in which your conviction occurred. For example, state law may require a waiting period from the date of the conviction until you are permitted to request sealing of the records. New York, for instance, requires that you wait at least 10 years before filing an application to seal a criminal record, and it prohibits the sealing of serious or violent felony convictions or if you have more than two misdemeanors or more than one felony and a misdemeanor.

Some states, such as Wisconsin, do not allow you to limit access to your criminal records unless you were convicted before you were 25 years old or the records you wish to seal were from a juvenile delinquency proceeding and you are at least 17 years old when you make the request to seal the records. The state does, however, have a sealing procedure for criminal records in cases that resulted in an arrest but not in a conviction.

Sealing vs Expunging Criminal Records

Criminal records that are sealed continue to exist, but a court order limits public access to them. Each state has its own laws pertaining to sealing criminal records.

Expunging a criminal record is accomplished through a court proceeding with the outcome being the destruction of the records. As with sealing, the ability to expunge a criminal record and the procedures a person must follow to accomplish it are governed by the law of the state in which you were convicted.  If your criminal record is from violation of a federal law, the process for expunging that record must be made to according to rules established under federal laws.

Benefits of Sealing a Criminal Record

Sealing offers someone with a criminal record the opportunity for a fresh start. When competing for a job, the last thing you want is for a background check to reveal an arrest or a conviction. It’s natural for an employer with several candidates from vying for a job to favor the person with a clean criminal record history over someone with arrests or convictions.

In addition to employment, your search for an apartment to rent is affected by a criminal record. Landlords conduct background checks on prospective tenants, and an arrest or conviction could cause a property owner to refuse to rent to you. Sealing your criminal record means it will not appear in record searches.

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7 responses to “How to Seal a Criminal Record

    1. You will need to seek out legal counsel for that question. Each state is different in it’s approach to sealing criminal records. Many state won’t seal a violent felony conviction but it really depends on the nature of the crime (i.e. was this a violent felony offense?). You might want to start by contacting the court clerk where your case was heard and you were sentenced. They can help you to better understand your chances at sealing your criminal record. That being said, we have listed the states below where it’s possible to seal or expunge criminal records.

      Can A Felony Conviction Be Sealed?

      Sometimes felony convictions can be sealed or expunged, depending on the state you live in. Many felonies, such as violent crimes or sex related crimes cannot be expunged. A good option is to seek legal counsel on your specific felony conviction and see what is possible.

      States That Allow Criminal Records To Be Sealed

      1. Arizona
      2. California
      3. Colorado
      4. Connecticut
      5. Florida
      6. Illinois
      7. Indiana
      8. Kentucky
      9. Missouri
      10. New Hampshire
      11. New Jersey
      12. New York
      13. North Carolina
      14. Ohio
      15. Oklahoma
      16. Oregon
      17. Tennessee
      18. Texas
      19. Utah
      20. Washington

  1. I pleaded guilty to a Misdemeanor to attempted sexual misconduct in July 1993 in St. Louis Missouri. How do I get this record removed or sealed.

    1. Misdemeanors can be sealed or expunged depending on the nature of the crime, and after a specific amount of time has passed. In addition, all fines, fees and restitution must be made. That being said, not all criminal records can be sealed by the courts of Missouri. Sexual assault cases, especially if you had to register as a sex offender, cannot be sealed. It really depends on the nature of your crime if it can be expunged or sealed. A good place to get more information would be to contact the Missouri courthouse clerk where this case was heard by a judge and see what your options are. Another good option would be to seek legal counsel, which might help expedite things.

      Criminal Records That Cannot Be Sealed

      • Violent Felonies
      • Sex Offender Crimes
      • Domestic Assault
      • Kidnapping
      • Felony Resulting in a Death
      • Felony Terroristic Crimes

  2. Sealing your criminal record can help to repair your reputation and your good name. Many of Americans can take advantage of sealing or expunging their criminal records.

  3. In 1996 my daughter received a felony charge for possession of a controlled substance and has had no other record of criminal activity.
    What can be done to expunge or seal her record?

    1. Getting a criminal record expunged is possible depending on a few factors, listed below. You might want to start by contacting the court clerk where the sentencing took place and inquire if expunging this criminal record is possible. You can also seek legal counsel to help answer any questions you might have about getting a criminal record sealed or expunged.

      Factors for Getting a Criminal Record Expunged

      1. The type of criminal record
      2. Previous criminal history
      3. What state issued the sentencing
      4. Has enough time passed
      5. Have all the fines and fee been paid

Author: SQAdmin
Last Updated: January 4, 2019

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