Sealing vs. Expungement: What’s the Difference?
After being arrested or convicted of a crime, you may be keen to have your criminal record washed clean. After all, that record can have a severe impact on your ability to get a job, find a place to live, or receive benefits from public assistance programs. In your research to determine how to get rid of a rap sheet, you may have stumbled upon the phrases “sealing” and “expunging.” Both sound promising for your needs, but what is the difference between them, and which would serve you better?
What Does It Mean to Seal Your Record?
In most states, including Colorado, there is a clear-cut difference between expunging your criminal record and sealing it. When a criminal record is sealed, it has been hidden from public view. Arrests and convictions are normally made available to the public in the interest of protecting the community. This allows people, such as employers and landlords, to make a decision on whether or not they want to have an alleged criminal on their property. However, this can severely reduce someone’s ability to get honest work and can even push reformed criminals back into a life of crime. Getting a criminal record sealed can help prevent these negative consequences.
It does not solve everything, however. Officials in the criminal justice world, such as police officers, judges, and prosecutors, will still have access to the sealed records. While this is meant to ensure that crimes are not forgotten about, it can pose issues for the alleged criminal. Police are known to profile, and with access to sealed criminal records, they may draw their own conclusions about someone’s guilt before he is even arrested.
What Does It Mean to Expunge Your Record?
This is where expungement can be beneficial. When your criminal record is expunged, it means that the crime has been completely cleared. Your record will appear clean, as if you were never arrested in the first place. Of course, this may seem like the best option to you immediately. However, expungements are only available under certain conditions, based on the age you were when you were arrested, the alleged crime you were arrested for, and whether or not you were convicted.
Under Colorado law, these limitations are incredibly strict. In fact, only the criminal records of juveniles can be expunged. This means that in order for you to be eligible for an expungement, you must have been under the age of 18 and tried as a child for your alleged crime. If you were 18 or older, or you were tried as an adult, then your record cannot be expunged, and your only option is to have it sealed.
What You Can Do
No one wants to walk around with their criminal record hanging over their head. This ball and chain can leave you in dire straits, unable to get a job, find a home, or access much-needed help from certain public programs. Seeking an expungement or sealing can seem ideal. However, the regulations for both are very strict when it comes to who can and cannot have their record locked away. On top of that, even if you are eligible, the process itself can be complex, especially if you are not familiar with the required paperwork.
Thankfully, you don’t need to face this daunting process alone. By working with an experienced criminal defense attorney, you can explore all of your options and get the advice you need. To work with some of the best defense attorneys in Colorado, call our firm, Peters & Nolan, LLC, at (970) 243-4357. We look forward to helping you set up your free consultation.
Peters & Nolan, LLC is your ideal source for high quality legal representation throughout the state of Colorado. Known for being personable and responsive, attorneys Andrew J. Peters and Andrew Nolan are aggressive trial lawyers with an excellent record of trying and settling cases in criminal defense, DUI/DWAI and personal injury.