If you have a criminal offense on your record or other information that you would prefer individuals cannot access as a part of public record, you have probably looked into the possibility of sealing your court records.
After all, when your court records are sealed, the number of individuals who can access them publicly is greatly decreased, and you will no longer be required to disclose any previous criminal offenses to potential landlords or employers (based on specific state laws).
Our article gives you more information on which court records and criminal offenses are generally eligible to be sealed in most states, and further information on who might be able to access your court records even after they are sealed. Read on for everything you need to know.
Which Court Records Are Eligible to Be Sealed?
Which court records are specifically eligible to be sealed depends on the nature of criminal offenses committed, your age at the time of the crime, and specific state laws.
In general, things like felonies, sex crimes, or offenses regarding pedophilia are not eligible to be sealed from your court record and will be present on it indefinitely. Other serious crimes such as felony DUIs or violent crimes involving the death of a victim are also typically not eligible to be sealed from court records.
However, misdemeanors regarding minor offenses, minor traffic infractions, and certain convictions that are old might be eligible to be sealed on your court records.
It’s important to look through your own criminal record and court records to identify which items can be sealed and which items might be a part of your record for life; an experienced criminal attorney can help you with this process.
Understanding the Expungement Process
The expungement process is the official term for the sealing of court records frompublic view.
The exact process of expungement varies depending on state laws and the types of court system you are working with, not to mention the types of crimes committed, but it will typically need to be performed under the guidance of a legal professional.
- To start the expungement process, you will most likely need to gather information about the nature of your convictions. Find all of the information you can about when the crime was committed, when court dates were held, sentencing information, and time served or fines paid as a result of the offense. Keep all of this information in one place, as it will be necessary throughout the process.
- The next step of expungement typically involves paperwork. You will most likely need to fill out an application applying for your court records to be sealed and then submit this to your local court. You will be provided with a court date to speak in front of a judge and discuss the nature of your court records, your convictions, and your case for why those specific items should be sealed from your record.
- After you meet with the judge, they will determine whether or not your records are eligible to be sealed. They will either make their decision for yes, no, or for certain items of your criminal record. Your attorney and the court will give you further information about the next steps if your court records are sealed.
Who Can Access My Sealed Court Records?
Once your court records are sealed, they cannot be accessed by individuals as part of public record. You will no longer be required to list that you have criminal offenses on employment applications or as part of rental applications, and your criminal record information will not be disclosed as a part of general background checks or criminal background checks.
The sealed court records will be just that – sealed from public view.
That being said, certain individuals will still be able to access your court records in certain circumstances. Law enforcement professionals may be able to access your sealed court records, as will other officials in certain circumstances of additional court cases or offenses.
If you are applying for a job with a government agency or a government department that works with highly sensitive information or vulnerable populations, they may be able to see that youhave had records expunged and they might be able to request to view which court records were sealed.
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It’s important to note that who can access your sealed court records does vary based on the state that you are in, disclosure laws surrounding your crimes, and several other factors. Make sure to consult with a legal professional and research your state’s laws regarding expungement and sealed court records so you can gain a complete picture of who might have access to this information.
Staying Informed of Your Rights
Court records and criminal histories are oftenstressful topics, especially if an individual is worried that their record might stop them from taking advantage of certain opportunities.
However, once expungement has been granted for your record and certain court records are sealed, only a limited number of individuals may have access to them, and even then, only certain situations allow for the viewing of these records.
Make sure to research your specific state’s laws regarding access to sealed court records and consult with a legal professional if you have more in-depth questions regarding expungement and access to sealed court records so that you always stay informed and cognizant of your rights.
You can also take steps to stay informed of what is listed on your public record by performing a quick search on a public record lookup tool like this one.