Is It Better to Expunge or Seal Your Record?

Is it better to expunge or seal your record? If you’re like many people who are eligible for criminal record clearing, you’ve asked that question – but the answer really depends on your goal.

Here’s what you need to know to make the right choice for your future.

Is It Better to Expunge or Seal Your Record?

There’s a major difference between expunging a record and sealing a record: With expungement, your criminal record is erased – it’s like it never even happened. If the courts seal your criminal records, they still exist.

However, some offenses on your record may not be eligible for expungement – and that can be the deciding factor in whether you expunge or seal your record.

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What Records Can You Expunge?

Generally, you can only expunge very specific cases from your record, including:

  • Arrests for misdemeanors or felonies that never resulted in a conviction
  • Sentences for supervision, but only if the waiting period has passed
  • Sentences of qualified probation, but only if the waiting period has passed

There are very few exceptions to the rules about what you can expunge (although some honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible to expunge a handful of offenses). It’s generally a good idea to talk to a Chicago expungement attorney if you’re not sure if your record is eligible.

What Records Can You Seal?

Usually, you can only seal very specific cases, such as:

  • Arrests and charges for misdemeanors and felonies that never led to a conviction
  • Felony traffic offenses that were reduced to an eligible misdemeanor
  • Convictions for most misdemeanors and felonies

Again, it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney if you’re not sure whether you’re eligible for sealing.

Should You Expunge or Seal Your Criminal Record?

Given the option to either expunge or seal a record, many people choose expungement over sealing. That’s because expungement effectively erases your criminal record, while sealing only closes it off from most of the public.

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Expungement or Sealing?

We can help you clear your criminal record if you’re eligible for expungement or sealing. Call us at 847-920-4540 today to find out how to get the fresh start you deserve!