Sealed vs Expunged: Difference and Comparison

Sealing and expunging are two methods that are popularly used in any state, depending upon the laws and regulations. These methods help a criminal achieve a second chance at life and may be very important.

Many people tend to use these two terms interchangeably, but they carry a lot of differences that shall be discussed in this article. 

Key Takeaways

  1. A sealed record means the public cannot access it, while expunged record means it is destroyed.
  2. A sealed record can be opened with a court order, while an expunged record cannot be accessed even with a court order.
  3. Expunged record erases all the information, while a sealed record preserves the record but restricts access to it.

Sealed vs Expunged 

The difference between Sealed and Expunged is that the former refers to a criminal record related to any person that has been taken down from the [public domain ad is not open to being accessed by anyone easily. But on the contrary, the latter refers to that criminal record that has been wiped off completely. It is not just hidden but finished as well. Apart from this, there are many differences that lie between these two terms. 

Sealed vs Expunged

Derived from the term seal, Sealed is a term that refers to a process where a person’s record with the court of law is sealed in the eyes of all. In other words, each file where the name of the person appears in the case is closed forever.

However, with a court order, this file can again be re-opened, and the seal might be opened. It is a very common practice in many countries to allow people to live a free life once they have been punished enough for their wrongdoing or when they are tried without any fault. 

But on the contrary, Expunged does not only refer to hiding the document but destroying it for always too. In this process, the criminal record pertaining to a specific individual is clearly wiped off from all the records.

Once a record is said to be expunged, it does not exist and can never be retrieved again by any of the ways. This technique happens to be the most helpful for people looking to get rid of their records completely. 

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Comparison Table

Parameters of Comparison Sealed  Expunged  
Meaning  The term refers to a record available in the court of law that has been hidden from the common public.  The term refers to a record available in the court of law that has been destroyed forever. 
Purpose  This process is performed to allow a person to hide his criminal records from the eyes of everyone else. This process is performed so that a person could get a completely clean slate. 
Benefit  This process allows the person to live a free life while keeping the records handy if needed. This process allows the person to live a free life without having any record available. 
Requirement  There might be a conviction. There should be no conviction, or the case must be drooped from the other side. 
Nature  This record happens to be hidden in nature. This record completely gets destroyed. 
Who can view it? Only if the court orders to do, a sealed record can be viewed. No matter who orders to do so, this record cannot be accessed again. 

What is Sealed?

The term sealed, in terms of law enforcement and legal procedure, refers to a distinct kind of criminal record pertaining to a specific individual. There are instances where a person might find himself in a position where he wishes that his criminal record be wiped off the slate and nobody could access it. 

One of the ways to achieve this goal is to seal the record. When a record is said to be sealed, it implies that no person can now access it, irrespective of the position of authority he holds. Sealing hides the record from everyone.

But the record still exists, hidden somewhere and can be retrieved if a court of law orders to do so. The purpose behind this process happens to be a mutual benefit of both the state and the individual.

An individual will benefit from this process as his name will be hidden from all criminal records, and he shall be able to live a life without any worry. And this benefits a state as the record never gets destroyed and can be accessed if the need arises.

sealed

What is Expunged?

The term expunged refers to a process of destroying something completely and making it non-existent in the physical or digital form. In the court of law, this term refers to a remedy that has been provided to people whose name has appeared in certain records that are criminal in nature. 

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When the name of a person appears on a criminal record, he might face multiple issues from his personal life to his professional life. And the chances are that he might not get a decent job for the rest of his life even if he has been acquitted.

In these circumstances, the person avails the remedy of expunging the record by which the record gets destroyed for good. Unlike sealing, when a record is expunged, it can never be accessed again, even after the court orders it to do so.

The reason behind this is that the record does not exist anymore; therefore, it cannot be accessed. To avail of this remedy, the person should not be convicted in the matter, or the case must have been dropped by the prosecuting party due to any reason.

In certain states, if a record gets sealed for more than 10 years, it might be eligible for expunging. 

Main Differences Between Sealed and Expunged 

  1. The term sealed refers to a court record that has been hidden from everyone’s eyes, while the term expunged refers to a court record that has been destroyed. 
  2. A sealed record can be accessed with the help of a court order, while an expunged order can never be accessed again as it does not exist. 
  3. A sealed order happens to be in hidden form only, while an expunged order does not exist in any form. 
  4. An order is sealed to allow a person to live freely while keeping the record safe and while an order is expunged to give a person a clean slate and free him from any such background record. 
  5. To make an order be sealed, there might be a conviction of the person in a case, while to make an order be expunged, there should not be any conviction. 
References
  1. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/jclc61&section=46 
  2. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/harlpolrv10&section=20  

Last Updated : 07 August, 2023

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25 thoughts on “Sealed vs Expunged: Difference and Comparison”

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