What is the Difference Between Expunging and Sealing a Criminal Record?

To best understand the difference between sealing records and expunging records, it is helpful to review the common court hearing outcomes that follows an arrest. Keep in mind that an arrest is an actual encounter with police that results in going to jail, being issued an arrest warrant, or a receiving a mailed notice to appear in court. Courts can hand down several types of adjudications, including the well-known “guilty” or “not guilty.” But there is more to court adjudication than the black or white “guilty” or “not-guilty” decrees.

Criminal Record Expungement Attorney 317-636-7514

Criminal Record Expungement Attorney 317-636-7514


When a person is arrested, the courts will find the defendant one of the following:

No Information – No Bill

This means that the state received the arrest report but decided to not file charges. This is colloquially-referred to as a case being dropped.

Nolle Prosequi – Nol Pross

These Latin terms mean “to not prosecute”, describe a ruling in which the state filed formal charges, but then decides to drop the charges for whatever reason.

Dismissed or Acquitted

This is another ruling in which a case is essentially dropped. It occurs when a legal argument is presented by a lawyer to the courts that convince them or mandates them to dismiss the defendant’s case and/or charges.

Guilty – Convicted

This verdict occurs when a court or jury finds a defendant guilty and convicts them of a crime.

Knowing these outcomes can assist you in understanding the differences and similarities between sealing and expungement.

Sealing Arrest Records

If a person was arrested and found guilty, or pleaded guilty, to a charge, then they can only apply to seal their criminal records. This means these records will not be physically destroyed and will still be accessible by police, federal government, the FBI, immigration officers, and other public officials. But when criminal records and arrests are sealed, they are no longer visible on public background check databases or accessible by employers, landlords, and other general public. One of the primary difference between sealed and expunged records has to do with purchasing firearms. Someone with a sealed record must still disclose their arrest when purchasing a firearm. Someone with an expunged record can legally deny an arrest.

Expungement of Criminal Records

A person can only expunge arrest records that never ended in a conviction. This means arrests that were later dropped, acquitted, or dismissed can be completely expunged from physical and online databases. Although government officials and police can still access these records, just as they can sealed records, the general public cannot ever see them and a person can legally claim to never have been arrested.

Expunging and sealing arrest records may differ in certain ways, but they both render the same benefits. It is very confusing to learn the process, rules, and guidelines to criminal record expungement. And there are several complicated variables that influences a person’s eligibility to expunge or seal criminal records. This is why it is vital to hire an experienced attorney to help you file for criminal record expungement accurately.

Indianapolis Criminal Record Expungement Lawyer

Call attorney David E. Lewis at 317-636-7514 to file for criminal record expungement in Indiana. He is well-versed in the new Indiana expungement laws and provides legal services starting as low as $850, depending on the extent of criminal history.

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