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The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging a Misdemeanor Conviction

sealing vs expunging misdemeanor convictions

Being convicted of a misdemeanor can be an overwhelming experience, and the consequences can last for years. One way to lessen the impact is to seal or expunge the conviction from your record.

But what’s the difference between sealing and expunging a misdemeanor?

Sealing and expunging may sound like similar processes, but there are key differences you need to know before taking action. This article will explain what you need to understand about sealing and expunging a misdemeanor conviction so that you can make an informed decision about which approach best fits your needs.

If you need more help, reach out to a Bay Area criminal defense lawyer at The Nieves Law Firm.

Understanding Misdemeanor Convictions

Misdemeanor convictions are criminal charges that are considered less severe than felonies. Although misdemeanor penalties are not as harsh, they can still have long-term consequences.

Some examples of misdemeanors include vehicle code violations like DUI, drug charges like possession or being under the influence, and disorderly conduct. In California, the penalties for misdemeanors typically involve fines, community service, and/or up to a year in jail.

A misdemeanor conviction can have collateral consequences, including difficulties finding employment, housing, and financial aid. Additionally, a misdemeanor conviction can significantly impact your personal and professional relationships and even result in serious immigration consequences.

It is important to note that misdemeanor convictions are not automatically removed from your criminal record. If left unaddressed, a misdemeanor conviction can remain on your record permanently. However, legal options are available to help anyone with a misdemeanor conviction move forward with their lives.

Sealing Vs. Expunging Misdemeanor Convictions

Sealing records and expungements are two legal options for individuals charged with a misdemeanor. While both options can help you move forward with their lives, there are some key differences you should be aware of.

Key differences between sealing and expunging include:

  • Sealing a criminal record means restricting access to it, while expunging means dismissing it.
  • Sealed records are not visible to the public, including potential employers and landlords, but they are still visible to law enforcement agencies.
  • Sealing records in California is strictly reserved for arrest records that did not result in a conviction.
  • Eligibility criteria for sealing and expunging a misdemeanor conviction are different.
  • The timeframe of an expungement case or sealed records case may also differ.
  • Expungements do not completely erase a record but rather it changes the disposition of the case from a conviction to a dismissal

While sealing and expunging can help you move forward with your life, there are some limitations to consider.

It is important to understand the differences between sealing and expunging and to seek legal guidance to determine which option is best for your situation. A qualified attorney can guide you through the process and help you achieve a fresh start.

Benefits & Limitations of Sealing or Expunging a Misdemeanor

Sealing and expunging a misdemeanor conviction can benefit individuals seeking to move forward. However, it is essential to understand the limitations of these options.

Benefits of sealing or expunging a misdemeanor conviction or arrest include:

  • Improved chances of obtaining employment, housing, and financial aid
  • Restoration of your sense of dignity and privacy, since you no longer have to disclose their criminal history to others

Limitations of sealing or expunging a misdemeanor conviction or arrest include:

  • Sealed or expunged records are not completely erased (law enforcement agencies and government officials can still access them) unless deemed factually innocent and destroyed by the Department of Justice
  • Some professions, such as law enforcement or education, may require conviction disclosure.

Understanding both the benefits and limitations of sealing or expunging a misdemeanor conviction is important before deciding which option to pursue

The Process of Sealing or Expunging a Misdemeanor Conviction or Arrest in California

The process of sealing or expunging a misdemeanor conviction or arrest in California generally involves the following steps:

  1. Obtain a copy of your criminal record.
  2. Determine eligibility. Generally, you must have successfully completed your sentence and not have any new pending criminal charges or have not been convicted of the offense altogether.
  3. Complete the necessary forms. The application process for sealing or expunging a misdemeanor conviction in California involves completing several forms, including a petition for dismissal and a declaration supporting the petition with points and authorities.
  4. File the forms with the court and serve the appropriate parties. Once completed, they must be filed with the court where your conviction occurred. You may also be required to pay a filing fee.
  5. Attend a hearing (if required). Depending on the circumstances of your case, a hearing before a judge may be required to determine if your misdemeanor conviction can be sealed or expunged. If a hearing is required, you must attend and present your case.
  6. Wait for a decision. After filing the forms and attending a hearing (if required), the court will issue a decision either granting or denying the request and sign the order indicating their ruling.

If your misdemeanor conviction is sealed or expunged, keep a copy of the order and follow up with any necessary agencies, such as the Department of Justice, to ensure your record has been updated. If your application is denied, you may have the option to appeal the decision or apply again after a certain time.

It is important to seek legal guidance from a qualified criminal defense attorney in California to help you effectively navigate the process of sealing or expunging a misdemeanor conviction.

Get Help Sealing or Expunging Your Misdemeanor Conviction With The Nieves Law Firm

Sealing or expunging a misdemeanor conviction can be crucial for anyone seeking to move forward. While it is not a complete erasure of criminal history, it can help restore your privacy and improve your future personal and professional opportunities..

If you need assistance with sealing or expunging a misdemeanor conviction or would like to explore other legal options like a motion to vacate a criminal conviction, we can help. The experienced attorneys at The Nieves Law Firm in Oakland can guide you through the process and help you achieve a fresh start.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

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