Expungement vs sealing: Criminal records

Criminal records Expungement vs sealing

Expungement and sealing are two different options that remove records from public view. Expungement erases the record so that it’s like it never happened. Sealing means that it is just hidden from most of the public’s view, but certain agencies(National Pardon) and employers can still see it.


Expungement can remove arrests, court supervisions, and certain probations from your criminal record.

You cannot expunge convictions. A conviction is when you are found guilty and sentenced to:

  • Fines for ordinance violations,
  • Regular probation (other than “710,” “1410,” “TASC,” or other “qualified” probations),
  • Time considered served,
  • Jail or prison time,
  • Conditional discharge, or
  • Supervisions or qualified probations that are not successfully completed.

If your request for expungement is approved, the following happens:

  • The arresting authority, State Police Department, and FBI remove your arrest record from their official files,
  • The circuit clerk removes your name from the public record, and does not let anyone see it,
  • Even though your record is officially clear, the Department of Corrections and law enforcement agencies will still have access to the expunged record for offenses requiring a 5-year waiting period only (710-1410 probation, TASC probation, etc., and supervision for domestic battery or criminal sexual assault), and
  • Your criminal record no longer appears on background checks.


When a record is sealed, it cannot be seen by the general public. 

However, employers required by law to do background checks can still see sealed felony convictions. Usually, these employers will require you to be fingerprinted. Examples of these employers are:

  • A hospital,
  • An organization that requires you to work with or around children, like a school or daycare,
  • Fire departments,
  • Police departments, or
  • Other public or government jobs.

No other employer can see any cases that are sealed. Landlords also cannot see any record that has been sealed.

Law enforcement agencies, on the other hand, can still see sealed records. Law enforcement agencies include police departments, the courts, and State’s Attorneys.

Records that are expunged or sealed cannot be accessed by anyone without a court order, including you.