Turned down for a job because of your criminal record? Need to get a felony or misdemeanor off your record?

A petition to seal is a document filed with the court asking the judge to hide your criminal record. What's the difference between sealing and expungement? In Arkansas records are not expunged; records are hidden from certain people like employers and apartments doing background checks. Law enforcement can see the records forever.

What is Sealing?

Sealing or Expungement is basically hiding a criminal record from public view. It is not destruction of a record. I analogize it to a file cabinet that is unlocked but after the sealing process a drawer is locked. Some people can still see your record, for example, the Prosecutor, Law Enforcement, Judge and ACIC. ACIC is the repository for criminal records; basically where the records are stored. Each state has a repository and you want to start there by requesting any information the repository has on you. I actually have had clients hire me for sealing only to discover that the client had no criminal history for whatever reason.

Pros & Cons and Eligibility

One of the benefits of sealing is that the record is hidden from most in state systems. After an offense is sealed you technically can say that the conduct did not occur. Keep in mind that having the right to say the conduct didn’t occur doesn’t mean that you should. Some employers may feel this is a lie.

Cons include the fact that the record may still exist with private companies. Remember that law enforcement will always see everything that was on your record. There will be additional work needed to restore gun rights.

 There are some felony offenses that are not eligible for sealing like Class Y felonies, sex offenses, and any felony that included serving any time in ADC (regional correction facilities are not ADC). Consult with an attorney because many violent felonies are not eligible for sealing.

The Community Punishment Act may apply if you have a felony that happened before 2014. Your sentencing order doesn't have to mention the CPA. Many attorneys don't understand that CPA is still good law and can be used if your felony was a "target offense" as defined by the statute. Again you have to have completed all the terms and conditions of your sentence and paid all your fines.

For sex offenses see an attorney! Sealing is not the correct process for removing the registration requirement for sex offenders. A.C.A. 12-12-919 is the statute you can research if you need help with this.

Arrests are eligible to be sealed if charges haven't been filed after one year. Nolle Prosequi can be sealed a year after entry. Dismissed cases can be sealed. Acquittals can be sealed as long as there is no mental disease or defect.