Is sealing a file is the same as expunging a file?

I was recently charged with shoplifting a $10 item. I disagree with the charge due to the circumstances, but the law is the law. Can my previous, unrelated conviction be used against me in court even though is was not the same crime and was a minor misdemeanor? What are the chances that a sealed record could make the punishment more severe? I am a hardworking family man going though a very rough time and stole an item that was identical to a defective one that they would not let me return. Are jail time or excessive fines possible or likely?

Asked on November 2, 2011 under Criminal Law, Alaska


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, the sealing of a file per court order is completely different than expunging one's criminal conviction. Most juvenile criminal records are sealed where there has been or has not been a conviction. When a file is sealed by court order, no one can look at it absent a court order allowing it to be unsealed.

However, an expungement happens when one has been convicted of a crime, time passes, the convicted person has had no problems with the law and has been a model citizen. In such circumstances, the court may grant a motion to expunge the conviction where if granted, the conviction essentially has never existed.

I suggest that you consult with a criminal defense attorney about the charge against you. Potentially a fine and jail time could be your punishment if convicted.

Good luck.

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