Sealing Criminal Records

 What does it mean to seal a criminal record?

Sealing is different than expungement or destruction. If a record is expunged or destroyed, it is gone for good. Sealing means that a record is hidden from public view, but is may still be unsealed under certain circumstances. For example, a criminal record that was sealed may still be used for immigration purposes, or for purposes of alleging a prior conviction in a subsequent criminal prosecution. Some federal rules would require disclosure even after sealing, and in Arizona, even a sealed conviction would need to be disclosed when applying for a fingerprint clearance card.

Sealing a criminal record still brings some substantial benefits for most people.

Sealing removes the record from Department of Public Safety records. This means the record would no longer show up on a criminal background check.

Sealing means that under most conditions the person whose record was sealed no longer needs to disclose the conviction, or even the arrest, when asked if they have ever been convicted of a crime.

What records may be sealed?

Records relating to a criminal arrest, conviction, and sentencing may be sealed. This includes Department of Public Safety records, records of law enforcement agencies, prosecutor’s office records, and court records.

Sealing of criminal records will not remove criminal traffic violations from ADOT records or out of state department of motor vehicle records.

 How do you seal criminal records?

Applying to seal criminal records is similar to applying to set aside a conviction. The person seeking to seal files a petition with the court asking the court to seal the records.

There are two basic requirements:

  1. All of the terms and conditions of the person’s sentence, including paying all fines, fees and restitution that are ordered by the court, must be completed, and
  2. The required time has passed since the conditions of probation or sentence were completed and the applicant was discharged by the court:

– Ten years for a class 2 or 3 felony.

– Five years for a class 4, 5 or 6 felony.

– Three years for a class 1 misdemeanor.

– Two years for a class 2 or 3 misdemeanor.


Need Help Cleaing Up A Criminal Conviction?

If you have a criminal case in your history, we encourage you to take advantage of this option and apply to have your criminl records sealed. If you have questions, we’re happy to answer them. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

What law covers sealing of criminal records?

A.R.S. 28-911 covers sealing.

Do I have to wait the required time if I was never convicted?

This is unclear. This law is new in 2023. The statute is not well written. Although the statute does point out that a person who was arrested but never convicted can apply to have records sealed, the portion of the statute that addresses the waiting period only seems to contemplate that the applicant is applying after a conviction.

It certainly doesn’t seem fair that an applicant who was never convicted would have to wait years before applying to have the records sealed. 

It does seem likely that an applicant would have to wait at least until the statute of limitations has run before filing, which for a misdemeanor is 1 year from the date of the alleged crime.

Why might a judge deny an application to seal?

When reviewing an application to seal, the court must consider whether granting the petition “is in the best interests of the petitioner and the public’s safety.”

The prosecuting agency and any victims must be given an opportunity to respond to the application, and may be present at any subsequent hearing on the application.

If the court finds that it is not in the best interest of the public safety or the petitioner, then it will deny the application. 

If my application to seal is denied, can I reapply later?

Yes, but….

If an application to seal is denied, the applicant must wait 3 years before reapplying. Because of this additional waiting period, it makes sense to put together a strong application to seal the first time.

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