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Is a criminal record seal in Nevada the same as an expungement?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jun 21, 2018 | 0 Comments

No. Nevada does not offer record expungements, only record seals. Like it sounds, a record seal is when a person's criminal record is made invisible so it no longer comes up on background checks. And once a record has been sealed, the person can lawfully deny ever having been arrested or convicted of a crime, even under oath. From beginning to end, the record seal process takes several weeks to several months.

Many other states offer record expungements, which are very similar to seals. However, the meaning of expungement varies from state to state. An expungement in California, for example, updates a criminal record to indicate that probation is done and the case is dismissed. Meanwhile, in Florida, an expungement completely removes and physically destroys the criminal record -- expungement may also go by the term "expunction."

Seals and expungements have very little practical difference in Nevada. The main difference between sealed records and expungements like in Florida is that sealed records are not destroyed -- they are just put under highly restricted access. But sealed records in Nevada can be seen in the following situations:

  • If the person's charges get dismissed, a prosecutor can reopen his/her criminal record if that person is later arrested for the same or a similar offense.
  • If the person was convicted, a prosecutor or another criminal defendant can apply to the court to reopen the person's criminal record in order to find information about other parties that may be  involved in the offense.
  • Certain agencies have the ability to inspect criminal records for limited purposes. For example, the Gaming Control Board can view a person's criminal record to determine whether he/she is fit to hold a gaming license.
  • The person whose record has been sealed can petition the court to reopen it.

In sum, people who get arrested or convicted of a crime in Nevada may be able to get their records sealed, but they can never get them expunged because the law does not offer expungements. And unlike expunged records in Florida, sealed records in Nevada still exist but are just invisible to most people.

Note that not all crimes can be sealed in Nevada. Convictions for felony DUI, sex crimes, and certain crimes against children may never be sealed. And convictions for all other offenses may be sealed after a statutorily predetermined time:

Nevada conviction

Waiting period to get a record seal (after the case ends)

Most misdemeanors

1 year (misdemeanor DUIs and misdemeanor battery domestic violence have a 7-year waiting period)

Gross misdemeanors, category E felonies, misdemeanor battery, misdemeanor harassment, misdemeanor stalking, or misdemeanor violation of a protection order

2 years

Non-violent category D, C, and B felonies

5 years

Category A felonies, burglary of a residence, and felony crimes of violence

10 years

Also, note that there is no waiting period to seal cases that get dismissed or if the defendant gets acquitted at trial.

Finally, note that getting a record seal cannot protect an immigrant from deportation.

Learn more about how to seal criminal records in Nevada.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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