What Is The Difference Between Expungement And Set Aside? – Fountain Hills

As a general rule, unless you can find a way to erase, conceal, or dismiss it, a criminal conviction under Arizona law is going to stay on your record forever. You may have heard about the possibility of having a criminal conviction expunged or set aside. We explain here what these terms mean, and how they might apply to you.

What is Expungement?

An expungement of a conviction effectively erases it from your record for all purposes. As far as anyone is concerned, including law enforcement and Arizona courts, it will be as if the conviction never happened.

In Arizona, expungement is only available for certain marijuana offenses, These include possession of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana or cultivating no more than 6 marijuana plants at a single residence. 

What is Record Sealing?

Sealing a criminal record hides it from the general public, including individuals, employers, and landlords. Unlike an expunged record, however, a sealed record is still viewable by certain law enforcement officials and the courts. 

A sealed record can be reopened through a court order.

Record sealing is not always available. Here are some kinds of convictions that cannot be sealed:

  • Conviction as a dangerous offender
  • Conviction of certain crimes against children
  • Convictions involving discharging a firearm or using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument to threaten others with
  • Convictions for inflicting serious bodily harm on another
  • Sex trafficking convictions

What is a Set Aside?

To set aside a conviction does not remove it from your record. Instead, setting aside a conviction involves having a note entered on your criminal record by the court, stating that the offense or arrest has been set aside. 

A set aside might be available if you have fulfilled all of the terms of the conviction sentence. It can improve the appearance of your criminal record by showing employers, landlords and others that your case was effectively dismissed. 

Having a conviction set aside can help you find employment or qualify for housing or for a loan. 

Not all convictions can be set aside in Arizona. Examples include dangerous crimes, sex-related crimes, and felonies that involved victims under age 15. 

Which Expungement, Record Sealing, or Set Aside Option is Right for You?

If you seek to minimize the effects of an Arizona conviction on your record, then you need to balance the desirability of the outcome versus what options are available to you.

For example, the ideal option is to have your conviction expunged. But unless your conviction fits into one of the marijuana-related categories we discussed above, chances are that expungement will not be available to you.

Record sealing is the next best option because with a handful of exceptions a sealed record is invisible to anyone searching your record. But depending on the conviction, record sealing is not always available.

If all you are potentially eligible for is a set aside, then you should apply for one. Even though it does not remove or conceal a conviction on your record, it at least minimizes some of the negative effects of a conviction.

Contact Our Office Today

Call our office today to set up a confidential consultation with a board-certified attorney. When you work with Rosenstein Law Group, you can have peace of mind knowing that an elite team of top-notch lawyers is on your side. 

Learn more about your options to expunge, seal, or set aside an Arizona conviction, and about working with our proven legal team, by calling 480-248-7666 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Or, if you prefer, you can reach us online here.


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