Record sealing

Record sealing

Record sealing is the practice of sealing or, in some cases, destroying court records that would otherwise be publicly accessible as public records. The term is derived from the tradition of placing a seal on specified files or documents that prevents anyone from reviewing the files without receiving a court order. The modern process and requirements to seal a record and the protections it provides vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and even between civil and criminal cases.

Generally, record sealing can be defined as the process of removing from general review the records pertaining to a court case. However, the records may not completely disappear and may still be reviewed under limited circumstances; in most instances it requires a court order to unseal records once they are sealed. In the United States some states order records to be destroyed after they are sealed. Once a record is sealed, in some states, the contents are legally considered never to have occurred and are not acknowledged by the state.

The public policy of record sealing balances the desire to free named citizens from the burdens caused by the information contained in state records while maintaining the state's interest in the preservation of records that may be beneficial to the state or other citizens. [cite web|author=Mathew K. Higbee, Esq.|url = |title = Legal Terminology in Record Clearing |accessdate = 2007-09-22]

Records are commonly sealed in a number of situations:
* Sealed birth records (usually for so-called closed adoption, in which the birthparents' identity is usually anonymous)
* Juvenile criminal records may be sealed
* Other types of cases involving juveniles may be sealed, anonymized, or pseudonymized ("impounded"); e.g., child sex offense or custody cases
* Cases using witness protection information may be partly sealed
* Cases involving trade secrets
* Cases involving state secrets


ee also

*Sealed birth records

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