In Wisconsin law, the difference between “sealed” and “expunged” is as follows: Sealed matters are not available to the public, while expunged matters are generally accessible by the public.
By way of example, juvenile cases are “sealed” in the justice system, meaning that the average member of the public cannot access information about a juvenile proceeding. The same is true of mental health (Chapter 51) proceedings. This is done to keep the information confidential when cases involve minors or mental health patients.
Expunged cases are far different from sealed cases. With expungement, if the case is already publicly accessible (meaning, it’s an adult criminal prosecution case), the record is removed from CCAP (our searchable database regarding cases) and erased from the defendant’s criminal record that is publicly accessible. Cases are “sealed” for a variety of reasons, typically on a party’s motion. A dismissal of charges, or even an acquittal at jury trial, will not routinely result in the sealing of a record. In Wisconsin, it is very difficult to get cases removed from CCAP absent an order expunging the conviction/case.