WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEALING AND EXPUNGING A RECORD?
In Florida, when a criminal record is sealed it means that the record is closed to public inquiries and may only be offered in limited circumstances. Practically speaking, it prevents the information from being sold to public databases, like Spokeo, which offer criminal reports to web users for a fee.
An expungement means that the record is physically destroyed and no longer accessible to the public. Though the record is destroyed, a copy of the record is still retained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the clerk of court. It is important to understand, before you choose to pursue an expungement of your criminal record, that in certain situations, like during an application to certain associations, you may be asked to disclose the expunged record.
A sealed record and an expunged record are very similar, but some of the main differences include the details contained within the record. The sealed record, though closed to public inquiry, will include details of the incident, whereas an expunged record will have minimal information stating that the criminal record has been expunged. Additionally, when purchasing a firearm, a sealed record must be revealed, where an expunged record does not.
CAN I SEAL OR EXPUNGE MY CRIMINAL RECORD?
The short answer is: it depends. If the disposition of your charge resulted in no bill/ no information, nolle pros., or dismissed, then you will likely be able to expunge your criminal record.
If the disposition of your charge was adjudication withheld, you will not be able to have the record expunged initially, but you may be able to have the record sealed. There are some charges that, even when adjudication is withheld, cannot be sealed.
If your criminal charge went to trial, then you may not have the record expunged; however, you may be able to have the record sealed.
If you were found guilty, whether by entering a plea of guilty or no contest, or if found guilty by a jury, and adjudicated guilty, then you will not be able to have the record sealed or expunged.
WHAT STEPS DO I NEED TO TAKE TO SEAL OR EXPUNGE MY CRIMINAL RECORD?
The process for sealing or expunging a criminal record in Florida can be a lengthy one, which includes applying for a certificate of eligibility, filing necessary documents to the clerk of court, potentially a hearing, and then ensuring that the order is received by the applicable agencies. The entire process can take upwards of seven months.
The sealing or expunging of a criminal record in Florida can be a challenging process, but yield a very beneficial result.
Contact us today to speak to an attorney about sealing or expunging your criminal record.