Sealing & Expunging

Florida law allows certain individuals to either destroy (expunge) or shield from public view (seal) his or her criminal history record (Fla. Stat. 943.045). Although the outcome of having one’s record sealed or expunged may seem the same, and they do have the same practical benefits, one’s eligibility for or the other differs considerably.

One may expunge a criminal record of an arrest if the case was “dropped”, or the individual was found not guilty at trial.  Reasons for a case being “dropped” include, no information, no bill of indictment, a nolle prosequi (the State dismissed the charges) or the court dismissed the charges.  Note, that in each these instances, except for being found not guilty at trial, the case never proceeds.

If, however, the State proceeds with the case, and the case resolves with a withhold of adjudication, the defendant would be eligible to have the case sealed, not expunged.

Importantly, however, after 10-years, a sealed record is eligible for expungement.

What are the differences?
A sealed record becomes confidential, while an expunged record is destroyed by any criminal agency in possession of it, except for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which keeps it confidential.

A sealed record is only available to the person who is the subject of it, his or her attorney, and certain criminal justice agencies for use in very limited circumstances, such as the purchase of a firearm.  An expunged record is not available to anyone except upon court order.

The subject of a sealed record may legally deny the incident covered by the sealed record, except when attempting to purchase a firearm or seeking a concealed carry permit. 

The subject of an expunged record may legally deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests covered by the expunged record, except when the subject of the record: is a candidate for employment with a criminal justice agency; is a defendant in a criminal prosecution; is a candidate for admission to The Florida Bar; is seeking to be employed or licensed by any of several state agencies, such as the Department of Children and Families, as an employee, contractor or licensee in a sensitive position having direct contact with children, the disabled, or the elderly; is seeking work in any educational capacity;  or, is seeking to be appointed as a guardian.

Importantly, an individual is only allowed to have one criminal history record sealed or expunged in their lifetime absent some very rare circumstances.

If you need help getting your record with sealed or expunged, call us at Michael White, P.A. We have extensive experience in helping people get their criminal history records sealed or expunged.