Removing The Past For A Better Tomorrow
An expungement or sealing is the process of removing an arrest from the public record. There are many expungement benefits. Below I have listed a few of the most prominent reasons to have your record sealed or expunged.
The Benefits of Expunging or Sealing Your Criminal Record
Besides the fact that you don’t have to worry about someone finding out about a past arrest, there are many benefits that you should know about that help you get past this mistake. Once the court signs the order expunging or sealing your criminal record several things happen. First, your record is no longer public and the Clerk of Court must remove it from public access*. Once the order is forwarded, the arresting agency and FDLE must also act. And it goes beyond that…
*All court costs must be paid before the clerk will act on the order.
An Expunged Record Is No Longer A Public Record
The single biggest benefit for a sealed or expunged record is that it is no longer a public record:
A criminal history record ordered expunged (or sealed) that is retained by the department is confidential and exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution and not available to any person or entity except upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction**.
**This subjects anyone that discloses it to liability. Liability is not automatic but the possibility is usually enough to have most private companies remove the information from their records as well.
What The Clerk of Court And The Court Must Do
The Clerk of Court must remove all access to your record. This means it will no longer be available for search on the Clerk’s website nor will it be available for inspections at the Clerk’s office. Yet the best benefit is the Clerk Of Court will no longer sell your information to private parties.
Since it has been removed you can actually obtain a Record History Check, from the Clerk of Court, indicating that no record exists. This comes in a certified letter that you can keep.
What Law Enforcement Must Do
The arresting agency and the county’s Sheriff’s Office must remove all access to those files. Once law enforcement ends an investigation the case becomes a public record. An expungement order requires the agency to physically destroy the record of your arrest. A sealing order requires them to make all records confidential. Regardless, in both circumstances the information cannot be disclosed.
What The State Attorney’s Office Must Do
Like law enforcement, the State Attorney’s Office must also destroy their records (expungement) or make them confidential (sealing). Once a case is closed the case becomes a public record and anyone can access it from the State Attorney’s Office. A sealing or expungement, again, makes these records non-public records and prevents them from further disclosure.
What The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Must Do
The F.D.L.E. maintains a repository of every Florida arrest in its database. These records are easily accessed from their website for a small fee. Once your criminal record has been sealed or expunged the F.D.L.E. will remove access to these records from their site. Better yet, the F.D.L.E. will also stop selling that information to private companies.
Making Your Arrest Disappear
The ultimate goal for everyone seeking to seal or expunge their record is to have it disappear. People want it gone and expect it to be gone – completely and forever. Unfortunately, that is not exactly what happens. Below I go through some things that can be done to come as close as possible to complete redaction of your record.
Can An Expunged Record Be Found
Can a record that has been sealed or expunged be found? The answer to that is maybe. Usually right after a record has been sealed or expunged private background checking companies still have not updated their records and are still selling it. This is normal although your record is no longer a public record.
Unlike government agencies where the official records are kept, private companies are not notified by the court. Most reputable companies will purge their database of a sealed or expunged record within a year. Some less reputable private companies don’t care and maintain the record. There are several things that can be done regarding this issue.
Using The Law To Your Benefit
The law specifically states that a person that has had their record sealed or expunged
may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests covered by the expunged [or sealed] record. This allows you to deny that the arrest occurred and/or that you were the subject of that arrest. This comes in particularly handy when a private background check company has not updated their records and you are asked about it. Combine this with a criminal records history check from the Clerk’s Office (noted above) and you have a lot to refute the accusation.
For more information on what you can do to make the law have more teeth go to my after your record is expunged page.
Contacting the Private Companies
When I expunge or seal a record for a client I always ask for a certified copy of the order to give to my client. Should you ever run into the disclosure of your information you would be able to write a letter to whoever disclosed your information attaching a copy of the order and asking that they remove it. Most private background check companies will remove it as soon as they receive knowledge of the sealing or expungement.
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