Under Florida law the criminal record expungement or sealing is the process that people who have been arrested (or received a Notice to Appear) use to have their criminal record made a non-public record. This process is effective in eliminating most hurdles a criminal record may have on a person’s ability to work, live, and seek higher education.
Expunging of a Florida Criminal Record
The law actually goes much farther than simply making the record a non-public record. Florida has a very expansive public records law and making something non-public is a pretty big deal. However, it also provides benefits to you (such as the ability to deny the arrest ever occurred), penalties for disclosure by government agencies, destruction of records, etc.
The Definition of Criminal Record Expungement
Wikipedia defines an expungement in this way:
In the common law legal system, an expungement proceeding is a type of lawsuit in which a first time offender of a prior criminal conviction seeks that the records of that earlier process be sealed, thereby making the records unavailable through the state or [governmental] repositories. If successful, the records are said to be ‘expunged’.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says:
Florida law, Section 943.053, Florida Statutes, makes adult criminal history records public, with special provisions for access, unless the record has been sealed or expunged. A sealed record is placed under highly restricted access. An expunged record is removed from record systems or files and destroyed (also called expunction). The law currently provides several means to seal or expunge certain categories of Florida criminal history records (both adult and juvenile). The records may include arrests, charges and case dispositions.
(See FDLE Page)
The Florida Attorney General has put these definitions out there:
AGO 75-29, February 12, 1975: Public records and the definition of expunge – Attorney General Opinion. Question whether the term expunge meant the literal destruction of records or removal of all references to the defendant and sealing of remaining record if needed in the future. Answer was that expunge meant physical destruction of records.
AGO 2000-16, March 8, 2000: Criminal history records, expungement – Question: What information in a criminal history record is subject to expungement and to what extent must the record be obliterated or destroyed in order to satisfy the requirements of section 943.0585, Florida Statutes? The information that must be expunged is information maintained by the criminal justice agency identifiable to the individual’s arrest, detention, indictments, informations, or other criminal charges and the disposition thereof.
A sealing or an expungement changes your arrest record from a public record to a non-public record and restricts (seal) or destroys (expunge) that physical records maintained by the government. It does not eliminate it from everywhere.
What About Private Companies
Private companies that collect “public records” and then sell them are not ordered to remove the information they have. However, the record is no longer a “public record” and once notified (or they update their records) those records are removed.
The AGO opinions above are correct however, the F.D.L.E. and the F.B.I. maintain confidential data regarding your arrest for statistical and historical purposes as well as to supply information to agencies that fall within the exceptions of disclosure, the entitled entities.
That does not mean there are no benefits to expunging or sealing your criminal record. On the contrary, there are many. Florida has one of the most extensive legal protections in the nation.
What A Criminal Record Expungement Does For You
A Florida sealed or expunged record will mean the following for you:
- Your record is removed from government offices such as the Clerk’s Office, Local Law Enforcement Agencies, State Attorney’s Office.
- Your record is removed from your criminal history (background).
- Your record is no longer a Public Record under Florida law.
- The State of Florida can no longer disseminate information pertaining to that record to private citizens or corporations.
- In most situations, you can lawfully deny that the arrest occurred.
Florida expungements and sealings address criminal records. These begin when you are arrested (including Notices to Appear). You cannot expunge a record of a traffic ticket or driver’s license suspension.
Why You Want To Expunge Or Seal Your Record Now
When we have been arrested that past mistake doesn’t just go away. Today past mistakes can be looked up while sitting at the table with a cup of coffee. A sealing or expungement prevents this so you won’t have to worry about:
- A family member, friend, or co-working finding out about your arrest.
- A new love interest locating potential embarrassing information.
- Your boss finding out before a potential promotion.
- Someone wanting to hurt you by posting embarrassing information all over the web.
For More Information
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