what is a criminal record expungement definition

Florida Expungement Defined

Under Florida law the record expungement definition can be described as 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.

The standard expungement comes in two forms, a record expungement and a record sealing. Both achieve the same goals. For any differences between them, follow the link below.

⚖ Expungement Differences

The Expungement Definition

Although expungement defined as making a public record into a non-public record is valid, the law actually goes much further than that. 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.

Criminal Record Expungement Defined

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 expungement 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.

How Private Companies Define Expungement

Private companies that collect public records and then sell them are not ordered to remove the information they have. However, the defense they use for selling such personal records about us is that all the records are public records.

Public records are available to anyone. Therefore, private companies not only have a defense to this seemingly invasion of privacy – they have a legal one. However, once a record is no longer a public record by law, their legal defense vanishes.

Their expungement definition is simply a record that they should no longer be selling for fear of a lawsuit. Once notified they usually take that information out of their database.


In Florida, you do not have to be a first time offender to benefit from a criminal record expungement or sealing. So long as you have not had a previous criminal record sealed or expunged in Florida and you have not been convicted of a criminal offense you should qualify. NOTE: In Florida being found guilty does not necessarily mean you were convicted.

Why You Want To Expunge Or Seal Your Record Now

The reason you want to take advantage of this law today is the fact that it is subject to change. Today, an expungement defined as noted above could be changed by the legislature tomorrow. Every so often, additional crimes are added to the prohibited list of those that cannot be removed. See if you qualify:

⚖ Expungement Qualifications

When you decide to expunge or seal your record, it is how the law defines expungement at the time you petition the court that matters – not what it was when you were arrested.

⚖ Expungement FAQs

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More Information about Florida Expungements:

⚖ Florida Record Expungement