There are differences between the two within the procedure to get them done and the result. First, let’s review when you can expunge a record and when you must first seal a record.
When You Can Expunge A Criminal Record
You can expunge any criminal record of an arrest that has been dropped or you have been found not guilty. This means it resulted in a:
- No Information;
- No Bill;
- Nolle Prosequi, or;
- the court dismissed the charges;
- you were found not guilty at trial.
You can also expunge a criminal history record that has been sealed for 10 years.
When You Must First Seal A Criminal Record
You must first seal your record if the arrest record that you want to remove was not dropped but:
- resulted in the court withholding the adjudication of guilt (see, differences between conviction and withhold of adjudication) and
- the offense is not prohibited by statute (see, s. 943.0584, Fla. Stat.).
If you plan on expunging your record after it has been sealed be sure to keep all the documents from the sealing in your records. This information will be required when you move forward with your expungement.
The Differences Between Sealed and Expunged Records
The particular differences between a sealed record and an expunged record found in subsection (6) of both s. 943.0585 and s. 943.059, Fla. Stat.:
|SEALED RECORD||EXPUNGED RECORD|
|Sealed record is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. 1 of the Florida Constitution.||Expunged record must be physically destroyed or obliterated by any criminal agency having custody of such record. FDLE must retain the record and make it confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. 1 of the Florida Constitution.|
|Sealed record is available only to the subject of the record, the subject’s attorney, criminal justice agencies for their respective criminal justice purposes, which include conducting criminal history background checks for approval of firearm purchases or transfers as authorized by state or federal law.||Expunged record is not available to any person or entity except upon order of the court of competent jurisdiction.|
|The subject of a criminal history record sealed, may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests covered by the sealed record, except when the subject of the record (see, s. 943.059(6)(b)1-10.|
. . .
7. Is attempting to purchase a firearm … and is subject to a criminal history check under state or federal law.
. . .
10. Is seeking to be licensed by the Bureau of License Insurance of the Division of Licensing within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to carry a concealed weapon or concealed firearm. This … applies ony to the determination of an applicant’s eligibility under s. 790.06 [Fla. Stat.].
|The subject of a criminal history record expunged, may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests covered by the sealed record, except when the subject of the record (see, s. 943.0585(6)(b)1-8.|
Similarities Between Sealed and Expunged Records
Despite the fact that there are some differences, a person seeking to try and remove his criminal record from the internet that only qualifies for a record sealing should take solace in the fact that many of the benefits of an expungement also apply to a record sealing. These include:
- A person with a sealed or expunged record may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests covered by the order (with the exceptions noted above).
- A person with a record that has been sealed or expunged is no longer a public records under Florida law.
- Florida government agencies cannot disseminate any information regarding a record that has been sealed or expunged.
- Legitimate private companies that provide background records will remove the arrest information of a record that has been sealed or expunged when notified or they otherwise discover the record is no longer a public record.
- The record of the sealed or expunged case will be removed from the Clerk of Court’s website.
- The Clerk of Court will provide the person with a sealed or expunged record a certified letter indicating that no record exists (see, what to do after your record has been sealed or expunged).
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