- Your Case is Expunged or Sealed – Now What?
- After Your Record Has Been Expunged or Sealed
- Maximize The Advantages of the Law
- National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact
- Contacting FDLE and the FBI
- Notifying Private Background Check Companies and Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act
- Mugshot Companies
- How to Find the Addresses of Private Background Check Companies
- Companies That Claim to Notify Private Companies
- Helpful Websites
- For More Information Emailed to You
Your Case is Expunged or Sealed – Now What?
If you have yet to start your record expungement, what are you waiting for – Start Your Expungement.
If you have already gotten your record expunged, Congratulations! You have completed your Florida record expungement or sealing. However, you are not done yet. You still need to:
- Back up your legal ability to deny the arrest.
- Be prepared to notify private companies.
Many people have had there criminal arrest record expunged or sealed (either by an attorney or on their own) believe that once the court has granted the petition, there is nothing else to do. They are soon shocked to find out that their information can still be found on the internet (see who get’s notified of your sealing/expungement here). Having a record expunged or sealed is only the first step in this process. It is the most important step but still only the first.
After Your Record Has Been Expunged or Sealed
When you have your criminal arrest sealed or expunged:
- The record is no longer a public record.
- You have the lawful ability to deny the arrest occurred (there are exceptions to this! Entitled Entities).
- your arrest records are made confidential (sealed) or are physically destroyed (expunged).
This includes the records of the arresting agency, the sheriff’s office, the state attorney’s office, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement [FDLE] (FDLE never physically destroys records since they maintain electronic data. Those records are made non-public and removed from public search but are otherwise kept for historical and statistical purposes).
No Longer a Public Record
It is important to know that when your criminal record is sealed or expunged it is no longer a public record (see, s. 943.0585 and 943.059, Fla. Stat.). It is exempt from disclosure under Chapter 119, Florida Statutes. This is the main reason to have your criminal record sealed or expunged. A non-public record cannot be accessed by the public, cannot be disclosed by the government, and a person or entity that does disclose such a record can be held liable for damages.
These records include those in the possession of the:
- arresting agency,
- the sheriff’s department,
- the state attorney’s office, and
- the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Any other official government agency that received such information must also destroy or make confidential any records they maintain and cannot disclose absent a court order.
The Ability to Deny the Arrest Ever Occurred
Additionally, if your record has been sealed or expunged you are legally allowed to deny that the arrest occurred. This means you can answer no to the question where you ever arrested (as it pertains to the arrest you had sealed or expunged).
There are exceptions to this benefit called Entitled Entities and you must know these. You have to disclose a sealed or expunged record to these Entitled Entities. See, ⚖ Entitled Entities. Entitled entities also require Florida’s Level 1 and 2 background checks, which is another way of knowing if an employee is an entitled entity.
The ability to deny the arrest means that on applications for most jobs or apartments (housing) you can deny the arrest you had sealed or expunged. This is probably the most valuable ability given to you once you have your criminal record ordered expunged or sealed.
Maximize The Advantages of the Law
To maximize the benefits of the expungement or sealing law make sure to obtain:
- certified copies of your court file (before it is expunged/sealed),
- a certified (digital) copy of the order granting your petition,
- a certified letter from the Clerk of Court indicating no record.
Obtain Certified Letter from the Clerk of Court
This is important. Once you have had your criminal record sealed or expunged you should to go to the Clerk of Court (where your case was filed) and request a criminal records check. The term used may vary from Clerk to Clerk but basically it is a “criminal history check” through their records to see what they have in their files on you.
They will require personal information to do the search – give them any information they ask for, such as date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, etc. They also need to know the time range. I suggest having them search before and after the year you were arrested for a period of three to five years.
They will do the search and they will not find the sealed or expunged arrest. They will then certify a document indicating the results. Use this document (not the order) to back-up your denial of the arrest.
If you live out-of-state you can still obtain a criminal history search through the Clerk of Court by contacting them, finding out how much the search will cost, and making payment arrangements.
Living In A State Other Than Florida
People who have a criminal record sealed or expunged in Florida but live in another state need to understand how the law’s protections cover them. First, understanding how other states receive criminal history data is important.
Most States Have Some Form of Expungement
Most states today have some form of expungement process. However, the protections are not the same.
National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact
Criminal information between states, the federal government, and other states is governed by the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact. This was created in 1998 and its main purpose was the accurate reporting and sharing of criminal records for government purposes. The information shared is strictly regulated for privacy reasons.
There are many purposes the information will be used for, the main one for you is Purpose Code I – non-criminal justice employment and licensing. The term “non-criminal justice” purposes means:
…uses of criminal history records for purposes authorized by Federal or State law other than purposes relating to criminal justice activities, including employment suitability, licensing determinations, immigration and naturalization matters, and national security clearances.
Just like Florida, other states require specific criminal histories run prior to being employed in certain jobs. In Florida, these “entitled entities” have access to some portions of criminal records for their hiring process.
If you have a record sealed or expunged in Florida and move to another state, you must be aware of that state’s laws regarding entitled agencies and their disclosure requirements.
Contacting FDLE and the FBI
A lot of people want to make sure their record has been sealed or expunged after their petition has been granted (see, who is notified of your expungement). They can do this by searching for their record on the Clerk of Court website. They may also want to check with FDLE and the FBI. Typically, neither agency is going to talk to you about a record that is sealed or expunged over the phone. They will suggest you run a criminal history. Below are the links to both agencies websites to run such a report.
Notifying Private Background Check Companies and Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act
There are a lot of private companies that collect public records and then database those records and sell them to the public. These are not official agencies. They provide a service to people who don’t have the time to look for public records and need or want to know things about people. This includes employers and they are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act [FCRA].
Anytime information that is governed by the FCRA is used in an employment scenario, you have specific rights. Anyone who uses your credit information for employment, credit, or insurance purposes is covered by the FCRA. They must:
- notify you if they turn you down based on what they found in your credit report, and
- identify the CRA or information supplier who provided the report.
You also have the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information. If you identify information being reported that is incomplete or inaccurate, and you report it to the consumer reporting agency, the agency must investigate it unless it is frivolous. Consumer reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information.
For more information regarding the FCRA click ⚖ here.
Florida Statute, section 901.43 prohibits any business that publishes or disseminates “arrest booking photographs” from accepting a fee or other form of payment to remove those photographs if a request is made under this statute. This section only applies to those businesses that charge a fee to remove the photo, however, any entity that is publishing the photo should still be contacted.
A person whose photograph has been disseminated must make a request in writing for the removal of the photo. The written request for removal of the arrest booking photograph must:
- be sent by registered mail and
- include sufficient proof of identification of the person whose arrest booking photograph was published and
- specific information identifying the arrest booking photograph that the written request is seeking to remove.
If you send such a letter make sure to make exact copies of the letter sent, keep all USPS documentation, and print out the USPS page that indicates service has been made.
Within 10 days of receipt of the written request for removal of the arrest booking photograph, the entity who published the photograph must remove the arrest booking photograph without charge. It helps to put this in the letter requesting removal and cite the statute.
If not removed within 10-days, the person whose photo it is may bring a civil action to enjoin the continued publication or dissemination of the photograph. This sounds great but you have to consider the location of the company publishing the photo. If it is located outside the United States it may not be a valuable use of your time and money.
Refusal to remove an arrest booking photograph after written request has been made constitutes an unfair or deceptive trade practice in accordance with part II of chapter 501.
Mugshot companies work by scaring people. They make people think their photograph is on everyone’s computer. It isn’t. These companies have tens of thousands of mugshots. Their ads randomly post a photo whenever the ad is activated (typically by opening up a webpage). However, if they can find out your IP address and they have your mugshot, they will make your mugshot appear everytime if that IP address opens a webpage with their ad.
IP addresses are unique locations. Your laptop and smartphone each have unique IP addresses. If you are using wifi, the router for the wifi has a unique IP address. This means you home has a unique IP address. It also means that location may be targeted and you shouldn’t think it is showing up everywhere.
How to Find the Addresses of Private Background Check Companies
Informing a company that has collected your arrest history while it was a public record may seem difficult because their website does not have their address listed on it. There is an easy way to find this information out. First, type in the search bar of your browser “WHOIS LOOKUP.” The results will show all the different “whois” search tools that are out there. Some don’t work or are down. If that happens use another one.
The “whois” search tool allows you to put in the web address (e.g., “https://exemble.com/”) of any company and it will bring back the information that the registered host has for that company. The results can be confusing but if you look thoroughly you will find at least a telephone number, email address, or a mailing address.
When informing companies that have disclosed your information, do it with:
- A short specific and direct letter telling them what you want.
- A copy of the certified copy of the Order to Expunge/Seal (you can send a digital certified copy as many times as needed).
- Include your name and contact information.
- Keep a copy of the entire letter you send.
- If you are addressing a photograph, included a printed copy of the photograph.
If you only receive information on the registrar, request the domain owner’s company contact information from the registrar.
Information on Private Companies
We are currently collecting information on these private companies. Because these companies often try to hide their information (such as address, phone numbers, email addresses) so that you cannot contact them, we are providing this information as we find it. Please check out our project reveal page.
Companies That Claim to Notify Private Companies
Under most state laws a criminal record is a public record. These private companies, that buy and sell your public records, defend their business by the fact that everyone has access to it.
When your record has been sealed or expunged, under Florida law, it is no longer a public record. Disclosure can make these companies liable for damages for disclosing your expunged or sealed record. That is usually enough incentive for them to remove that information.
There are some private law firms and companies that claim they can remove your information that has been sealed or expunged from all the “background” checking companies that have and sell your information. One example is the National Expungement Database Center (see below).
There is at least one non-profit that makes the same claims and asks for no money. Check out the Foundation For Continuing Justice before you spend any more money.
Understand that there may be more of these companies out there today. I do not endorse or exclude any of them.
Newspapers and Other News Outlets
Some people may have had their case publicized in the News when it happened and are now concerned about it. Today, with everything being on the internet, a story may be archived and accessible online. The question comes up, will an expungement or sealing require the News to remove their article? The answer is “no.” News organizations are protected by the 1st Amendment. You can ask them to remove it or censor your identity out of it, but that decision will be theirs to make.
On the other hand, Sheriff’s, Police Departments, and other law enforcement agencies do have to remove all information from the internet.
The ⚖ National Expungement Database Center is a private company that says they can clear your expunged record from the private reporting agencies.
The ⚖ Foundation For Continuing Justice is a non-profit that helps remove sealed/expunged records from private database companies.
OneRep claims to remove your information from places like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
⚖ Sunlight Foundation has a great article regarding criminal records and expungements with links to helpful websites.
The ⚖ Papillon Foundation is a non-profit (I believe) with a lot of information about criminal records.
The ⚖ Electronic Privacy Information Center [EPIC] is another non-profit organization with a lot of information.
Guaranteed Removals is another company that claims to be able to remove records that have been sealed or expunged from private companies.
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