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Under Florida law an expungement/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.
The standard expungement comes in two forms, a record expungement and a record sealing. Both achieve the same goals, however they have different qualifications.
The Definition of Expungement
Florida has a very expansive public records law and making something non-public is a pretty big deal. This is what an expungement or sealing does – makes your record non-public – and it goes further than just that. 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.
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.
Federal Level: National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact
Florida is a participant state within the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact [Compact](See, s. 943.0543, Fla. Stat.). This is a Federal program that shares criminal history information between member states, authorizing states, and the Federal government [FBI].
According to the definition within the Compact, a sealed record is, with respect to adult records:
- not available for criminal justice uses;
- not supported by fingerprints or other accepted means of positive identification; or
- subject to restrictions on dissemination for noncriminal justice purposes pursuant to a court order related to a particular subject or pursuant to a Federal or State statute that requires action on a sealing petition filed by a particular record subject
And with respect to juveniles, whatever each State determines is a sealed record under its own law and procedure.
A “sealed” record would include a record that had been expunged (s. 943.0585, Fla. Stat.) or sealed (s. 943.059, Fla. Stat.) under Florida law.
How Federal Records are Disclosed
ARTICLE IV–AUTHORIZED RECORD DISCLOSURES
(a) State criminal history record repositories
To the extent authorized by section 552a of Title 5, (commonly known as the “Privacy Act of 1974”), the FBI shall provide on request criminal history records (excluding sealed records) to State criminal history record repositories for noncriminal justice purposes allowed by Federal statute, Federal Executive order, or a State statute that has been approved by the Attorney General and that authorizes national indices checks.
(b) Criminal justice agencies and other governmental or nongovernmental agencies
The FBI, to the extent authorized by section 552a of Title 5, (commonly known as the “Privacy Act of 1974”), and State criminal history record repositories shall provide criminal history records (excluding sealed records) to criminal justice agencies and other governmental or nongovernmental agencies for noncriminal justice purposes allowed by Federal statute, Federal Executive order, or a State statute that has been approved by the Attorney General, that authorizes national indices checks.
Sealed records would include those that have been expunged or sealed under Florida law.
See also, Seal/Expunged Records and the NCIC.
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