What is the difference between sealing and expunging my Florida criminal record? Fort Lauderdale Attorney Explains

A gavel and handcuffs sit on a book on a wooden table in a Fort Lauderdale criminal court house

Sealing and Expunging criminal records in Florida is similar in that both Sealing and Expunging Florida criminal records limits who is able to see them. For the person who is the subject of the records, the effect of sealing or expunging is very similar as both sealing and expunging make it so that the criminal record information is not available to the public, and is not searchable in public records. 

What is sealing a criminal record in Florida?

When a Florida Criminal record is sealed, it means the public will not be able to see it and will not have access to it through the government databases. That means that most employers will not have access to the information. While the record isn’t readily available to the public, it still exists. 

If a criminal record is sealed in Florida, then it is confidential and exempt from public record. The only people who can see it: the subject of the record, the person’s attorney, a victim, or a criminal justice agency, and even certain licensing agencies. If you’re the subject of a sealed criminal record, you can lawfully deny the arrest or charges in most situations. A few exceptions include if you’re a defendant for a subsequent crime, are seeking employment with a criminal justice agency or even when purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer.  

Sealed records can be accessed or re-opened, however, if a court order is granted. Most city, county, state and federal government agencies - including police and military - have a legal right to access criminal history records even if they’re sealed.  

What is expunging a criminal record in Florida?

An expungement, on the other hand, clears the conviction or arrest off of the person’s record (while a sealed criminal record gives the appearance that the conviction or arrest was cleared). This means the Florida Criminal Record is physically destroyed or deleted.

When a record is expunged, agencies that would have access to a sealed record will be able to know that criminal information has been expunged from the record, and would only have access to the record through a court order - but otherwise would only be able to see that there was expunged information.

CONCLUSION: Sealing & Expunging a criminal record are similar but unique in Florida

If you’re in the South Florida Tri-County Area and you think you may qualify for either sealing or expunging your Florida Criminal record, give our office a call to see if you qualify and if we can help you get your Florida Criminal record expunged.  

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