Sealing and expungement are two separate court orders that restrict or eliminate other people’s access to a person’s criminal record in Florida. Both can make it easier to get a job, housing, and other opportunities that may be denied to people with criminal records. However, there are significant differences between sealing and expungement, in terms of their availability and their effect. If you have a criminal record in Florida, it is important to understand the differences so that you can decide which option is best suited for your situation.

When you have your criminal record sealed, the information about your arrest and charges is still on file with the government. It is simply not accessible to the public. This means that most employers, landlords and other potential background checkers will not be able to see your record. However, certain government agencies, such as law enforcement and the courts, will still have access to the record for uses consistent with official purposes.

When you have your criminal record expunged, the information about your arrest and charges is physically destroyed (although the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) retains a permanent copy). This means that no one, including government agencies, will be able to access your expunged record, since it virtually no longer exists.

To obtain court-ordered sealing or expungement, you first need to apply to the FDLE for a Certificate of Eligibility. Once you obtain this document, you can file a petition with the court where the original charges were brought. The court will hold a hearing to decide whether to grant your petition and, if so, will issue the appropriate order.

However, it is important to note that not everyone is eligible for sealing or expungement. These remedies are not available for charges that result in convictions. To qualify, you must have been acquitted after trial, had your charges dismissed, had your prosecution declined or had adjudication of your case withheld.

In addition, there are some specific types of crimes for which records are not eligible for sealing or expungement, such as:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Sexual battery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • DUI manslaughter
  • DUI with serious bodily injury
  • Domestic violence battery
  • Repeat domestic violence offenses

An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you about your eligibility for sealing or expungement and can represent you effectively throughout the process, advancing the goal of helping you move forward with your life without the impediment of a criminal record.

The Law Offices of Tad A. Yates, P.C. in Orlando represents Florida residents in a wide range of criminal matters, including criminal records sealing and expungement. Please call us at 407-608-7777 or contact us online to arrange a free initial consultation.

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