The Difference between Sealing and Expunging in South Florida

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20th Oct 2014

The law in Florida recognizes that human beings sometimes can make errors.  A one time, lapse in judgment should not stigmatize a person’s reputation forever.  A person that concludes a one-time arrest may be eligible for sealing and expunging criminal records in South Florida.

The Difference between Sealing and Expunging

There are crucial differences between sealing and expunging in Florida:

If a person pleads guilty or no contest to a crime, receives a withhold of adjudication (meaning they were not convicted) then they may be entitled to seal the record.  Not any crime is eligible for sealing (crimes involving violence, sex, domestic violence, organized fraud and public corruption are excluded from eligibility for sealing).

When a record is sealed, however, while the general public and most agencies and entities will have no access to it, there are some exceptions wherein that sealed record may be unsealed for review such as if a person is applying for a professional license, that governing agency doing a background check may move to unseal.

If a person receives a favorable disposition on a case (meaning “not guilty”, the case was dismissed or the prosecution abandoned the charges (nolle prosiqui) or if the record has been sealed for ten years) then they may qualify for a stronger remedy in erasing the record called expungement.   When a record is expunged, it is as if the record never existed.  While certain agencies and offices will be informed, upon request, that a record was expunged, they are supposed to not have any access to the details, and the general public is not supposed to have any awareness of the matter.

With Clerks’ offices selling information to data collection agencies on the internet and with the dissemination of information so easily done on the World Wide Web, certain aspects of sealing and expunging may have complications.

A qualified, experienced attorney can assist you in sealing or expunging a record.