What Are Sealing and Expungement?

Criminal charges can affect employment, education, and future opportunities. While a criminal record may seem impossible to move on from, Floridians with a criminal record have the option to hide or remove their record from public view. 

Record Sealing vs. Expungement

You can “hide” or “delete” your criminal record through one of two methods: sealing or expungement. The main difference between the two is that a sealed record still exists but is hidden from the public, whereas expungement deletes all records of the arrest or criminal charge.

How to Seal a Record in Florida

To seal a record in Florida, you can apply for a Certificate of Eligibility, a court order for record sealing. You may also speak with your county’s criminal court to find out if you qualify for record sealing if you don’t qualify for a court order.

After that, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) must submit a certified electronic disposition related to your case. The disposition is the status or outcome of an arrest and/or conviction.

If you have been found guilty or plead no contest to violations of the law, you don’t qualify for record sealing. In fact, there are criminal convictions that automatically disqualify you from sealing eligibility.

Sealing a record doesn’t permanently delete it, but it does hide the record from public viewing.

How to Expunge a Record in Florida

Expunction is different from sealing in that it deletes the criminal charge from the public record. In other words, if you apply for a job and the interviewer asks if you have a criminal conviction, you can safely answer “no” if the charge has been expunged from your record.

There are certain situations where your expungement can’t be lawfully denied. Most government or healthcare jobs will not allow you to deny an expunged crime. Lawyers and guardians also cannot have criminal records of any kind, expunged or otherwise.

Different types of expungements apply to individual crimes and juvenile cases. For example, a person can apply for a Lawful Self-Defense Certificate of Eligibility if the state attorney or prosecutor validates that the individual justifiably used force in self-defense. In juvenile cases, expungement can apply to those who complete a juvenile diversion program for a misdemeanor offense.

Are There Crimes That Can’t Be Sealed or Expunged?

Some crimes are too serious for expunction. They are called dangerous crimes, and state and federal courts will not delete them from public records.

Crimes that can’t be sealed or expunged include the following:

  • Arson
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated battery
  • Illegal use of explosives
  • Child abuse
  • Elder abuse
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Kidnapping
  • Homicide
  • Manslaughter
  • Sexual battery
  • Robbery
  • Carjacking
  • Lewd, lascivious, or indecent behavior in the presence of a child
  • Sexual assault of a minor
  • Burglary
  • Stalking
  • Domestic violence
  • Home invasion
  • Terrorism
  • Manufacturing substances in violation of state restrictions

Conspiracy to commit any of these crimes is also considered a dangerous criminal act.

Your Future Beyond a Criminal Record

If you have a criminal record, you know how frustrating it can be to move on. Florida does not provide much protection for those with a record, and employers are encouraged to use background checks in the hiring process.

Sealing and expungement can help you move past your criminal record and begin to regain peace of mind. Filing for sealing or expunction is a complicated process, so you should call an attorney to determine what steps you need to take.

Speak with Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Jaime Aird, P.A., to find out more.