Criminal History: Seal / Expungements

When a record is sealed, it is concealed from public view. Record sealing can only be done by court or government entities. Sealing a record means the court or a government entity will erase the criminal files from public record and maintain them in a private database. A private database is accessible only to specific individuals and it can be available to others only under specific circumstances. A criminal record that is sealed can still be used in subsequent arrests, government employment, and licensing applications if necessary. Criminal record sealing is not the same as complete criminal record expungement. In case of expungement, all criminal record files are destroyed. The eligibility requirements for criminal history sealing or expungement are very strict.

How Do I Have a Criminal History Record Sealed or Expunged?

An expungement is complex legal process by which a criminal record is destroyed or sealed after a certain expiration of time. Expungement requires a civil action, meaning that the petitioner or the plaintiff is asking the court to have his criminal records expunged. Each state has different laws and policies for criminal history expungement. Apart from state laws, the overall effect of the expungement will mostly depend on your situation.

Florida Statutes, s.943.0585 and s.943.059, set forth the criteria that must be met in order to be eligible to have an adult criminal history record sealed or expunged. In addition, these statutes also state that in order to have a criminal history record sealed or expunged within the State of Florida, an individual must first make application to the FDLE for a Certificate of Eligibility. Please note that the issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility does not mean that your criminal history record will be ordered sealed or expunged. It merely indicates that you are statutorily eligible for the type of relief that is being requested. In case you succeed to have your criminal record expunged, it will be destroyed and removed from the courts database and the arresting agency, as well as from the FDLE, and the FBI.

What is the Difference between Having a Criminal History Record Sealed vs. Expunged?

When a criminal history record is sealed, the public will not have access to it. Certain governmental or related entities, primarily those listed in s. 943.059(4)(a), Florida Statutes, have access to sealed record information in its entirety.

When a record has been expunged, those entities which would have access to a sealed record will be informed that the subject of the record has had a record expunged, but would not have access to the record itself without a court order. All they would receive is a caveat statement indicating that “Criminal Information has been Expunged from this Record”.

Criminal record expungement laws can change people’s lives in a dramatic and very positive way. Record sealing and expungement are valuable legal practices that can provide people with criminal backgrounds a second chance. When a person has a criminal history, apart from carrying a criminal mark and being a victim of judgement, that person is also held back from any benefits that require a background check, such as applying for a loan, renting an apartment and even getting a job. These practices also aid in reducing criminal recidivism and increasing the numbers of employed taxpayers. The Florida Keys Expungement Attorneys at My Key West Lawyer serve the entire Florida Keys, including Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key and Key West. If you are interested in knowing whether or not you can have your criminal history seal or expunged, do not hesitate to contact us today.