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Choosing Between Sealing and Expunging in Miami

Experienced Attorneys Helping People in Miami and Surrounding Cities

Miami has a very high crime rate, with property crimes accounting for a substantial chunk of criminal incidents in the city. Between January 1, 2020 and April 19, 2020, there were 11,030 crimes in the city. Miami criminal incidents involving violations of state laws are likely to be handled in Miami-Dade County Criminal Court. The court has two levels. Its misdemeanor arrests are handled by County Criminal. Circuit Criminal receives and processes all felony affidavits of probable cause, arrest warrants, and grand jury indictments. Choosing between sealing and expunging in Miami can be a complicated decision. You should get advice from the experienced Miami expungement lawyers at Hanlon Law. We have expunged and sealed thousands of criminal records throughout Florida.

Choosing Between Sealing and Expunging in Miami

Most people hope to obtain an expungement or record sealing because they want to prevent the public from viewing the arrest or charges. A criminal record may make you less competitive for jobs, housing, a professional license, or school. The remedy may be to obtain an expungement or record sealing. When a record is expunged or sealed, it is no longer available to the public. In addition to assisting with jobs, housing, school, and professional licenses, expungement or sealing may protect your reputation socially.

Additionally, expungement and sealing allow you to lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge a criminal record subject to these procedures in most situations. There are some exceptions.

Florida’s expungement and sealing rules are harsh, and it is important to seek representation from a knowledgeable attorney. Although people often use the terms “expungement” and “record sealing” interchangeably, they are not the same thing, and they are governed by different code sections. The differences between these forms of relief can affect your choice.

Record sealing may be sought under Florida Statutes section 943.059. With sealing, your records are preserved, but they are kept confidentially, so only those legally entitled to access the information can do so. This means that the local, state, or federal government still will have access to the record, but it will not appear in a criminal background check. Sealing does not involve the physical destruction of the records; tape will be placed to close the files and to keep them confidential.

Court-ordered expungement under Florida Statutes section 943.0585 provides slightly more relief than does record sealing. It involves the physical destruction of the records kept with various parties, with only one confidential copy being kept by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. With expungement, the governmental agencies that would ordinarily still have access under a sealing order will see only a notation indicating that there was a court-ordered expungement.

However, beyond the differences, there may be other considerations that we can discuss with you. For example, it can be easier and more straightforward to obtain sealing of your record than to obtain expungement; the State Attorney may object to expungement but not to sealing.

You are entitled to only one expungement or record sealing. However, expungement tends to carry greater benefits. Accordingly, if you are eligible for both, it may be wiser to try to obtain expungement. In some cases, people are eligible for record sealing but not expungement, and if that is the case for you, you will need to petition for record sealing.

Other Types of Expungement

Florida also provides for other types of expungement that may better suit your circumstances. Other types of expungement include administrative expungement, human trafficking expungement, juvenile diversion expungement, and lawful self-defense expungement. The criteria for each of these procedures are set forth under separate code sections. Several factors should be considered when determining whether to use one of these other procedures instead of court-ordered expungement or record sealing. For example, unlike with court-ordered expungement or record sealing, with an administrative expungement, you are not restricted to a single expungement in your lifetime. If you qualify for administrative expungement because you were mistakenly arrested, it would be wise to use that procedure rather than using your one court-ordered expungement or record sealing.

Hire a Knowledgeable Expungement Lawyer

Expungement and sealing are different procedures. Often, the decision about which procedure is appropriate in your case will be determined by your eligibility, but it is important to discuss your situation with the criminal defense attorneys at Hanlon Law if you are choosing between sealing and expunging in Miami. Call us at 813.228.7095 or contact us through our online form.

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I highly recommend this law firm who worked on my case. Their staff is highly professional and when ever I called to get an update on my case Kathy always took the time to explain things thoroughly. I admire their honesty and professionalism and the price for their services are reasonable. I am very grateful for their services and for getting my case resolved and I recommend this firm to anyone. Victor