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Choosing Between Sealing and Expunging

Skilled Attorneys Helping Florida Residents Clean Their Records

If you have been charged with a crime, the file will become a public record. This means that anybody can access it through the clerk of court or even online. Your name can appear in a background check or criminal record search when you apply for a job. However, a sealing of your criminal record or an expungement of it may be possible. If you are eligible and choosing between sealing and expunging, you should consult the Florida expungement lawyers at Hanlon Law. We can advise you on the approach that is appropriate for you.

Choosing Between Sealing and Expunging

The only way to prevent your name from appearing in criminal background checks and online criminal record searches is to have your case expunged or sealed. Expungement or sealing of your criminal record can make it easier to find a job and re-establish your reputation. When a record is expunged or sealed, with some exceptions, you can lawfully deny that there was an arrest or that charges were brought.

Some of the benefits of sealing and expunging are the same, but it can be important to understand the differences to choose the right relief. You can seal or expunge only one arrest record in a single proceeding, which makes it especially important to make the right decision. However, if a criminal record makes you initially ineligible for expungement because adjudication was withheld, you can still become eligible for expungement once the record has been sealed for 10 years, as long as you seek the expungement in the same proceeding. You would not be able to ask that a completely different arrest record be expunged if the first record had been sealed for 10 years.

There are also other forms of expungement, which would not prevent you from later seeking a judicial expungement under section 943.0585 or sealing under section 943.059. These other types of expungement include administrative expungement, juvenile diversion expungement, expungement by operation of law, and early juvenile expungement. Our attorneys can advise you on whether these forms of expungement would be available to you.

Differences Between Expunging and Sealing

With expungement, the department or departments that keep the files destroy them. The arresting agency file, as well as the prosecution’s file and the probation officer’s files, are physically destroyed. A copy is kept by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), but the copy is not accessible to the public. Agencies that could have access to a sealed record can observe that information was expunged from your criminal record, but they would need to petition the court to be able to get access to the expunged information.

When records are sealed, on the other hand, the agency files are sealed with tape, but they are not actually destroyed. Under section 943.045, the sealing of a criminal history record is the preservation of a record under circumstances that make it inaccessible to those who do not have a legal right of access to the information. However, if the court issues an order to unseal the records, your criminal records can be reopened. Moreover, city, county, state, and federal government agencies can access a person’s sealed criminal records.

As with an expungement, you can lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge arrests covered by a sealed record, with certain exceptions. There would be an exception, for example, if you were prosecuted for another crime in the future and asked about your prior arrest. You would also need to disclose it if you were seeking a job with a criminal justice agency.

Some people are eligible for record-sealing without being eligible for expungement. In that case, the choice is made for you.

Contact a Knowledgeable Expungement Lawyer

If you are choosing between sealing and expunging in Florida, you should consult the seasoned attorneys at Hanlon Law. In some cases, there will not be a choice, but each situation is unique. Call Hanlon Law at 800.373.1974 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