The law in Florida says that a person can only expunge or seal a criminal history record once in their lifetime; and while there are a few exceptions to this hardline rule, those cases are far and few in between. By now, however, you are probably still asking yourself: But what is an expungement/sealing anyways? The answer is simple.
A criminal history record expungement is the legal process through which a person’s criminal record is physically destroyed from the government’s criminal justice record-keeping systems, making that criminal arrest episode, confidential and not subject to public access.
On the other hand, a criminal history record sealing is the legal process through which a person’s criminal record is ordered by a court to be made confidential and hence, unavailable for the government or public to access; although, no physical destruction takes place when a record is sealed.
Lastly, the reason why there exists an expungement procedure versus a sealing procedure is that some criminal records are allowed to be immediately destroyed, while others do not qualify for immediate destruction. In other words, the Florida Legislature decided that a case being dismissed should not be treated the same way as a case where the defendant took a plea and his/her adjudication of guilt was withheld.
Therefore, as you can see, the expungement and sealing of criminal history records is a legal mechanism created by the Florida Legislature – vis a vis Florida Statutes – by which a person’s privacy, dignity, and public image can be restored and protected from otherwise slanderous and libelous information.
What this means in everyday terms, is that a criminal record that was once open for the whole public to see will now be protected from the government’s and public’s view through a process that makes the arrest record confidential (i.e., classified). This is a big big deal.
To give you an example, think about it this way: If a person is unlawfully arrested and eventually that case is dismissed by the prosecutor for Constitutional reasons (i.e., insufficient evidence), the record of that arrest remains public; a most unfair outcome.
Why is it unfair you might ask? Because that person will have the record of that unlawful arrest surviving the dismissal of the case in court; because that’s how the law is currently written.
Thus, what happens next is that the criminal history record pops up in dozens, if not hundreds, of background search companies online. The record is available for the whole world to see with a simple Google search. And in turn, these innocent people are then subject to risk missing out on an employment opportunity, a bonus opportunity, receiving a higher insurance premium, a higher interest rate on a loan, a scholarship application denied, or maybe even a housing application denied. And these are not all of the possible consequences, the list is bigger. And all of this, because that person was unlawfully arrested. Unfair? Absolutely.
That is why the expungement and sealing law exists, and that is why Erase The Case exists as well! We get it, expungement and sealings are not a luxury but a necessity!