For parties who have committed a crime in Florida they would like sealed or expunged from their record, a request can be made to the state. Sealing and expungement can help those with a criminal history who have turned their life around prevent the records from being publicly accessed and the party would no longer be required to disclose their past if request in most instances.
Florida Sunshine Laws, Expungement, & Sealing
Sealing and expungement became a very relevant topic of conversation when in 1995 Florida passed the Sunshine Laws, which grant public access to all non-sensitive government records in Florida. These laws were seen as a great victory for transparency in government. But, these laws unfortunately had many unintended consequence for residents of Florida. Sunshine Laws made it extremely easy to uncover a great deal of information about those around you – criminal, neighbor, or government official. So, the drawback was that it made life very difficult for Floridians falsely accused of crimes or those who made one mistake in an otherwise spotless life but were never convicted. As a response to the unintended consequences of the Sunshine Laws, the State of Florida enacted Florida Statutes §§ 943.0585 and 943.059. These are the laws that afford Floridians the opportunity to expunge or seal their records.
- Expungement is found in Florida Statutes § 943.045(16): the court-ordered physical destruction or obliteration of a record or portion of a record by any criminal justice agency having custody thereof.
- Sealing is found in Florida Statutes § 943.045(19): the preservation of a record under such circumstances that it is secure and inaccessible to any person not having a legal right of access to the record or the information contained and preserved therein.
Sealing or Expunging: What's the Difference?
Expungement is when your records are destroyed and deleted from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement database. The agency keeps a confidential record for limited access. Expungement is so complete that even those within the criminal justice system will only see that your record has been expunged, but no other information.
Sealing is not as complete as expungement. Sealing is when your record is placed in government protection and only accessed by those considered privy to the information. The record is essentially sealed and labeled confidential. Unlike expungement, the criminal justice system will have access to sealed records.
There are limitations to what charges can be sealed or expunged. No case, unless dropped or dismissed, maybe sealed or expunged of the following crimes:
- Aggravated Assault;
- Aggravated Battery;
- Illegal Use of Explosives;
- Child abuse or aggravated child abuse;
- Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult;
- Aircraft piracy;
- Sexual battery;
- Sexual Misconduct with developmentally disabled person, or between an employee and a mentally ill patient
- Luring or Enticing a child;
- Procuring a Minor for Prostitution;
- Lewd or Lascivious Offenses upon or in the presence of one or more individuals under 16, or committed upon or in the presence of an elderly person or disabled person
- Violation of Florida Communications Fraud Act;
- Sexual Performance by a child;
- Criminal Conduct by public employees and officials;
- Providing Obscene Material to minors;
- Computer Pornography of a minor;
- Traveling to Meet minor (to engage in an illegal act in Chapters 784, 800, 827 or any unlawful sexual conduct) See Florida Statutes 847.0135 (4);
- Selling or Buying of minors;
- Drug Trafficking;
- Any offense which would require registration as a sexual predator according to Florida Statutes 775.21 (The Florida Sexual Predators Act);
- Sexual Activity with a minor;
- Burglary of a Dwelling;
- Any Act of Stalking
- Act of Domestic Violence;
- Home Invasion Robbery;
- Act of Terrorism;
- Manufacturing Drugs, or;
- Attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above crimes.
Clearwater Expungement and Record Sealing Attorney
In Florida, if you were arrested or charge with a crime but not convicted, you can petition for your records to be sealed or expunged. The process is neither easy or fast, so if you are interested in having your record reviewed to see if you are candidate for expungement or sealing, a Florida criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the process.
Call a Clearwater expungement and record sealing attorney from our firm today at (727) 245-9009 to set up a free consultation.