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Sealing a Florida criminal record

Sealing a Florida criminal record means that any law enforcement or judicial record of a single arrest/incident is sealed so it can only be accessed in very limited instances (see below). However, the individual may still have to reveal the existence of that sealed charge (or charges) in certain circumstances (see below). Also, a sealed record may be eligible for expungement after 10 years.

Click here to read more about the record sealing eligibility requirements to have a Florida record sealed.

FL criminal record sealing process

The sealing process is essentially three, sometimes four steps:

1.

Submit the application for a certificate of eligibility (CoE) to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE);

2.

Once the FDLE issues the CoE, submit that along with several other court filings to the clerk for the judge to sign;

3.

Have a hearing on the petition to seal criminal history records (this step is not required in every instance and varies from county to county); and

4.

Have the signed order sealing the criminal history record sent to the relevant agencies and government departments who have a record of the criminal record (does not apply to civil records of the incident, such as those retained by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.)

Benefits of having a record sealed:

1.

The record will become confidential

2.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and other criminal justice agencies will retain a copy of the record, but it will not be subject to the provisions of s. 119.07(1) (public records) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution (access to public records and meetings) and will not be available to anyone other than the person who is the subject of the record, to the subject's attorney, to criminal justice agencies for their respective criminal justice purposes, which include conducting a criminal history background check for approval of firearms purchases or transfers as authorized by state or federal law, and the entities enumerated in s. 943.059(4)(a) and listed here ; and

3.

The individual may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests covered by the sealed record, except in the instances enumerated in s. 943.059(4)(a) and listed here.

The difference between sealing and expungement:

The end result is the same for both a sealed or expunged record: the record is no longer accessible to the public in most instances. The following are the basic differences between sealing and expungement:

1.

An expunged record is physically destroyed by most agencies and departments in possession of the record, where as a sealed record is simply made confidential;

2.

When the situations enumerated in s. 943.0585(4)(a) and listed here, and s. 943.059(4)(a) and listed here arise, the record must be disclosed. However an expunged record results in the release of only the subject's demographic information and a caveat statement stating that criminal history information has been expunged, whereas a sealed record will include the details of the incident; and

3.

A sealed record must be revealed when the subject is attempting to purchase a firearm from a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer and is subject to a criminal history background check under state or federal law, and expunged record does not;

4.

A charge that resulted in a withhold of adjudication can’t be expunged, but it may qualify to be sealed;

5.

A charge that resulted in a trial can’t be expunged, but it may qualify to be sealed; and

6.

Any of the charges listed here that received a withhold of adjudication can’t be sealed, but if the charge was dropped or dismissed, it can be expunged.