Frequently Asked Questions

Seal & Expunge

IF MY CRIMINAL RECORDS ARE SEALED OR EXPUNGED, CAN I DENY BEING ARRESTED OR HAVING A CRIMINAL RECORD?

After a record is SEALED, the petitioner may lawfully deny the arrest and the court case for the offense. HOWEVER, he/she must still disclose the sealed record in specific situations listed in Florida Statutes 943.059.

Similarly, when a record is EXPUNGED, the petitioner may deny the arrest and the court case BUT must still disclose the expunged record in specific situations listed in Florida Statutes 943.0585.

SEAL vs. EXPUNGE – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

EXPUNGMENT: A record expungment is when the criminal record is destroyed. If the Court grants an expungment of a record, the State Attorney’s file, the arresting agency’s reports and files, the Clerk of Court’s records, and the jail records are all destroyed. Under an expungment, a petitioner’s photograph is removed from the county jail’s website and all information is removed from the Clerk of Court’s website.

A person is eligible to apply for an expungement ONLY in the following circumstances:

  • Applicant was arrested but never formally charged by the State Attorney’s Office.
  • Applicant was arrested and formally charged, but the charge was later dismissed or “nolle prossed” (dropped) in Court.
  • Applicant was arrested, charged, but entered into and successfully completed a pre-trial diversion program (i.e. PTI or MIP), which ultimately resulted in the case being dismissed by the Court.

In all of the above three scenarios, the applicant must have no prior Adjudications of Guilt.

SEAL: A record which is Sealed by the Court is not destroyed but placed in an envelope and sealed. The envelope cannot be legally opened without a Court order. If a record is sealed, a petitioner’s photograph is removed from the county jail’s website. The Clerk of Court’s file is also sealed and all information about the case is removed from the Clerk of Court’s website.

A person is eligible to apply for a sealing ONLY in the following circumstances:

  • Petitioner was arrested, formally charged, pled guilty or no contest to the charge and was sentenced to a WITHHOLD OF ADJUDICATION OF GUILT by the Court.
  • If the Petitioner receives a Withhold of Adjudication and is sentenced to probation by the Court – and successfully completes the probation, the petitioner may seek to have that record SEALED.
  • However, there are certain offenses that are never allowed to be sealed, even if the applicant received a withhold of adjudication. Some of these offenses include sexual offenses, offenses against children, or other violent offenses.

CAN THE COURT DENY MY PETITION FOR SEAL/EXPUNGE?

Yes, the Court can deny a petition but it is very rare.

HOW LONG DOES THE SEAL/EXPUNGE PROCESS TAKE?

The FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) processes all Petitions for sealing or expunging records. Due to their time constraints, the current processing time is approximately four (4) to six (6) months.

UNDER FLORIDA LAW, AM I ELIGIBLE TO HAVE MY RECORD SEALED OR EXPUNGED?

A petitioner cannot have a prior ADJUDICATION OF GUILT on his/her criminal record. This includes the charge the petitioner is seeking to have sealed/expunged as well as any other prior criminal charge. If a petitioner has ever been adjudicated guilty of any offense – including many criminal traffic offenses (i.e. DUI, DWLS), then the petitioner is INELIGIBLE to ever apply to have a record sealed or expunged.!