Expungement vs Sealing: What Are The Differences?

David Weisselberger | January 15, 2024

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In criminal justice, expungement and sealing are pivotal legal processes offering individuals a chance to reclaim their lives after encountering the challenges of a criminal record. Expungement and sealing serve as mechanisms designed to mitigate the repercussions of past transgressions, providing individuals with the opportunity for a fresh start. 

Expungement, involving the complete erasure of a criminal record, signifies a clean slate as if the offense never occurred. Sealing, in contrast, limits access to the form, preserving its confidentiality while allowing individuals to move forward with reduced public visibility. 

This article aims to help you understand the definitions, distinctions, and specific implications of sealing vs expungement, particularly within the legal landscape of Florida.

Expungement vs Sealing in Florida: Understand The Differences

expungement and record sealing

The critical difference between sealing vs expungement is the complete erasure of a criminal record versus restricting access to it, making it confidential. In Florida, the decision to expunge or seal depends on factors such as the type of offense, eligibility criteria, and specific legal requirements.

Going into further detail, understanding the nuances between expungement and sealing in Florida is essential. Here are key points to consider:

Eligibility Criteria

  • Expungement in Florida is generally reserved for cases where charges were dropped, or the individual was acquitted.
  • Sealing is a more widely applicable option, often available for cases resulting in non-convictions or certain misdemeanor convictions.

Visibility to the Public

  •  Expunged criminal records in Florida are essentially wiped clean, making them invisible to the public eye.
  • Sealed criminal records, while confidential, may still be accessible to law enforcement and select government agencies under specific circumstances.

Employment Implications

  • Employers generally view expungement more favorably, implying a complete absence of a criminal history.
  • While offering confidentiality, sealing may still raise questions during background checks.

Expungement vs Pardon: What Are The Differences

The key difference between expungement and pardon lies in the granting authority and the subsequent impact on the individual’s criminal record. Expungement is a legal process initiated by the individual seeking relief from a criminal record, resulting in the removal or destruction of the paper. 

In contrast, a pardon is a form of amnesty granted by a government authority, often the governor or president. When exploring the broader context of legal relief, understanding the differences between expungement and pardon is crucial. 

Delving into further details, here are key considerations:

Granting Authority

  •  Expungement places the power in the hands of the individual seeking relief, requiring proactive steps to navigate the legal system.
  • A pardon involves a decision by a higher authority, adding an extra layer of complexity to the process.

Effects on Criminal Records

  • Expungement results in the obliteration of the criminal record, offering a comprehensive remedy for individuals seeking to distance themselves from past mistakes.
  • A pardon, while not erasing the criminal record, carries the weight of official forgiveness, potentially opening doors to restored civil rights for the pardoned individual.

Life-Changing Benefits of Expungement and Sealing

Expungement and sealing criminal records offer life-changing benefits extending far beyond the legal realm. These processes allow individuals to break free from the shackles of their past, fostering personal growth, social reintegration, and a renewed sense of self-worth. 

Here are some of the transformative advantages of expungement and sealing:

benefit of expungement and sealing
  • Improved Employment Opportunities: Expungement and sealing can significantly enhance job prospects by removing or limiting the visibility of a criminal record, enabling individuals to pursue meaningful careers.
  • Secure Housing and Education: A clean record facilitates better chances of securing housing and admission to educational institutions, eliminating barriers often associated with a criminal history.
  • Restored Civic Rights: In some cases, expungement or sealing may restore certain civic rights, such as voting or serving on a jury.

How Erase the Case Can Help

As individuals embark on a brighter future, navigating the intricate legal landscape of expungement vs sealing in Florida requires knowledge, diligence, and a commitment to building a new chapter. Contract Erase the Case now and know the difference between expunged and sealed records!

FAQs about Expungement vs Sealing

What can be sealed and expunged in Florida?

The eligibility criteria for sealing and expungement in Florida typically include cases where charges were dropped, the individual was acquitted, or certain misdemeanor convictions.

How long does it take to seal and expunge a record in Florida?

The timeline for sealing and expungement in Florida is variable, generally taking several months. Factors influencing the duration include:

  • The workload of the court system.
  • The complexity of the case.
  • Adherence to procedural requirements.

Can police see expunged records in Florida?

In Florida, law enforcement may still have access to expunged criminal records under specific circumstances, particularly during a criminal investigation. While record expungement offers confidentiality, it is not absolute, and individuals should be aware of potential exceptions.

Does Florida automatically expunge your record?

No, Florida does not automatically expunge criminal records. Individuals must proactively petition the court for expungement, meeting specific eligibility criteria. This emphasizes the importance of taking deliberate steps to initiate the expungement process.

Do I need a lawyer to expunge my record in Florida?

While navigating the expungement process without a lawyer is possible, legal representation is highly advisable. The complexities of eligibility criteria and procedural requirements in Florida can be challenging to navigate without expert guidance. A lawyer can ensure the process is conducted accurately, increasing the possibility of a successful outcome.

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David Weisselberger
Author | Founder
"David Weisselberger is the founder of Erase The Case. He completed his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Florida, & also his Juris Doctor from UM School of Law. Afterwards, He has been working as a former Miami-Dade County Assistant Public Defender. Also, as a solo lawyer and former associate at South Florida’s honored Saban & Solomon Law Firm. He has learned firsthand the effects people face from having a public criminal arrest record mark their lives. Therefore, David has always been working hard to help people get rid of haunting crimnal past and have a second chance in life"

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    "My experience with this law firm was exceptional. After submitting the required documents, they took care of everything with ease, professionalism, and expediency. I was kept informed throughout the process. In only 3 months, all record of my case was erased from my background check. I used the "expunge now, pay later" option, which let me pay the fee over time with Affirm."
    Lee County
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    "I'm beyond happy right now, I contacted David about my case few months ago and right away he was able to help me , the whole process was very easy they kept me updated every step now my case is sealed.very professional I recommend this firm, if I can give more than 5 stars I would. "
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