What is the difference between a sealed record and an expunged record? The differences between a sealed record and an expunged record are built into the laws covering these processes in sections 943.0585 (6) and 943.059 (6), Florida Statutes.
How much does it cost?
Legal fees for an expungement or seal petition can vary depending on some factors:
- Each petition requires fees for the Clerk for filing and certified copies of documents. The number of documents required can increase the costs
- Out-of-county cases
- Older cases may require more time to investigate
- Multiple, but connected offenses might incur higher legal fees
- Fees to FDLE
- Legal fees may range from $750-$1500
How long does an expungement or sealing take to complete?
The amount of time can vary. Keep in minds there is usually government slowness to respond and delay for investigation. Rest assured that your petition will be moved through the process as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes between 8 and 12 months but can be longer, in some cases.
What alternatives are there if I’m not eligible for a traditional expunge/seal?
Below are alternative methods of sealing court records:
Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420 is titled “Public Access to and Protection of Judicial Branch Records.” This rule is directly governed by article I, section 24(a) of the Florida Constitution (Access to Public Records and Meetings):
Every person has the right to inspect or copy any public record made or received in connection with the official business of any public body, officer, or employee of the state, or persons acting on their behalf, except with respect to records exempted pursuant to this section or specifically made confidential by this Constitution. This section specifically includes the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government and each agency or department created thereunder; counties, municipalities, and districts; and each constitutional officer, board, and commission, or entity created pursuant to law or this Constitution.
As noted, there are “exempted” records. Pursuant to rule 2.420, “confidential” records are exempt and may be released “only to the persons or organizations designated by law, statute, or court order.”
Confidential information includes information that is confidential under this rule or under a court order entered pursuant to this rule.
It is important to note that exempt records are confidential except for those people and organizations designated by law, statute, and court order. This means that records deemed confidential are still accessible to specific organizations (for specific reasons).
In order to have the court deem a record confidential, it has to be established that the confidentiality is required to:
- Prevent a serious and imminent threat to the fair, impartial, and orderly administration of justice;
- Protect trade secrets;
- Protect a compelling governmental interest;
- Obtain evidence to determine legal issues in a case;
- Avoid substantial injury to innocent third parties;
- Avoid substantial injury to a party by disclosure of matters protected by a common law or privacy tight not generally inherent in the specific type of proceeding sought to be closed;
- Comply with established public policy set forth in the Florida or United States Constitution or statutes or Florida rules or case law;
Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420(c)(9)(A).
The rule spells out specifically how the motion must be presented when requested civil records or when requesting criminal records to be sealed
Alternative method of expunging non-judicial records
This is a procedure for “expunging” an arrest record of an arrest made in error. It’s noted in Section 943.0581, Florida Statutes – Administrative Expungement
Often mistaken identity occurs when a warrant is executed. People have been mistakenly arrested on a warrant because they have shared the same name as the person identified in the warrant.
Many people believe that an administrative expungement applies when they have been arrested without a mistake and the charges have later been dropped or never even filed on. Even if the arrest was based on a falsification of facts or inaccurate testimony, it’s not an identity issue.
A Florida “administrative expungement” will remove the arrest from FDLE’s criminal history. However, it won’t remove the record from the Clerk’s website. That requires the use of Rule 2.420 sealing or using section 943.0585, Florida Statutes (expungement).
In order to have an arrest administratively expunged, the arresting agency has to agree and notify FDLE (through an application that the arresting agency submits) that the arrest was a mistake.
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