As a Miami expungement attorney and a Broward expungement attorney, I am often asked who in the public can view a sealed or expunged record.
When your record is expunged, it is literally destroyed. The general public will have no idea that you were ever arrested, or even charged. When a record is sealed, the Clerk of Courts is under a court order to not disclose the contents of your file to anyone.
Under Florida law, somebody who has their criminal record sealed or expunged may “lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests covered by the sealed [or expunged] record.” In plain terms, this means that you may legally deny that you were ever arrested. The greatest benefit to this provision is that on a job application where it says, “Have you ever been arrested?” you may legally answer “no” even if you have been arrested before, so long as your record has been properly sealed or expunged.
However, certain exceptions apply.
The following are exceptions to the rule, meaning that the following agencies are entitled to sealed and expunged records.
A criminal justice agency, such as a local police department (Miami-Dade Police, Broward Sheriff’s Office), state law enforcement agency (FDLE, Florida Highway Patrol), or federal law enforcement agency (DEA, FBI, Homeland Security). This means that if arrested, these police agencies will have access to your sealed or expunged record. Furthermore, if you are applying for employment with any of these agencies, you MUST disclose your sealed or expunged record.
If you are defendant in a criminal prosecution, the prosecuting agency (State Attorney’s Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office) may have access to your sealed or expunged record.
If you are trying to become an attorney in any state, you MUST disclose a sealed or expunged record to the state licensing agency, such as the state bar association.
If you are seeking to be employed or licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, or the Department of Juvenile Justice, or you wish to work with children, the elderly, or disabled people (mentally or physically), those agencies have a right to inspect a sealed or expunged record.
If you are seeking to be employed or licensed by the Department of Education, any district school board, any university laboratory school, any charter school, any private or parochial school, or any local governmental entity that licenses child care facilities, you MUST disclose a sealed or expunged record.
If you are attempting to purchase a firearm or concealed carry permit, you MUST disclose your sealed or expunged record.
I emphasize the word “must” because lying on an application can only lead to negative consequences. If you have an old arrest that’s been sealed or expunged, and you want to become a police officer or a teacher, for example, just be honest. If you got caught shoplifting from Publix when you were 18, completed Pretrial Diversion, and had your record expunged after the case was dismissed, chances are you can still get hired provided you are 100% truthful. Lying and getting caught is a surefire way not to get hired.
For more information on Florida laws regarding who is entitled to a sealed or expunged record, check out the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s website.
For more information on getting a criminal record sealed or expunged in Miami or Broward, contact me.