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What are Sealing and Expungement?

Sealing and Expungement Explained

In Florida, there is a legal process by which someone can “clear” an arrest from their criminal history record. Florida laws regarding this process are confusing and people often require a lawyer to successfully complete the strict procedures.

While sealing and expungement prevent public access to certain records and prevent them from showing up on most background checks, there are important differences between the two.

Difference between sealing and expungement

Expunged records

A criminal history record that has been ordered expunged by a court must be physically destroyed by any criminal justice agency having custody of such record. This includes the Clerk of Court, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, sheriff’s office, and local police departments. Once a record has been expunged, basic case information (such as charges, date of arrest, etc.) is retained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That information is confidential and can only be accessed by a judicial order.

Sealed records

A criminal history record that has been ordered sealed by a court is confidential and eliminates the public access to that record. Once the record is sealed, the information will only be available to certain governmental entities.

How FLJC Helps

Florida Justice Center wants you to get a fresh start by eliminating a huge barrier to your employment, housing, and income: your arrest record. Our attorneys will research your eligibility under the law and, if you qualify, we will complete the paperwork on your behalf and represent you in court.

Criminal Background Check

Eligibility Requirements

These are general eligibility requirements as determined by Florida law and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

In order to qualify for sealing or expungement, you must:

  • have been arrested in Florida
  • have no open criminal cases (pending trial or in pretrial diversion)
  • have never been adjudicated guilty of a crime (this is different than pleading guilty and is also different than having adjudication withheld)
  • have completed all terms of probation, if ordered
  • have never had a case sealed or expunged in the past
  • not owe any fines, fees, court costs, or restitution

There are additional requirements that can be discussed after our attorneys complete an initial eligibility evaluation.

Human Trafficking Survivor Exception

If you are a human trafficking survivor, Florida law may allow you to have cases sealed or expunged even if you were adjudicated guilty.


Online Application

Submit an online application to Florida Justice Center. Our attorneys will evaluate your eligibility under current Florida law.


If we determine you qualify, we will send you the application by email. All you do is print it, sign and notarize it, and get fingerprinted.

We Handle the Rest

Once we receive your completed application and fingerprints, we will order court records, submit the application, and do all court filings.

What Does it Cost?

An initial eligibility evaluation is always free. If we determine you are eligible, we have a sliding fee scale that goes from $0 to $250, not including government filing fees.

Our services are free for those making below 200% of the federal poverty guideline. If you cannot afford the government fees, we can assist with that as well. If you make above that amount, depending on your income, you will be asked to pay for government fees and you may be asked to make a small donation for our services. We are a nonprofit organization and rely on generous people like you to keep our services free for those in need.

We have seen private attorneys charge from $679 to $4,000 for this service. Our average client has an annual income of just $12,800. We understand sealing and expungement with a private lawyer may be unaffordable. We know you need a fresh start to better provide for yourself and your loved ones. We’re here to help, regardless of your income.

Be the change in your community.