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Florida Criminal Record Sealing Bill is Not What It Seems

When you are arrested in Florida, the details of your arrest become a matter of public record almost instantly. Innocent or guilty, your arrest information and mugshot become publicly available through law enforcement websites, online court records, mugshot publishers, your local news station, and more. In today's age of technology, your reputation can be ruined in less than 24 hours by friends, co-workers, or even enemies who may share your mugshot or arrest details on social media or within their own gossip circles.

Even if you are never convicted, your arrest details are shared all the same. Individuals who get their case dismissed will struggle to find employment, get approved for housing, or get accepted into higher education programs because that arrest can still be viewed by the public.

Introducing Senate Bill 188

This month, Florida lawmakers have taken the first step towards addressing this issue by putting Senate Bill 118 in front of Governor Scott. The legislature which has already passed in the Senate and House is in favor of a new measure that would wipe clean criminal records for millions of Floridians that have been arrested but were then acquitted in trial or had their charges dropped. Supporters of the bill agree that people should not be prohibited from obtaining employment because of a dropped charge surfaces in a criminal background check.

So What Does This Really Mean

If the Governor approves, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's (FDLE) criminal records system would automatically seal misdemeanor and felony cases if a prosecutor drops the case, the charges are dismissed by a judge, or if a jury finds the defendant not guilty.

This means that if you are arrested for theft but the prosecutor drops the charges, the FDLE would block that record from the public and a potential employer could not see that arrest on an FDLE background check.

Make Sure You Read Fineprint

This bill could potentially seal close to 2 million records through the FDLE. However, it all seems rather misguided when those records will still be available on countless other websites that distribute this type content. That's right, your arrest record could still be viewed by simply going to the county clerk, local law enforcement, or any of the thousands of mugshot websites.

How to Remove Your Arrest Information Entirely

Unfortunately, Senate Bill 118 just doesn't provide the value that many people were hoping for. It's also confusing that we're attempting to create an entirely new process when we already have something that works, Expungement. An expungement is the standard requirement to have mugshot and arrest details removed completely. Rather than just targeting the FDLE central records system, an expungement requires the arrest record to be removed from any and all platforms.

While a sealed record covers you on an FDLE background check, your arrest record would still be accessible through a number of well-known sources. Getting an expungement allows you to move past your arrest and get the opportunities that you deserve. Find out who qualifies, how long it takes, and how much it costs in our free expungement guide.

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