If you have been arrested for a crime you are probably wondering if the final outcome will have a lasting impact on your record. The answer depends on the type and facts of your case, and what type of final resolution was reached. The type of case is relevant because a misdemeanor will be less serious than a felony, and may also lend itself to post-adjudication actions to “clean up” your record. The facts of your case are also important, because first-time offenders may have options available to them at the end of their case that repeat offenders do not enjoy. And, there are also issues of the final disposition of your case to address, that may or may not do permanent damage to your record.
It is important to understand the difference between a dismissal and an expungement. Here is what you need to know:
• If your case is dismissed, your record will show that the charges were brought, but that they were later dropped. Also, there will be a history of your arrest. After a dismissal, your case file and arrest record is still public record.
• An expungement is when the record of your arrest, and your subsequent criminal case, are destroyed and any public access to this information is eliminated.
It is best to think of expungement as a process that eliminates records of an arrest that did not result in anything more than a filing of charges that were later dismissed. An expungement is not a process for removing the resolution of a case – that’s a sealment.
In order to be eligible for an expungement, certain requirements have to be met. The most important requirement is that charges were never filed or they were filed, but later dismissed. In both circumstances, you have no criminal record. This can occur if you were arrested, but the prosecutor decided against filing charges. Or, if you were arrested and charged, but the charges were later dismissed. This later scenario can happen after a dispositive court event, like a motion to suppress crucial evidence, or completing of a diversion program, such as Pretrial Intervention.
The benefit to having your record expunged is all records of your arrest and court case are destroyed and cannot be discovered by a public search. That is not to say certain law enforcement or governmental agencies may not still be able to access your records, but potential employers or everyday internet searches will not. If you have questions about expungement, call us for answers. We will review the facts of your case, let you know if an expungement is an option for you, and, if so, how you will benefit from making the request.
If you have questions about the difference between a dismissal and an expungement, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West.