Florida SB 118 creates a method to administratively seal certain criminal records held by the Criminal Justice Information Program of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), and it provides a process for arrestees to remove mugshots from online websites. The law falls well short in providing true sealing relief because records held by the court and arresting agency are not sealed under this law. Court ordered sealing or expungement remains the only avenue for true relief from the stigma of a criminal record in Florida.
Florida’s administrative sealing policy created by SB 118 impacts only how records are handled by the Criminal Justice Information Program division of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but it does not restrict the arresting agency or the court from sharing the case information online. The law requires that the Criminal Justice Information Program proactively administratively seal eligible charges. A charge is eligible if the charges can no longer be appealed by the prosecution and if: the charges were dismissed or nolle prosequi prior to trial; the prosecution declined to file the charges; or the charges from the alleged incident resulted in an acquittal or a verdict of not guilty at trial. Administratively sealing does not seal the records held by the court and the arresting agency, meaning that an administrative sealing will have little to no impact on passing a background check. The only true form of comprehensive relief from a record remains a court ordered sealing or expungement. With a court ordered sealing, you will be better able to pass a background check.
A common problem addressed by this new law is arrestees finding their mugshots on private websites who in turn charge these arrestees a fee to remove the mugshot. These websites do not care if you were convicted or not, they will still charge a fee to remove a mugshot. Some websites will even take the fee and still keep the mugshot available for view to the public. This presents a significant strike against an individual’s online reputation and make someone who was never convicted appear to be a criminal. Just the appearance of criminality can cause a significant loss of opportunity and it is commendable that Florida would join the growing number of states striking out against these websites. The law requires these websites to not charge a fee and to remove the mugshot in 10 calendar days upon receipt of request from the subject or their attorney. Should a company fail abide by the conditions outlined in the law they can be subject to civil penalties. It remains to be seen how effective this law will be because many of these mugshot companies are owned by countries located outside of the jurisdiction of Florida. Still, it is an important recognition by the legislature of a serious issue.
Ultimately the best relief for successfully passing a background check is to obtain a court ordered record sealing or expungement. Even if your charges are eligible for the minimal relief provided by SB 118, we would still encourage you to test your eligibility for a court ordered Florida sealing or expungement. We can help you determine your eligibility today. Just call us at (877) 573-7273 or use our free online eligibility test to see if you are eligible. We would love to add you to the number of Floridians we have already been able to serve!