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What is the difference between a
dismissal and an expungement?

Anyone in Florida who’s been the subject of a criminal case has likely heard the terms “dismissal” and “expungement” thrown around. Although the concepts are similar, there are several important distinctions. Whether you’re actively facing charges or have a criminal history, it’s important to understand the difference between these legal remedies.

The following information will shed some light on the key differences between a dismissal and an expungement under Florida law. If you have any questions or would like more information, contact the Orlando criminal defense lawyers with Katz & Phillips, P.A. at (321) 332-6864 to schedule a consultation.

difference between a dismissal and an expungement

What is a dismissal?

A dismissal is the termination of criminal proceedings against a defendant (the person facing charges). If your case is dismissed, it will still appear on your criminal record. However, it will indicate that you were charged with a crime but that you weren’t convicted.

Prospective employers, landlords, or other entities conducting a background check on you may see the dismissal on your record, but it generally won’t carry as much weight as a conviction.

There are two common ways in which a dismissal can occur. The first is by the prosecutor’s own volition, meaning they dismiss the case before it goes to trial. This can be based on factors like lack of evidence, errors in the charging paperwork, or a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights, such as an illegal search or seizure.

The second way for a case to be dismissed is on the court’s orders. The court may order a dismissal if it feels there’s insufficient evidence or for certain procedural violations of the Defendant’s rights.

What is an expungement?

An expungement is a legal process that erases a criminal case from all records. The physical copy of the court records and any other documents related to an expunged case will be destroyed.

If you’re granted an expungement, anyone who accesses your criminal record won’t be able to see that you were arrested or charged with a crime. You also won’t be required to disclose the information on job applications or other forms, making it easier to secure employment, housing, and other opportunities. This is where expungement can be much more beneficial than a dismissal.

In Florida, expungement is available to a limited group of people. Only those whose cases have been dismissed, dropped, or acquitted are eligible for expungement. However, certain types of charges, including manslaughter, homicide, sex offenses, burglary, and drug trafficking are ineligible for expungement.

You may only have one expungement granted in your lifetime. If your case meets the eligibility requirements, you can file a petition with the court to have it expunged with the help of our criminal defense lawyers in Orlando. The court will review the petition and determine whether or not to grant it.

Learn more from our attorneys

Dismissal and expungement aren’t synonymous, but they can go hand-in-hand. For example, if you’re able to have your case dismissed, you may then be eligible for expungement. Either option can positively impact your future by providing an opportunity to move forward after being charged with a crime.

While there’s no guarantee of either outcome, working with an experienced attorney can greatly increase your chances of achieving a favorable result. Whether it’s a dismissal or expungement you’re after, the Orlando criminal defense attorneys at Katz & Phillips, P.A. can help you understand your options and determine the best course of action for your particular case.

From there, we can guide you through the necessary steps and advocate on your behalf. Contact us today to learn more and get started.

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