What is the Difference Between a Dismissal and Expungement?

Anyone who has been charged with a crime in Florida would prefer to have the entire matter simply go away or "disappear." Criminal law lingo is often confusing for those who have been charged with a criminal offense, whether the crime involves assault, theft, drugs, robbery, burglary, white-collar crimes such as embezzlement or identity theft, sex offense, or any other crime. If you have heard the terms "dismissal" and "Expungement" but aren't certain of the difference in Florida, hopefully the information below will shed light on the subject.

Criminal Charges Dismissed

When a criminal case or charge is dismissed, it means one of two things in most cases. When the evidence presented by prosecutors is not compelling enough to warrant a conviction, the charge or case may be dismissed, which means your criminal record will indicate that although you were charged with a crime, you were not convicted or "found guilty" of the offense alleged against you. Additionally, criminal charges may be dismissed when an individual has successfully completed any treatment program, rehabilitation, community service, etc. ordered by the court. Ultimately, when a case or charge is dismissed, those who are investigating your background such as potential employers, landlords, lending companies, etc. may learn that you were arrested, but not convicted of a crime.

In the case of Expungement, all evidence of an arrest, criminal charges, and other details are essentially "erased" from existence. In Florida, if a criminal case or charge has been dismissed you may be eligible for Expungement which means that anyone including potential employers, financial institutions, and others will never know that you were arrested or charged with a crime due to the fact the case is completely erased. When a case is expunged, all documents are destroyed leaving no evidence that a criminal case ever existed.

While both are beneficial to those who have been charged with a crime, an Expungement is preferable, as the original charge does not show up on your record, therefore no one is aware you have ever been arrested or charged with a crime.

A Dismissal is a Positive Outcome

A dismissal is a positive outcome for those who have faced criminal charges, as it always appears more favorable for those considering you for employment, housing, or education opportunities when they see that you were not convicted of a criminal offense. However, having your criminal record expunged is even better as it is essentially like never having been charged with a crime to begin with. That said, some agencies may still be capable of gaining access to information including your records if they really dig deep and make the effort, so be sure to speak with a knowledgeable Orlando criminal defense attorney who can help you understand the difference, and whether dismissal or Expungement is best in your unique situation.

Contact our Central Florida based criminal defense law firm for a free consultation.

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