What is the Difference Between a Dismissal and an Expungement?

By  //  November 2, 2020

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When someone is charged with a crime, there are different ways in which their case can be resolved. The worst-case scenario is that they are found guilty and then go on to face the penalties associated with their criminal charge.

Naturally, the best-case scenario is that they are let off and do not face any penalties that affect their personal freedom or their finances.

Needless to say, everyone who has been charged with a criminal act wants the best case scenario. However, there are different ways in which the case can be resolved in the defendant’s favour and they can be having the case dismissed or expunged.

Both outcomes are desirable, but to achieve either one, the defendant will need the help of an attorney who is experienced in criminal defense law. They will know what steps to take to get the resolution that their client needs. So, if you ever get charged with a crime, make sure to get the right defense attorney.

Case Dismissals and Expungements Explained

When a case gets dismissed, the charges that were brought against the defendant will get dropped. But there will be a history of the arrest and it, as well as the case file, will still be part of the public record.

By contrast, with an expungement, the record of the arrest and the criminal case are both destroyed and there will be no public access to that information.

An expungement is the better outcome because internet searches will not have any record of the arrest, which means that possible employers will not know if the person seeking employment has a criminal record or not.

That can be useful because many employers refuse to hire people who have criminal records. However, while regular internet searches will not uncover the criminal record of an individual who had their case expunged, some law enforcement and government agencies will still be able to access those records.

Cases That Are Eligible For Expungement

In order for a case to be expunged, certain criteria need to be met. That is because some criminal cases are ineligible for expungement, though they can still be dismissed.

Those crimes are all categorized as felonies and include the following:

Murder, manslaughter, or homicide

Drug Trafficking

Assault or battery

Human Trafficking


Sexual misconduct or sexual offenses towards a minor


Burglary, robbery, or carjacking

Stalking or voyeurism

Another factor that prevents someone from having a case expunged is if they had a previous case expunged. So the people who have a chance of getting their case expunged are those with no prior criminal records who have been charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Also people who were arrested but had no charges filed against them can get their case expunged. The same goes for those who had their case dismissed for lack of evidence.

Juveniles who were charged with a misdemeanor and completed a diversionary program can also have their case expunged.

How to Get a Case Expunged

The person applying to have their case expunged must petition the court by first submitting a Certificate of Eligibility for Court Ordered Sealing or Expungement.

This certificate can be obtained by downloading it from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) website or by requesting it from them. The certificate must be filled out and submitted to the FDLE along with the following documents:

A written, certified statement completed by the state attorney or statewide prosecutor.

A certified disposition for each case listed on the application.

A completed fingerprint form or card.

A processing fee of $75.

A letter of representation from their attorney.

There are some cases where the courts will automatically expunge a case after a period of time. They are cases where the charges were dropped or were never filed to begin with.

Any juvenile who was charged with a crime will have their record automatically expunged when they reach the age of 21. However, that is only if they were not charged as an adult for their crime.

Individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 can apply for early expungement if they did not commit a crime within the past five years.

You Need an Attorney to Get Your Case Dismissed or Expunged

If you were charged with a crime and want to get a dismissal or better yet, an expungement, then you will need to get in touch with an experienced felony expungement lawyer.

They will let you know if your case is eligible for expungement and will help you to initiate the procedures that lead to that outcome.

If your case is not eligible for expungement, then they will do everything in their power to get it dismissed. Expungement is better than a dismissal, but both are better than facing criminal penalties and punishment, so be sure to contact an attorney if you want to avoid that fate.