Many people contact our office to discuss whether their prior criminal cases are public records and if they can be expunged. But what happens in a case where an individual has not been arrested or charged with a crime. What if they were merely, “investigated”, by police?
For example, they may have been a witness or a suspect in a crime, and were ultimately never charged with a crime, never arrested, and no further action was taken. The investigating police may have written a police report. What happens to the report? The person was neither arrested or charged, but no one else was either. The case is still “technically” open until it is solved.
We’ve all heard of cases where someone is suspect in a crime, not arrested at the time, but is eventually arrested many years later. Usually when we see this it’s a murder case on Dateline or 48 hours. In these cases the police report that exists within the department may be a public record that would fall under the regulations set out in Florida Statutes 199.07 and 199.071. Does this mean that your records might be obtained by a potential employer even though you were never convicted or arrested? Maybe.
Florida Statute 199.071 states that “active” criminal investigative information is exempt from disclosure. That means once your case is closed, the report would most likely be subject to public records review. Also, there are certain records of victims which would remain exempt from disclosure no matter what, including the identity of a victim of child abuse or a sexual offense. However, there is an interesting exception even to this type of sensitive information. The same statute goes on to say that criminal investigative information of this type may be disclosed by a law enforcement agency:
- In furtherance of its official duties and responsibilities; and
- To another governmental agency in furtherance of its official duties and responsibilities
At first blush, this may seem logical. After all, we want law enforcement to be able to relay confidential information that might lead to catching a vicious criminal or solving a crime. However, the language is very vague. There are hundreds of government agencies that might have no ability to help solve a crime. How much information can they release and to what kind of governmental agency? If you are being falsely accused of child abuse by your ex-wife and the case appears to be unsubstantiated, should the Agency for Workforce Innovation be able to get that record? Why? And after the case is closed because it was unfounded, why aren’t those records about you exempt from disclosure.
Contact our experienced Pasco County criminal defense attorneys today to see if you qualify to seal or expunge your case – or if your records may be subject to public records disclosure.