People are putting way too much personal information online these days. Now, this isn’t a big deal if you’re the one putting out information about yourself–at least you can control what the world sees. The problem is, our clerk of courts are now publishing arrest reports. Back in the day, viewing a police report would take some effort. The clerk of court must be contacted, a written request made, or someone would have to show up to the clerk’s counter to physically view the court file. Not anymore. Anyone on Earth can now see your worst moment, online, for free.
We have 67 counties in Florida, each with its own clerk of court. Advances in document management software have enabled numerous clerk’s to publish police reports over the internet. That means all the false accusations found in that police report will be read by a potential employer, a potential partner, or a nosy neighbor.
And that, my friends, is why you should seal or expunge your criminal record.
Let’s say you have an arrest for battery domestic violence. Sure, it was dropped. Why would anyone look at a dropped case, right? Wrong. The police report is now online. I have a friend who directs the human resources department of an interstate hospital chain (Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Texas, and so on). Trust me, they’re taking a look at that dropped case–if it’s available. They’re nosy. Heck, your neighbor has probably looked at that dropped police report. Someone you may be dating will, eventually, look at that police report (usually, it’s the girlfriends who have investigated the report, but you get the idea).
The police report lists where you were born. The police report lists your occupation. The police report lists your height, your weight, your hair color, your eye color, your address, your phone number, your driver’s license number. The only thing protected is your social security number.
Even though charges may have been dropped, the police report still contains the bogus accusations, for all the world to see. If your significant other told the police you are a heavy cocaine user–it’s in there. You can bet the police wrote that down. If your significant other complained that you’ve been cheating with your cousin, or a hundred other angry nasty embarrassing lies–it’s available online for all the world to see. You must get the clerk to take it down, and sealing or expunging is the only way to do it.
Let’s walk through how easy it is to read nasty, bogus accusations online. My example for today is Orange County Clerk of Court’s website. If you head to the Orange County Clerk of Court’s website, you can input a person’s name into the form shown to your right. Once you’ve entered the person’s information, a list of cases is going to appear for that name, just click on the name of the person listed.
When you click on the criminal case of the person you’ve searched, the reason for expunging the file may not be immediately obvious to you. Be patient, you’re almost there. Click on a particular case file. The real reason you want to expunge your record is found under the “Docket Events” section, and I’ve taken a picture of just such a page to show you what it looks like.
The magic comes when you hit those tiny green squares. You can barely see them on my crappy screen photo, but they’re there, and they’re secretly wrecking people’s lives. Once you click on the green square labeled “Complaint” or “Arrest Report” or “Affidavit for Arrest Warrant”–anything like that will reveal the ugly accusations.
The green squares reveal the scanned original documents submitted by the police. Every embarrassing detail. And, as you can see below, clicking on the “complaint” can reveal some information that the world has no business knowing. See my example below, where the public record indicates the race, date of birth, driver’s license number, home address, phone number, place of birth, height, weight, hair color, and eye color.
As you can see from the attached example police report, anyone can view the problems this couple was having. A typical police report contains loads of unnecessary details that only serve to make the guy (or gal) arrested look worse than they already do. I’ve edited the attached police report, even though these folks have not decided to expunge this police report. So, the whole world can read about this guy, supposedly, throwing his old girlfriend across the room, throwing her down the hallway, causing scratches on both knees and forearm.
Sure, a seal or expunge cannot erase every piece of data floating around out there. Some background check companies still maintain a record of the incident–but they don’t have the reports. And, as we all know, these reports are embarrassing. They only tell half the story, and it’s often the untrue half. Sealing or expunging will keep these reports off the internet. If you’ve ever been accused of a crime, trust me, you don’t want your neighbors reading your police reports. You don’t want a potential employer reading these reports. You don’t want that blind date checking out these reports. You don’t want your kids reading these reports when they get old enough to search the web. The internet is forever. I’m just saying.