Sealing or Expunging a Criminal Record in Florida
If you have been arrested for a crime, even if the charges were dismissed, you have a criminal record. A criminal record can cause you difficulties in finding work, renting an apartment, obtaining credit, and other important tasks. Under certain circumstances, however, you can protect yourself by having your record sealed or expunged.
Sealing and expunging – what are they?
The process of sealing or expunging a criminal record is begun through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and governed by statute (Fl. Stat. §§943.059 and 943.0585) and administrative rules. Sealing and expunging are two different things. When a record is sealed, it is closed to public view, but it still exists. Sealed records remain available to certain entities under particular circumstances. For instance, sealed records may be accessed when:
- You apply for a job with law enforcement or the justice system;
- You try to buy a firearm; or
- You apply for a job working with children or the elderly.
However, an ordinary background check conducted by a potential employer will not turn up sealed records. Moreover, in most circumstances you can legally say you have never been accused of a crime if your record has been sealed or expunged.
Expunging your record means that all public records of your arrest are destroyed, as if it never happened.
When can you have a criminal record sealed or expunged?
By law, you can only request to have your record sealed or expunged as an adult if the charges were dismissed. If you went to trial, even if you were not convicted, your record will not be cleared. Moreover, if you were charged with certain serious crimes, including some sexual and drug offenses, you are ineligible to have your record sealed or expunged. Initially, the record will be sealed, but you may request that it be expunged after 10 years. However, by law the court cannot seal more than one record, unless any additional arrests are related to the first arrest.
Juvenile convictions are automatically expunged at age 23 or 25, depending on your criminal history and the nature of the particular offense. If the charges against you as a juvenile were dismissed, or if you successfully completed a pretrial diversion program, you are also eligible to have your record sealed.
How does the process work?
To begin the process of clearing your criminal record, you must file an application with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The process for sealing and expunging is similar. If the agency determines that you are eligible, it will issue a Certificate of Eligibility. If the certificate is granted, the next step is to petition the court in the jurisdiction where the events occurred. The petition requires a sworn statement that:
- Prior to filing the petition, you have never been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense;
- You have not been adjudicated guilty of any of the acts stemming from the arrest or allegedly criminal acts to which the petition pertains; and
- You have never before had a record sealed or expunged.
Consult an Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Florida, you need an experienced, skilled criminal defense lawyer in your corner. The dedicated criminal defense attorneys of The Baez Law Firm represent clients charged with a wide variety of crimes in Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and throughout the state. Contact us for a consultation about your case today.