Your goals for the new year should include a fresh start.
If you have been arrested in Florida, you are familiar with the limitations that coincide with an unwanted arrest record. Common limitations include passing a background check for a job, buying or renting a home for you and your family, and certain travel restrictions. Having a record can also factor into your relationships, affect your self-esteem, and remind you of a past you've left far behind.
After all, the offense could have occurred several years ago and what you need is a fresh start.
We are here to help you achieve a fresh start by exploring how to expunge or even seal your record. We can see you through the tedious process of completing and filing all the necessary forms. We will represent you for all court appearances, some of which you may not need to attend, and explain the process to you after your records have been sealed or expunged.
To Seal or Expunge, What's the Difference?
First, it's essential to understand the difference between sealing and expunging your record. Sealing your record provides you with the protection of having your criminal record sealed and exempt from public disclosure. However, your record will be maintained by certain criminal justice agencies and clerk's offices.
Section 943.045(16), Florida Statutes, defines “expunction of a criminal history record” as the “court-ordered physical destruction…” of the record or a portion of the record. In addition to the requirements listed above for sealing, expunging eligibility has two additional criteria:
- There must never have been information, indictment, or other charging document filed in your case. If one was filed, the formal charging document must have been dismissed or nolle prosequi by the prosecutor or dismissed by the court, or you were found not guilty by a jury or the judge.
- If you pled guilty or were sentenced on the case and received a withholding of adjudication, you must first have the criminal history record sealed for a minimum of 10 years before you can petition to have the record expunged.
Additionally, your records could be eligible for expungement if:
- Charges were dismissed before trial.
- You have no other convictions on your record
- If you have no other Florida cases expunged or sealed
If your record is expunged, the criminal history is physically destroyed. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is the only agency that will maintain the file confidentially.
What Charges Cannot Be Expunged or Sealed in the State of Florida?
If you were convicted of any of the following, expungement and sealing your records is not an option.
- Aggravated assault;
- Aggravated battery;
- Burglary of a dwelling;
- Child abuse or aggravated child abuse;
- Domestic violence cases
- Drug trafficking or manufacturing;
- Sexual Misconduct;
- Sexual Battery;
- Some lewd or lascivious offenses;
- Sex offenses that are predicated to registration as a sexual predator; or
- Stalking and aggravated stalking
Type of Expungement
There are several types of expungement processes that we can discuss in more detail with you. There are specific requirements and procedures for each type listed below.
We are well versed in assisting in all forms and proceedings associated with each type. They are:
- Administrative Expungement – If you were arrested as a juvenile or an adult by mistake or, on the contrary to law, your record might be eligible to be expunged by applying to FLDE.
- Court-Ordered Sealing or Expungement – Certificate of Eligibility provided by the courts must be received to proceed.
- Juvenile Diversion Expungement – a person who has completed an authorized juvenile diversion program for a misdemeanor may apply for a juvenile diversion expungement, as defined.
- Lawful Self-Defense Expungement – Defense Certificate of Eligibility is received if the appropriate state attorney or statewide prosecutor certifies that you acted in lawful self-defense.
- Human Trafficking Expungement – Criminal history for an offense committed or reported to have been committed as a victim of a human trafficking scheme.
- Automatic Juvenile Expungement – the criminal history record of a minor maintained by FDLE will automatically be expunged. We will assist in providing details to you.
- Early Juvenile Expungement – a person between the ages of 18 and 21 may apply to have their record expunged.
To begin expunging your record, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) provides the application to complete. We will work through this application to clarify that all information is accurately represented.
You will need to provide your fingerprints along with a prepared deposition that we will draft on your behalf. From this point, the State Attorney in the appropriate county or jurisdiction will then complete their portion of the FDLE application.
The package is then submitted to the FDLE, who will certify your eligibility for expungement. Once we have the notice to proceed, we will file a petition to the court of the jurisdiction where your records reside.
In all cases, a judge must approve and sign the order to seal or expunge, which may or may not require a hearing. The entire process takes about a month unless errors are made in the application process, which requires an individual to start over at the original application—one of the primary reasons for hiring an attorney to handle your expungement.
Again, you may also find the option to seal your record in the State of Florida, which grants an exemption of your record from public disclosure, but the court and legal officials still maintain it. Click here to learn more about the differences in sealing and expunging a record in Florida.
Keep Calm. Call Us
The process of petitioning a court to seal or expunge a criminal history record is lengthy and stringent. The assistance of an experienced Florida sealing or expungement lawyer is crucial. At Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, our attorneys have over 25 years of combined experience assisting people in having their criminal history record sealed or expunged. We know what it takes to get the best result in your case. Call us today for a free consultation at 727-531-2926.