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Protecting your reputation after an arrest is extremely important. The process of sealing and expunction can be long, complicated and very frustrating. Forms are available online for individuals to apply to have their records sealed and expunged but hiring an experienced attorney can save a lot of time and prevent endless frustration. The Law Firm of Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC has over 20 years of combined experience defending clients charged with all levels of crimes. All Criminal Charges are serious and you need a skilled Attorney to seal and expunge those records today. Call us for a free private consultation at (727) 531-2926 anytime, 24-7!
FREE CRIMINAL DEFENSE | PERSONAL INJURY CASE EVALUATION
If you have ever been involved in a Civil or Criminal court case, there is a good chance that personal information about you will find its way online through news articles, media, and third-party data collecting websites that are publishing public court records online.
Regardless of the legal outcome of the case, access to sensitive information about you online will have a negative impact on the reputation of you and your family.
At the Law Offices of Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC, we are trained and experienced criminal record attorneys. Part of being an excellent and reputable attorney is making sure that clients are fully protected. If you are arrested and hire us to represent you, we will advise whether you are eligible to have your case sealed or expunged. If you are eligible, we will file the necessary paperwork to begin the process of sealing and expunction.
A criminal history is secured and inaccessible when it is sealed by a court order. In order to obtain the court-order sealing your record, you must meet certain eligibility requirements and follow the application and petitioning process set out in Section 943.059, Florida Statutes. To be eligible for the sealing of your criminal history record, the following criteria must be met:
- You must never have been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation, and must never have been adjudicated delinquent (as a juvenile) for committing any felony or a misdemeanor specified in 943.051(3)(b), Florida Statutes;
- You must not have been adjudicated guilty of or adjudicated delinquent for committing any of the acts that stem from the arrest or alleged criminal activity that is the subject of the petition to seal your record;
- You must not have previously had a criminal history record sealed or expunged anywhere;
- You cannot have any petition to seal or petition to expunge pending before any court;
- The charge which you are petitioning the court to seal or expunge must not be a disqualifying offense (discussed below);
- Any sentence of probation or court supervision must have ended.
If the criteria above are met, the process to seal a criminal history record is begun by applying to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for a certificate of eligibility. You must obtain fingerprints on an approved form and send that along with your application. In addition, you must include a certified copy of the disposition of the case from the clerk of court, as well as a completed application and a $75.00 money order.
Once the certificate of eligibility is obtained from FDLE, the next step is to petition the court. A proper Petition to Seal must be drafted and filed with the court. Along with the petition to seal, you must provide a proposed order for sealing, as well as an affidavit or a sworn statement that you meet the necessary requirements. You must serve a copy of your petition upon the state attorney’s office or appropriate prosecuting authority, as well as the arresting agency. You then must await the issuance of the order from the court that will either grant or deny your petition to seal. A hearing on your petition may be scheduled. Your attendance is mandatory at such a hearing.
Section 943.045(19), Florida Statutes, defines “sealing of a criminal history record” as the “preservation of a record under such circumstances that it is secure and inaccessible to any person not having a legal right or access to the record” or to the information in the record.
Section 943.045(16), Florida Statutes, defines “expunction of a criminal history record” as the “court-ordered physical destruction…” of the record or of a portion of the record. In addition to the requirements listed above for sealing, expunction eligibility has two additional criteria that must be met:
- There must never have been information, indictment, or other charging document filed in your case, or 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.
The main difference between a record that is sealed and one that is expunged is the existence of the record or file itself. As stated in the definition, a sealed record is exempt from public disclosure, but it is still maintained by certain criminal justice agencies and clerk’s offices. An expunged record, as the definition states, is physically destroyed. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is the only agency that will maintain the file confidentially.
With the growing popularity of the Internet and social networking, it is important to understand how this web craze can and will affect your reputation, especially if you are arrested. If you live in Pinellas County, for example, your criminal records are available online, anytime, for anyone to see. Click here to see.
Often, criminal charges may hinder your ability to get a job. Making sure your name is clear if you are eligible, is an absolute necessity. many employers are looking for these three things:
- What type of crime was committed?
- How long ago was the crime committed?
- How relevant is the crime to the job at issue?
Determine if you qualify to have your records expunged:
- You have never applied to have your record sealed or expunged before.
- You haven’t been “convicted” of any crimes or criminal ordinances.
- You are not under any form of court supervision (probation, community control, etc.)
- Is your offense one for which you received a “withhold of adjudication”?
If you answered “No” to the four questions above you may qualify to seal and expunge your records. If you answered “YES” to any one of the questions above, please contact us to be sure. This is a complicated process and the qualifications aren’t all black and white.
Sealing and expungement are fairly lengthy, complicated processes. We advise you to consult with an experienced Clearwater criminal defense lawyer who handles sealing and expungement of criminal records regularly.
If you have been arrested, call us. Not only will we ensure we do everything we can to achieve the best possible outcome, we will also resolve your case with the goal of ultimately having your record sealed and expunged. It is important to remember that the way your case is resolved will have a direct effect on your ability to later have your records sealed and expunged.
We represent individuals charged with crimes in Clearwater, Largo, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and surrounding counties. Contact our experienced criminal record attorneys today at (727) 531-2926 for your free consultation.
Powers Sellers & Finkelstein Team
Amanda Powers Sellers
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Jenna C. Finkelstein
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