Being charged with a criminal offense is typically an emotionally charged experience, particularly if it is the first time you have been accused of a crime. For most defendants, the first concern is whether or not a period of incarceration will be necessary if convicted. Once it becomes clear that serving time in jail will not be necessary for a client, the next frequently asked question is “will this be on my record?”
There is no simple answer except to say that as a starting point all criminal convictions in Florida become part of the defendant’s permanent record. In practical terms, what this means is that if you are convicted of a criminal offense in the State of Florida a record of that conviction will be available to potential employers, landlords, government agencies, and other law enforcement agencies. The conviction will remain on your record for life. Contrary to what many people believe a criminal conviction in Florida does not “fall off” your record like a bad debt falls off of your credit report after a certain amount of time has passed.
There are, however, situations in which a conviction will never make it onto your record or an arrest can be erased from your record. Most jurisdictions in the State of Florida have a Misdemeanor Pretrial Diversion Program, or Pretrial Intervention program, which offers an accused the opportunity to avoid a conviction on the individual’s criminal record. As the name implies, these programs are only available when the defendant has been charged with a misdemeanor offense. If the prosecutor offers a diversion program as an option you will typically be supervised for a period of 6 to 12 months and will be required to comply with additional terms and conditions of the program. The additional conditions may include things such as payment of restitution, completion of community service hours, completion of a treatment program, and maintaining employment or enrollment in school. If you complete the program the state will dismiss the charges against you, meaning there will be no record of a conviction. Pre-trial diversion may also be available for some felony charges with similar requirements.
If you were arrested, but not convicted, of a criminal offense in Florida you may be eligible to have the record of that arrest sealed or expunged. Only an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney can tell you if your record qualifies to be sealed or expunged; however, if you do qualify to have a record sealed or expunged the end result is that the record of your arrest will no longer be accessible to the general public. It may, however, still be available to law enforcement and other agencies under certain circumstances.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, contact an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the prosecution of your case. Contact Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC when you need a criminal defense attorney working for you. Keep Calm Call Us®! 727-531-2926.