Expungement and Sealing of Criminal Records in FL: How to Get a Fresh Start

June 24, 2024 Criminal Defense Attorneys

Our criminal defense attorneys have handled many cases where someone simply made a mistake. They paid their debts to society and carried out any punishments as ordered from the courts. But, unfortunately in some cases, that mistake may remain on their record long after they’ve dealt with the consequences. Having a criminal record, in general, can affect one’s ability to get a job, obtain housing, or even pursue educational opportunities. Fortunately, Florida law provides the opportunity for expungement and sealing of criminal records, which can help give someone with a criminal record a fresh start.

What are Expungement and Sealing?balance-of-laws-brass-statue-on-desk--with-man-holding-clipboard-in-background-for-expungement-and-sealing-records

Expungement and sealing are legal processes that limit public accessibility of criminal records. Although they are similar processes, they differ in the degree of privacy they offer:

  • Expungement: When a record is expunged, it is physically destroyed, and the public will not have access to it. Only certain government agencies, including law enforcement, can access an expunged record under specific circumstances.
  • Sealing: When a record is sealed, it remains intact but is hidden from the public. This means employers, landlords, and other entities conducting background checks cannot view the sealed record. However, it is still accessible to government agencies and, in some cases, can be reopened by court order.

Eligibility for Expungement or Sealing

Not everyone is eligible for expungement or sealing of their criminal records. In Florida, the following criteria is taken into consideration for eligibility:

  1. No Prior Sealed or Expunged Records: Individuals can only expunge or seal a record if they have not previously had another record sealed or expunged anywhere in the state.
  2. Certain Offenses are Ineligible: Some crimes, such as serious sexual offenses, violent crimes, and certain other serious felonies, are not eligible for sealing or expungement.
  3. Case Disposition: The disposition of a case also affects eligibility. Typically, someone might want to have a record expunged if charges were dropped, dismissed, or were acquitted. Sealing is often available if a person has not been formally convicted.

The Process of Expungement and Sealingfiling-cabinet-filled-of-manilla-folders-that-are-numbered-signifying-criminal-records-in-florida

The process of expunging or sealing a criminal record in Florida involves several steps:

  1. The first step is to determine whether someone is eligible for expungement or sealing. This typically involves reviewing their criminal record and the final disposition of the case.
  2. He/she then has to apply for, and obtain, a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The certificate is a pre-requirement of filing a petition to seal or expunge the record.
  3. Having acquired a Certificate of Eligibility, he/she is at liberty to file a petition with the court of jurisdiction. This petition should include said certificate and any other supporting documents.
  4. Upon receipt of a petition, a court will sometimes hold a hearing to further discuss whether said petition should be granted. The judge, when holding such a hearing, will generally consider any prior criminal history, the nature of the offense, or objections raised by the prosecution.
  5. If the court grants the petition, the court will enter an order directing that the record be expunged or sealed by all appropriate agencies. The order shall identify the particular records to be hidden or disposed of and the extent of restriction.

Seeking Legal Guidance

The process of obtaining an expungement or seal can be complicated and full of legal formalities. Having a criminal defense attorney to help walk you through this process is important to ensure steps aren’t missed. Our team can also help determine eligibility, help prepare any required documents, and then present them in a court of law.

If you have a criminal record and are ready to take the first step toward a fresh start, contact our office today to schedule a consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys will work with you to take control of your future and leave your past behind!

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