How To Expunge Or Seal Criminal Records In Florida
It seems unfair that a mistake or youthful indiscretion can follow someone through the rest of their adult lives as part of a criminal record. Unfortunately, regardless of what happened, certain arrests or criminal charges can linger on a person’s permanent record, causing issues in the future with:
- Job applications
- Housing/Rental applications
- Applications for loans or credit
- College applications, or applications for scholarships and loans
The good news is that Florida law allows people to have a second chance, and to clear their criminal record under certain circumstances. This process is known as Expunction of a Criminal History Record. In some cases, people can also request a Sealing of a Criminal History Record.
Expunction of a Criminal History Record under Florida Law
Under Section 943.045(16), Florida Statutes, the expunction of a criminal history record is a “court-ordered physical destruction or obliteration of a record or portion of a record by any criminal justice agency having custody thereof.”
In short, expunction eliminates documents and information pertaining to a past criminal incident from a person’s criminal record. A confidential record will remain with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for limited purposes under the Statute, but would not be part of your public record.
Essentially, expunction wipes the record clean from public knowledge, as if the incident never happened.
Criteria for a criminal record to be expunged include:
- There was no adjudication of guilt (guilty plea or verdict) associated with the record in question;
- Charges were dropped or dismissed;
- The individual has no prior sealed or expunged cases pursued under Florida law;
- The individual is not currently under probation or other court supervision;
- The criminal record is not on the list of excluded offenses for expunction.
Records not eligible for expunction in Florida under Sec. 943.0584, Florida Statutes, include, among other serious offenses:
- Assault or battery
- Sexual misconduct
- Murder or manslaughter
- Lewd or lascivious offenses
The list of excluded offenses is extensive, and limits expunction to records of minor, non-violent offenses under Florida law.
Sealing of a Criminal History Record under Florida Law
Under Section 943.045, Florida Statutes, the sealing of a criminal history record “means the preservation of a record under such circumstances that it is secure and inaccessible to any person not having a legal right of access to the record or the information contained and preserved therein.”
Basically, sealing a record means the public – landlords, lenders, most employers – can’t view information regarding the incident. The record remains on file under court protection, and may still be viewed by court staff, law enforcement, and other governmental entities. These records may also still be viewable as part of a background check for firearms purchases, or employment with the Department of Children and Family Services or other entities serving children or senior citizens .
Eligibility for sealing a record falls within the same general guidelines as expunction, and includes a variety of criminal records that cannot be sealed from public view.
When to Talk to a Florida Attorney about Expunction or Sealing of a Criminal Record
The process of expunction or sealing records starts with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), and the steps required can seem convoluted, technical, and time consuming. It may be difficult to determine, on your own, whether your record is eligible for expunction given the many requirements and exceptions involved. Your best bet is to begin your efforts with the assistance of a knowledgeable Orlando area criminal defense attorney that has handled these matters for clients in your same position.
Expunging or sealing a record, when possible, is a rewarding experience that can help people move on with their lives. No longer will they worry about a “skeleton in the closet” popping up during applications for a job, apartment, or bank loan.
Our Attorneys at Joshi Law, PA, Can Help You Clear Your Record
The Orlando record sealing & expungement attorneys at Joshi Law Firm, PA, know that securing peace of mind and protecting your reputation can be priceless. You may have a stain on your record that can be corrected and cleared under the right circumstances. We can review your record with you and help you determine what steps are needed to expunge or seal information about a past incident that you want to move on from. Contact us today for help.