Florida is considered one of the toughest states in terms of expunging or sealing criminal records. Florida only allows the expungement of a criminal record if the person’s record does not reflect a conviction, or if it has been sealed for 10 or more years.
If a person plead no contest, was found guilty, or pled guilty to a criminal charge, he or she would not be eligible for expungement if the crime was on the list of disqualifying offenses. For instance, being found guilty of any felony, or of driving under the influence (DUI) would disqualify an individual from having his record expunged.
The terms, “expunge” and “seal” are often used interchangeably, but have two different meanings. When a record is sealed, most employers cannot access the record because it is stored on government databases, and is not accessible by the public. However, entities such as city, county, state, and federal government agencies may access the record. The military and police organizations also have access to records.
Any of the above agencies can see that a record has been expunged, but a court order is required to see the information within the record. It is possible to expunge a case if it was dismissed before a trial. If it was not dismissed, you cannot have it expunged, but you may still be able to have it sealed.
What is Florida’s Eligibility for Expungement?
If you can answer “no” to the following questions, you may be eligible to seal or expunge your record in Florida:
- Have you ever been found guilty of a criminal offense?
- Are you currently on probation, under house arrest, or on pretrial release?
- Have you ever sealed or expunged a prior record?
- Have you ever entered a “no contest” plea, or a plea of “guilty” for any offense that is considered ineligible for expungement?
The list of ineligible offenses in Florida is lengthy, and includes offenses such as sex crimes, assault and battery, drug trafficking, and burglary. Charges that resulted in an acquittal may be expunged after having been sealed for at least 10 years. If all charges that relate to an arrest were dismissed prior to trial, then they may be eligible for expungement.
But, remember you can qualify for expungement, file the paperwork, and follow all the steps but still have your request denied. No one is guaranteed expungement, and it is always up to the state if they wish to grant expungement and they may consider many factors (aside from the ones listed above).
How to Petition for an Order of Expungement in Florida
In order to petition the court for an order to seal or expunge a criminal history record, you must first meet the requirements to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility. The application for the Certificate of Eligibility can be found online at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) website. Section A must be completed in front of a Notary Public or a Deputy Clerk of the Court, and Section B must be completed by the prosecuting attorney from the jurisdiction where the charges originated.
An FDLE fingerprint form or fingerprint card are also required within the application. Additionally, a certified disposition of the case must also be included. A nonrefundable fee must accompany the packet, and if you are being represented by an attorney, a letter from your lawyer on his or her letterhead must be submitted with the application. Once you have obtained the certificate, you must file your petition with the court, and give the prosecutor and arresting agency a copy.
Your application for expungement must contain the following information:
- Full legal name and any aliases;
- Current mailing address;
- Date of Birth;
- Social Security Number and/or Driver’s license number; and
- Contact information like phone number and email address.
Your social security number and driver’s license number is not required, but it can help the process go faster by establishing your identity.
What Happens After You Expunge Your Record in Florida?
After successfully obtaining an expungement, the individual who is the subject of the criminal history record may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests of the expunged record. However, there are several exceptions, such as whether the person is a candidate for admission to The Florida Bar, or if he or she is a candidate for employment with a criminal justice agency. In these cases, and several others that are listed under Florida’s 2018 Statutes, the person cannot deny or fail to acknowledge a criminal record.
For some, the expungement of a criminal record will lead to more employment opportunities, better credit, and peace of mind. Once the record is ordered expunged, private and public entities no longer have access to the information, which means that, for many, getting a better job is now possible.
Should I Consult an Attorney to Expunge My Criminal Record in Florida?
The ramifications of having a criminal record in Florida are extensive. It is important to consult a criminal defense attorney to consider any options you may have toward removing charges that could potentially affect you for the rest of your life. If you have any questions regarding the process of expungement, contact a lawyer today.