Expungement or Seal
"My arrest just won't go away"
After being arrested for an alleged criminal offense, you or your loved one may assume that being found "not guilty" or having the criminal charges "dropped" means that the criminal records of the arrests go away.
Unfortunately, an arrest in Florida remains a matter of public record even if the alleged offender was never adjudicated guilty of the crime in question.
The good news is that Florida law allows individuals in these situations to have their criminal records sealed or expunged so they can legally deny that they were ever arrested.
The process of sealing or expunging a criminal record, however, can be extremely complicated and has numerous restrictions not only on the number of times people can seal or expunge records but also the kinds of offenses that may be sealed or expunged.
Two different things...
In Florida, expunging and sealing your record and record sealing are two different processes. But when a record is sealed or expunged, most potential employers who conduct background checks, for example, will be prohibited from accessing the information, and, in many cases, once your record has been expunged or sealed you may legally “deny or fail to acknowledge” your prior record. (Florida Statutes §§ 943.0585, 943.059 (2018)).
Sealing your record
After a criminal history record is sealed, the general public will not have access to it. Under Florida law, only certain government agencies — including law enforcement and the court system — will be able to view sealed information. (Florida Statutes § 943.059 (2018)).
Expunging your record
If a court orders your record to be expunged, it must be physically destroyed by criminal justice agencies, except that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement must retain a copy. That copy is kept confidential and can only be viewed by court order. In most cases, it is as if the incident never happened.
Who Is Eligible to Have Their Criminal Record Sealed or Expunged?
You may petition to have your criminal record sealed if you were not convicted of a crime or if adjudication of guilt has been withheld. To qualify, you must not have had a criminal record sealed or expunged in the past, nor may you have a pending petition to seal or expunge a criminal record. Criminal records related to any of the serious offenses specified in the statute — such as arson, homicide, kidnapping, and certain sex offenses — can never be sealed. (Florida Statutes § 943.059 (2018)).
Expungement, on the other hand, is generally available only in cases where no charges were filed, charges were dismissed, or when the criminal record you want expunged has been sealed for ten years. Florida law prohibits the expungement of records for a wide range of crimes — including some crimes that can be sealed. (Florida Statutes § 943.0585 (2018)).
If you were found guilty — or pleaded guilty or nolo contendere (or "no contest") — there is a long list of crimes that are not eligible for expungement or sealing under Florida law, even if the adjudication was withheld. For example, you cannot have your record expunged or sealed if you have been found guilty of any felony or of child abuse.
Which is why you may need my help in petitioning the court to either seal or expunge your record.
There is hope
If you or a loved one is applying to a job, and would like to see if your criminal record can be expunged or sealed, please call our 24-hour telephone number 305-461-1066 to set up an appointment and free consultation so we can assess your particular case and provide you with the best legal advice on how to proceed. Your meeting with me will be strictly confidential and subject to the attorney-client privilege.
I want to hear your side of the story.
State and Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
55 Merrick Way ~ Suite 212
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
305-461-1066 (24 Hours)
We are solely a Criminal Defense Law Firm. That's all we do and all we have done since 1987.