A criminal record can be like a weight hanging around your neck. It inhibits your ability to get a better job or house, and even if you’re able to find employment, it may not be in your chosen field. Imagine, then, what having your record “erased” could be like? While there’s no easy way to clear your record, Florida law does allow for some individuals who have been charged or convicted of particular offenses to have their records sealed or expunged.
What is Sealing?
When a record is sealed, it is no longer available to the public. This does not mean that it ceases to exist, however. Law enforcement and some government agencies will still be able to access your record, and it can be unsealed with a court order. This is more likely to occur if you are charged with additional criminal offenses in the future.
What is Expungement?
When a record is expunged, it is destroyed. Law Enforcement must keep a confidential copy that is only accessible via court order. However, all other agencies must physically destroy their copies of your record.
When individuals try to access an expunged record, they will receive a message stating, “Criminal History Record Expunged Pursuant to Florida Statutes 943” (Florida Statutes § 943.0585 (2018)).
Again, this doesn’t render it totally inaccessible. A court order can allow your record to be viewed.
Why Should I Get My Record Sealed or Expunged?
When you have a criminal record, even for minor offenses, everyday things like getting a job, applying for a loan, and renting an apartment can be more difficult. Many employers won’t consider individuals with a criminal record, regardless of how benign the charges are. Having your record sealed or expunged can help to restore some semblance of normalcy to your life and allow you to access the resources you need to get ahead.
How Do I Get My Record Sealed or Expunged in Florida?
Not all records can be sealed or expunged. Statute 943.0584 lays out the different offenses that are ineligible, including (but not limited to):
- Murder, manslaughter, or homicide
- Assault or battery
- Kidnapping or human trafficking
- Sexual misconduct or offenses against a minor
- Arson or illegal use of explosives
- Burglary, robbery, or carjacking
- Stalking or voyeurism
- Drug trafficking
If you have been convicted of any of the above crimes, you will not be able to have your record sealed or expunged. Notice that they are generally felonies and include some form of violence or sexual misconduct. You will also be unable to have your record sealed or expunged if you have had a previous record sealed or expunged.
This means that those who have the best chance of having their records sealed or expunged are those with only a misdemeanor on their record or an arrest with no charges filed.
For example, if charges were never filed or if your case was dismissed for lack of evidence, you may petition the court to have your record expunged (Statute 943.0585). The Automatic Sealing and Expungement Statute of 2019 also applies here, so even if you take no action, the court may automatically seal your record within a set period of time.
If you were a juvenile when you were charged with a misdemeanor offense and you have completed your diversion program, you may also seek to have your record expunged. Victims of Human Trafficking and those who have been found to have acted in self-defense may also apply for expungement.
To have your record sealed or expunged, you will need to submit a Certificate of Eligibility for Court-Ordered Sealing or Expungement, a written statement (for expungement only), a certified deposition, a fingerprint card, and a $75 processing fee. If you are represented by a lawyer, you will also need to submit a letter of representation.
The court will then determine how to handle your record. They may expunge it, expunge part of it, or deny the request. Some of the things they will consider include the severity of the charges when the charges or offenses occurred, and any legal issues you may have had since those charges.
To better understand your chances of getting your record sealed or expunged, it’s crucial that you speak with someone who knows about the process. There are plenty of websites that say they can help you navigate the application process but speaking to a qualified attorney will help ensure you get the best information that is most applicable to your particular case. Too many of the websites offering to help only provide general information in hopes of collecting your credit card number with no real legal advice.
Automatic Sealing & Expungement of Records in Florida
As mentioned previously, some records may be eligible for automatic sealing or expungement, such as those where no charges were filed or the charges were dropped.
In addition, juvenile records are expunged at age 21 (or at 26 if the minor was in a correctional facility), as long as the juvenile is not charged as an adult for a crime.
Because juvenile records can impact an individual’s ability to go to college, there is also an option for early juvenile expungement. Those between 18 and 21 can apply to have their record expunged if they haven’t committed a criminal offense within the past 5 years.
Get a Clean Slate—Contact Mike G Law
To better understand what types of offenses can be sealed or expunged, you need to talk to a Tampa lawyer. As with most laws, there are plenty of caveats that can make understanding which records can be sealed or expunged confusing.
At Mike G Law, we will help you better understand the process and determine whether you should apply to have your record sealed or expunged. We can also inform you whether you are eligible for automatic sealing or expungement, thus saving you time.
Take back control over your future. Call Mike G Law to discuss whether you can have your record sealed or expunged.