Florida law allows for the expungement and sealing of criminal records in certain situations. There are several reasons why a person may seek to expunge his or her criminal record. Examples include:
- The criminal record is inaccurate;
- The police arrested you by mistake;
- You are a juvenile or an adult who completed a pretrial diversion program resulting in your charges being dropped, dismissed or a withhold of adjudication;
- Or your criminal record is accurate but you want it removed.
If you would like your criminal record expunged or sealed in Florida, contact Leader & Leader P.A. Michael D. Leader is a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer who can evaluate your situation to determine if you may be eligible for sealing or expungement. Call 954-523-2020 to schedule a free initial consultation.
There are many attorneys that handle sealing and expungement however, we have heard many stories in which the job was never completed, it was not done right or the lawyer took the money when they knew or should have known the client was not eligible and refused to return the funds. Leader & Leader, P.A. knows how to handle the process and get the job done, even in the most difficult circumstances. They will make all reasonable efforts to screen for whether the client is in fact eligible in order to avoid the client wasting time or money. In certain circumstances, they have opened cases that were twenty years old or longer to get the disposition changed now making their client eligible for sealing or expungement.
Read on to learn more about criminal record expungement and sealing in Florida:
Are You Eligible for Expungement or Sealing?
First, understand that you do not elect sealing or expungement as it is directed by the outcome of your case. For example, if your charges are declined by the prosecuting authority and not filed and you otherwise qualify, you would seek expungement. This would also be the case if the charges were later dropped by the State or dismissed. On the other hand, if you have a disposition in the case (i.e. adjudication withheld and court costs and/or probation or something other sanction) you cannot initially expunge it but can have it sealed if you otherwise qualify; after ten years of it being sealed, you may seek to have it expunged.
If your criminal record is sealed, no public person, such as an employer or landlord, will be able to access it. However, certain law enforcement and other government agencies can still see your criminal record. For example, if you have immigration issues, they will still see a charge even if it was sealed or expunged.
Expungement eliminates your criminal record from public view. Although government agencies can find out you had a record that was sealed, may be able to obtain a court order to review that file.
In order to determine if you may be eligible for expungement or sealing of your record, your criminal attorney will ask:
- Are you seeking to seal an offense (as opposed to expungement)? If so, what is the offense? Certain offenses are barred from being sealed by statute.
- Have you ever had any criminal charge (traffic criminal, misdemeanor or felony) in your life, anywhere in the world, that has resulted in a conviction (adjudication of guilt or adjudicated delinquent) as opposed to being dropped, dismissed, nolle prossed or the adjudication being withheld commonly referred to as a “withhold”?
- Did the case you want to have sealed or expunged get disposed of in some other manner other than an adjudication of guilt and/or adjudicated delinquent?
- Have you ever had any other case sealed or expunged anywhere in the world?
- If the allegations you are seeking to seal or expunge was dropped, dismissed or resulting in a not guilty verdict, was it based upon self-defense and/or “stand your ground”?
According to the 2015 Florida Statutes, if you were convicted of a crime, meaning that the court adjudicated you delinquent or guilty, then you will not be eligible to expunge or seal a criminal record. This applies to any conviction in any case, not just with respect to the one you want to seal or expunge. There is an additional ground in the statute for claims of self-defense that may apply to your situation.
Furthermore, certain offenses cannot be sealed.
A criminal history record that relates to a violation of s. 393.135, s. 394.4593, s.787.025, chapter 794, former s. 796.03, s. 800.04, s. 810.14, s. 817.034, s. 825.1025, s. 827.071, chapter 839, s. 847.0133, s. 847.0135, s. 847.0145, s. 893.135, s. 916.1075, a violation enumerated in s. 907.041, or any violation specified as a predicate offense for registration as a sexual predator pursuant to s. 775.21, without regard to whether that offense alone is sufficient to require such registration, or for registration as a sexual offender pursuant to s. 943.0435, may not be sealed. The crimes listed in s. 907.041 are as follows:
2. Aggravated assault;
3. Aggravated battery;
4. Illegal use of explosives;
5. Child abuse or aggravated child abuse;
6. Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, or aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult;
7. Aircraft piracy;
11. Sexual battery;
14. Lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault or act upon or in presence of a child under the age of 16 years;
15. Sexual activity with a child, who is 12 years of age or older but less than 18 years of age, by or at solicitation of person in familial or custodial authority;
16. Burglary of a dwelling;
17. Stalking and aggravated stalking;
18. Act of domestic violence as defined in s. 741.28;
19. Home invasion robbery;
20. Act of terrorism as defined in s. 775.30;
21. Manufacturing any substances in violation of chapter 893; and
22. Attempting or conspiring to commit any such crime.
Accordingly, if your case that you are seeking to seal are any of those listed above, it is not permitted to be sealed by law. However, there are certain exceptions. As noted in this article is a case of self-defense. Another exception can be for a wrongful arrest. Leader & Leader, P.A. had a client that was arrested for a warrant for a man with a similar description, same name and same date of birth. They later realized after running his finger prints that he was not the correct person. Even though he no longer met the criteria, this situation allowed for something called an Administrative Expunction and Mr. Leader was successful in getting the record effectively erased even though the client did not meet the statutory criteria for a record seal.
Section 943.059 of Florida Statutes governs sealing of criminal histories in Florida. The statute explains the requirements, noted above, regarding the applicant as follows:
(c) Has never, prior to the date on which the application for a certificate of eligibility is filed, been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation, or been adjudicated delinquent for committing any felony or a misdemeanor specified in s. 943.051(3)(b).
(d) Has not been adjudicated guilty of or adjudicated delinquent for committing any of the acts stemming from the arrest or alleged criminal activity to which the petition to seal pertains.
(f) Is no longer under court supervision applicable to the disposition of the arrest or alleged criminal activity to which the petition to seal pertains.
The statute further explains the effect of sealing a criminal record and when it still must be disclosed:
EFFECT OF CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORD SEALING.—A criminal history record of a minor or an adult which is ordered sealed by a court pursuant to this section is confidential and exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution and is available only to the person who is the subject of the record, to the subject’s attorney, to criminal justice agencies for their respective criminal justice purposes, which include conducting a criminal history background check for approval of firearms purchases or transfers as authorized by state or federal law, to judges in the state courts system for the purpose of assisting them in their case-related decision making responsibilities, as set forth in s. 943.053(5), or to those entities set forth in subparagraphs (a)1., 4., 5., 6., 8., 9., and 10. for their respective licensing, access authorization, and employment purposes.
(a) The subject of a criminal history record sealed under this section or under other provisions of law, including former s. 893.14, former s. 901.33, and former s. 943.058, may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests covered by the sealed record, except when the subject of the record:
1. Is a candidate for employment with a criminal justice agency;
2. Is a defendant in a criminal prosecution;
4. Is a candidate for admission to The Florida Bar;
5. Is seeking to be employed or licensed by or to contract with the Department of Children and Families, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation within the Department of Education, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Health, the Department of Elderly Affairs, or the Department of Juvenile Justice or to be employed or used by such contractor or licensee in a sensitive position having direct contact with children, the disabled, or the elderly;
6. Is seeking to be employed or licensed by the Department of Education, a district school board, a university laboratory school, a charter school, a private or parochial school, or a local governmental entity that licenses child care facilities;
7. Is attempting to purchase a firearm from a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer and is subject to a criminal history check under state or federal law;
8. Is seeking to be licensed by the Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services within the Department of Financial Services;
9. Is seeking to be appointed as a guardian pursuant to s. 744.3125; or
10. Is seeking to be licensed by the Bureau of License Issuance of the Division of Licensing within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to carry a concealed weapon or concealed firearm. This subparagraph applies only in the determination of an applicant’s eligibility under s.790.06.
(b) Subject to the exceptions in paragraph (a), a person who has been granted a sealing under this section, former s. 893.14, former s. 901.33, or former s. 943.058 may not be held under any provision of law of this state to commit perjury or to be otherwise liable for giving a false statement by reason of such person’s failure to recite or acknowledge a sealed criminal history record.
The statutory language for expungement are substantially similar to the sections noted above from the statute governing sealing a record. You can see the specifics for expungement detailed in Florida Statute 943.0585
Also, it may be possible to withdraw your plea, as the Florida Bar explains. However, this is a legally complex process, and it would be in your best interests to consult a criminal defense lawyer for guidance. Sometimes, you stand to lose more than you may gain. In other instances, there may be something less drastic than seeking to vacate a plea that may still help your cause. Furthermore, withdrawing a plea, especially after sentencing, can be difficult, requires certain criteria and frequently must be done within certain time frames.
Why Should You Expunge Your Criminal Record?
Expunging your criminal record comes with a multitude of benefits. Your record can prevent you from getting a job or renting a home. Expungement will prevent the public from accessing your criminal record, so your past offenses will be less of a burden. In the internet and data age, removing your criminal history through sealing or expunging it may not prevent others from finding it as data or private internet companies may be posting your mug shot or other information. Some will remove it upon being sealed or expunged while others charge a fee. There are some firms and/or private companies that may be able to do this more effectively than you can on your own after you case is sealed or expunged.
How long does the process take?
Please note the seal or expunge process typically takes six to ten months. It can be a bit quicker in some instances and longer in others. Most of the time is due to waiting for a response from the State Attorney and FDLE issuing the “certificate of eligibility” which cannot be expedited, even for a fee. Anyone that tells you they can do this quicker is likely not being honest with you or does not know what they are talking about or doing.
Contact a Criminal Attorney to Discuss Expunging or Sealing Your Criminal Record
If your criminal record is causing personal or financial problems, contact Leader & Leader P.A. Michael D. Leader is a criminal attorney in Fort Lauderdale who can evaluate your situation and determine if you may be eligible for sealing or expungement.
Michael D. Leader has received recognition by the Martindale-Hubbell Bar Register for his ability in the courtroom. As your criminal defense lawyer, Mr. Leader will make himself available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Schedule a free initial consultation today by calling 954-523-2020.