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If you are arrested, charged with a crime, or convicted of a criminal offense, you will have a permanent, public criminal record. However, in some very limited circumstances, individuals may have their criminal records “expunged” or sealed (two different processes). If your record is expunged, it must be physically destroyed, except for a single copy that can only be viewed by court order. Having your record expunged frees you (in most cases) from having to disclose your criminal record under public records laws.
To learn more about your options and whether or not you are eligible to have your criminal record expunged, contact our Miami expunction attorneys at Hubbs Law Firm. We are extensively experienced in all aspects of criminal law, including record expunction. We can help you understand your legal rights and, if appropriate, help you navigate the process of having your record sealed.
Steps to Expunge a Criminal Record in Florida
Step 1 – Determine If You Are Eligible
Ask yourself the following questions: Have I ever been arrested for an offense that resulted in an adjudication of guilt? Have I ever sealed or expunged a prior arrest or conviction prior to today?
If your answer to these questions is “yes”, then you are not eligible to seal or expunge your record. If your answer is “no”, then more than likely you will be eligible to seal or expunge your record.
Step 2 – Determine If You Need To Seal Or Expunge Your Records
If you are eligible, you should next determine whether you need to seal or expunge your records. If you are seeking an expungement, the law enforcement agency will destroy your records. If you are seeking to seal, the clerk of courts will seal your records, so they are confidential and are not accessible to third parties.
Obviously, expungement is preferable to sealing. However, you are only eligible to expunge arrests immediately that resulted in a no-file, no action, nolle prosse, or dismissal. If you received a withhold of adjudication or were found not guilty at trial, you must seal your records. You will be eligible to expunge the sealed records after ten years.
Step 3 – Obtaining Certificate of Eligibility in Florida
To expunge your record, your attorney will first help you obtain a valid certificate of eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
To obtain the certificate of eligibility, your attorney will help you provide the following documents to FDLE:
- A written, certified statement from the appropriate state attorney or statewide prosecutor showing that:
- An indictment, information, or other charging document was not filed or issued in the case.
- An indictment, information, or other charging document, if filed or issued in the case, was dismissed or dropped by the state attorney or the court, and that none of the charges resulted in a trial, without regard to whether the outcome of the trial was other than an adjudication of guilt.
- Proof that the applicant does not have a criminal history record relating to certain delineated offenses prohibited under Florida law.
- A $75 processing fee, unless it is waived.
- A certified copy of the disposition of the charge as required in Section 943.0585(2)(a)-(c), F.S.
Step 4 – File A Petition with the Court for Expunction
After receiving the certificate of eligibility, the person must file a petition with the court to expunge the record.
The petition must include a sworn statement attesting that he or she:
- Has never been adjudicated guilty of a crime or comparable ordinance violation, or been adjudicated delinquent for committing any felony or a misdemeanor specified in s. 943.051(3)(b), F.S;
- Has never been adjudicated guilty of, or adjudicated delinquent for committing, any of the acts stemming from the arrest of alleged criminal activity to which the petition pertains;
- Has never secured a prior sealing or expunction of a criminal history record unless the petition for expunction is for a criminal history record previously sealed for 10 years, provided the record is otherwise eligible for expunction; and
- Is eligible for such an expunction and does not have any other petition to expunge or petition to seal before any court.
Are You Eligible to Seal or Expunge Your Criminal Record?
In Florida, as in other states, you are only eligible for criminal record sealing or expunction if you meet certain specific criteria.
To have your criminal record sealed in Florida, you must meet the following requirements:
- You were never convicted of a crime; or
- Adjudication of guilt was withheld in your case; and
- You have not had a criminal record sealed or expunged in the past;
- You were not arrested for or charged with certain offenses (see Florida Statutes § 943.059 (2018)).
To be eligible to expunge the record, the person must not:
- Before the date the application for a certificate of eligibility is filed, have 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), F.S. which include:
- Carrying a concealed weapon;
- Unlawful use of destructive devices or bombs;
- Neglect of a child;
- Assault or battery on a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or certain other officers;
- Open carry of a weapon;
- Exposure of sexual organs;
- Unlawful possession of a firearm;
- Petit theft;
- Cruelty to animals; arson; and
- Unlawful possession or discharge of a weapon or firearm at a school-sponsored event or school property.
- Have been adjudicated guilty or delinquent of committing any of the acts stemming from the arrest or alleged criminal activity to which the petition to expunge pertains;
- Be under court supervision for the arrest or crime to which the petition to expunge pertains;
- Have secured a prior sealing or expunction other than the required 10-year sealing for the offense sought to be expunged as explained in Section 943.0585(2)(d)-(g), F.S.; and
- Additionally, the person must have had the record sealed for at least 10 years by court order.
The requirement for the record to have been sealed for 10 years does not apply if a plea was not entered or all charges related to the arrest or offense to which the petition to expunge pertains were dismissed before trial. Section 943.0585(2)(h), F.S.
Effect of an Expunction of a Criminal History Record
If the court grants a petition to expunge, several entities are required to forward copies of the expunction order to relevant persons or entities. The clerk of the court must provide the expunction order to the state attorney or statewide prosecutor, the arresting agency, and any entity that previously received the criminal history record from the court.
The arresting agency must provide the expunction order to any entity to which the agency previously disseminated the criminal history record information. Finally, the FDLE must provide the expunction order to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Section 943.0585(3), F.S.
Any criminal justice agency that has a record that is expunged must physically destroy or obliterate the record. The FDLE, however, must maintain the record. The record is protected as confidential and exempt from disclosure requirements under the public records laws under Section 943.0585(4), F.S.
A person who has had a record expunged may deny or fail to report the record, unless the person is:
- Seeking an appointment as a guardian;
- Pursuing a position with a criminal justice agency;
- Seeking a license by the Division of Insurance Agent and Agent Services of the Department of Financial Services;
- Seeking a position with an agency that is responsible for the protection of vulnerable persons, including children, disabled persons, and elderly persons;
- A defendant in a criminal prosecution;
- Petitioning for an expunction of a criminal history record, or of an offense as a victim of human trafficking, or a sealing of a criminal history record; or
- Applying for admission to the Florida Bar.
To learn more about criminal record sealing and expunction in Florida, contact our experienced Miami record expunction attorneys for a free consultation. We can answer your questions and help you navigate the legal process.
Attorneys E.J. & Erika Hubbs
As professional Miami criminal defense attorneys, we take every case personally give every client the deliberate care it deserves. Our clients become part of our family and we fight relentlessly for their rights. Read more about us to find out how we can help you.
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