Having a criminal arrest history has life-long consequences, as criminal records are accessible to the public in Florida. Individuals who have made a mistake or were falsely accused of a crime should not have this burden impacting their future. Florida’s sealing and expungement legal process can get your life back on track. It clears the path for educational and job opportunities, student loans, professional licenses, housing, and more.
General Eligibility Requirements for Sealing or Expunging Criminal Records in Florida
- Eligible Offenses: Only certain types of offenses can be sealed or expunged. Generally, serious offenses like murder, sex crimes, and certain violent crimes are not eligible.
- No Prior Convictions: You must not have prior convictions to be eligible for sealing or expungement. It includes arrests and convictions in Florida, other states, or on the federal level.
- No Adjudication of Guilt: You must not have been adjudicated guilty of the offense you want to seal or expunge. It means that you must have received a withhold of adjudication or the charges against you were dismissed or dropped.
- Limited Number of Offenses: There are restrictions on the number of offenses that can be sealed or expunged. Generally, you can only seal or expunge one arrest record in your lifetime in Florida, with some exceptions for multiple arrests arising from the same incident.
It is important to note that even if you meet the eligibility criteria, sealing or expunging records is not an automatic process for adults. It involves filing a petition with the court and going through a legal procedure.
Sealing and Expungement are Two Distinct Processes with Key Differences:
- Sealing: When a criminal record is sealed, it is not completely erased or destroyed. Instead, it is placed under highly restricted access. Sealing means that the record is not available for public view or access by most employers or members of the public. However, government agencies will continue to have a legal right of access in certain instances, such as applicants for a law enforcement career. Full disclosure of criminal records is also provided for persons seeking employment with agencies such as the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Education, or any career having direct contact with children, the disabled, or the elderly.
- Expungement: Expungement goes a step further than sealing. When a record is expunged, it is physically destroyed or deleted from the record systems, erasing it as if it never existed. Expunged records are typically not accessible to anyone, including law enforcement agencies or employers, except in very limited circumstances where authorized by law. Only the Florida Department of Law Enforcement retains a confidential record copy for limited purposes in these cases.
- Availability of Information: Sealed records can still be accessed by certain entities, as mentioned earlier, and may be considered in subsequent criminal proceedings. Expunged records, on the other hand, are generally treated as if they never existed and are not admissible as evidence in most situations.
- Disclosure Obligations: If you have a sealed record, you generally do not have a legal obligation to disclose it when asked about your criminal history, except in specific circumstances such as applying for certain professional licenses, working in law enforcement, or seeking employment with vulnerable populations. With an expunged record, in most cases, you can legally deny the existence of the arrest or charge.
Automatic Expunction Gives Juveniles a Second Chance
Under Florida law, a provision allows for the expungement of certain juvenile records when individuals reach a certain age. Unlike the standard expungement process, where an application and legal procedure are required, automatic expunction occurs without requiring the individual to take action. Once the eligibility criteria are met, the records are deleted automatically.
It is important to note that while automatic expunction provides a streamlined process for certain juvenile offenses, reviewing the specific eligibility requirements is essential. Consult with the legal team at The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A., to ensure the expungement process can be appropriately applied in your case.
Contact The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A, for Help Today
At The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A., our experienced criminal defense team is passionate about justice. Let us review your case to determine your eligibility. Upon the approval of an application to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for a Certificate of Eligibility to Seal or Expunge a criminal history, we will petition the court on your behalf.
Contact David A. Webster, P.A., to Break Free from the Past
Our dedicated criminal defense attorneys have helped countless clients get their records sealed or expunged, and we are ready to help you. Let us open the path to a better future. Contact The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A., at (407) 862-9222 to schedule a free consultation at our Longwood, Florida, location.