We’ve all made mistakes over the years that we’ve paid for. Some mistakes we pay for more than others, such as arrests and being convicted of a crime. These remain on a person’s record for life and can hinder the person’s ability to find a job and get housing, among other things. What if it was possible to have that arrest or guilty plea removed from the person’s record? In Florida, it is possible, although there are many hurdles to jump over first.
Criminal history records in Florida are considered public record, meaning they are available for just about anyone to see. For certain crimes and pleas, Florida law allows for either expungement – where a criminal record can be removed from the records – or sealing of criminal history records – where the records are no longer made available to the public and the individual can legally deny the arrest occurred (except to certain agencies). With a sealing of records, certain government entities will still have access to the sealed information.
Expungement is the more permanent of the two options because it requires that the physical and digital records actually be destroyed by the agency that arrested the individual, the State’s Attorney Office, and the Sheriff’s Office. Sealing of records, on the other hand, only mean that the records must be made confidential and can not be disseminated to anyone except designated governmental authorities.
First, let’s discuss who cannot get a criminal record expunged or sealed. The biggest category is anyone who has been convicted of a crime anytime or anywhere. Only individuals who have not been convicted of a crime can seek expungement or sealing of records. In Florida, a person can be found guilty by a jury but not “convicted” of the crime because judges are given the discretion to withhold adjudication. This means that the person is found guilty, pays the required fine, is sentenced to probation and, as long as the person finishes his probation successfully, the court no longer has jurisdiction over the individual and can no longer adjudicate the person.
The second category is individuals who have already availed themselves once before of Florida’s expungement or sealing of records. This only applies to Florida criminal records. If you obtained an expungement or sealing of records in another state, this does not count towards your one Florida expungement or sealing of records.
Assuming the individual meets these two criteria, they can seek an expungement of the criminal record only if the arrest resulted in no charges, the state dismisses its charges, or the court dismisses the charges. Anything more than this, but less than an outright conviction, is eligible for sealing of the record except for records involving alleged violations of certain criminal statutes such as sexual misconduct, drug trafficking, homicide, terrorism, carjacking, child abuse, elder abuse, and domestic violence. There are many more specific crimes for which arrests cannot be sealed or expunged.
Since there are so many issues to consider when determining if someone is eligible for expungement or sealing of records, it is very important to have knowledgeable and helpful counsel guiding you the entire way. The attorneys at Weisberg Kainen Mark know the Florida laws on expungement and sealing and will be there with you the entire way. Consider calling us today to get started.