Understanding Sealing and Expungement of Records in Florida

A sealed or expunged record allows you to move on from parts of your life that you do not want to be made public. A criminal record can have tremendous effects on a person’s life. It has the potential to dictate how important life events will play out. 

With a criminal record, it becomes more difficult to access benefits that may have otherwise been available without a record. Benefits like good housing, loans and grants, quality education, and gainful employment become more difficult to access.

A person with a criminal record may be obligated by law to disclose such records during job interviews, when applying for loans, grants, and housing benefits, and when applying to schools. In addition, most criminal records are discoverable during a simple background check, making it more likely that a routine check may put you at a disadvantage. 

Sealing or expunging your criminal records can help you avoid the difficulties the criminal record would have brought your way. With a sealed or expunged record, you won’t have to jump through hoops to access benefits that would have otherwise been available. With a sealed or expunged record, there will no longer be an obligation to disclose a prior conviction. 

At the Law Office of Michael D. Barber, we understand how a criminal record can negatively affect your prospects. This is why we go all out to provide personalized, attentive legal guidance and representation to our clients. If you need to seal or expunge your criminal records, call our offices today at 407-890-8000 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Sealing and Expungement of Records in Florida

Under Florida law, a person may seal or expunge their criminal record within the bounds, and under the circumstances, allowed by law. Contrary to what most people think, sealing and expungement mean different things.

Sealing your records ensures that the members of the public, including private employers, cannot view it. However, the record still exists and could be unsealed by an order of the court.  

A sealed record will not be visible when employment agencies or other entities run a background check on a person. Florida Statutes § 943.045(19) views such entities as “not having a legal right of access to the record or information contained therein.” 

Expunging your criminal records, however, ensures that the records will never be accessible again, even to government agencies.

With an expungement, the criminal records are deleted, destroyed, and obliterated. The Federal Department of Law Enforcement will keep a confidential record, but even that is limited to the name of the charge and the date of the expungement. Thus, entities who would normally have had access to a person’s records will instead, be told that such records have been expunged. (Florida Statutes § 943.045(16))

Eligibility for Sealing or Expungement in Florida

The Florida Administrative Code provides certain scenarios in which a person can apply to seal or expunge his or her criminal records. They include:

  • Administrative Expungement: If a person was arrested contrary to law or by mistake, he or she may expunge the arrest by applying to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). (Florida Statutes, Section 943.0581 and Rule 11C-7.008, Florida Administrative Code.) 
  • Court-Ordered Sealing or Expungement: This is the first step in getting a person’s record sealed or expunged. The person must apply to FDLE for a Certificate of Eligibility to Seal or Expunge. The FDLE then ascertains whether the person is statutorily eligible to file the petition. Upon confirmation, the FDLE issues the certificate. (Florida Statutes Sections 943.059, and 943.0585, and Rules 11C-7.006 and 11C-7.007, Florida Administrative Code) 
  • Juvenile Diversion Expungement: When a person completes an authorized juvenile diversion program for a misdemeanor, he or she may apply for a juvenile diversion expungement.
  • Lawful Self-Defense Expungement: If you were arrested for a crime committed in self-defense, you may apply for a Lawful Self-Defense Certificate of Eligibility. You will need your attorney to certify that you acted in lawful self-defense and that charges were either not filed, or were dismissed.
  • Human Trafficking Expungement: A victim of human trafficking may petition for expungement of records resulting from arrest or charges filed as a part of the trafficking scheme where he or she was a victim. 

 

Exemptions to Eligibility for Sealing and Expungement in Florida

  • Disqualifying positions: A person will be disqualified from sealing or expungement if he or she was found guilty, pled guilty, or pled “no contest” (nolo contendere) for any of these offenses. Even if the adjudication of guilt was withheld, such a person will not be eligible for sealing or expungement.
  • A conviction: A person that was found guilty or who pled guilty to any crime not listed here that resulted in a conviction will be ineligible for sealing or expunging his or her records. 
  • Prior guilty verdict: If a person has had a guilty verdict for any criminal offense in any other jurisdiction, he or she will be ineligible for sealing or expungement. It does not matter whether the charges are related to the charges for which the person is applying. As long as he or she was judged guilty, the records can’t be sealed or expunged.
  • Prior sealing or expungement: Sealing or expungement can only be done once in a lifetime. If a person has had a criminal record sealed or expunged before or has a case pending for sealing or expungement, he or she will be ineligible for another one.

Get Legal Help

Due to the various factors that come into play when applying for sealing or expungement, the process can be quite complicated. This is why at the Law Office of Michael D. Barber, we go the extra mile to ensure that you get all the legal guidance and representation you need. If you need to seal or expunge your criminal records, call our offices today at 407-890-8000 for a free consultation or reach out to us through our contact page.

How To Recover Property from Civil Asset Forfeiture in Florida

Having your property or cash seized by law enforcement in Florida can be a surprising and frustrating experience. Most people do not know that under civil asset forfeiture laws law enforcement agencies can seize your property. In most instances, the seizure may even result in a forfeiture, meaning they get to keep the property or cash permanently. 

As a result, most people react with outrage when they learn that their assets have been seized by law enforcement. While your feelings are understandable, and only natural, it is important to act quickly in order to have any hope of recovering your property. The civil asset seizure and forfeiture process can move very quickly, and within a matter of days, you may lose your right to reclaim your property. 

To ensure the best chances of success, you should immediately consult with an experienced Florida civil asset forfeiture attorney for help. Attorney Michael D. Barber helps people whose property has been seized by police to recover their property. He understands how the civil asset forfeiture process works and can help you recover your seized assets. 

It doesn’t matter if your money or property was seized by local law enforcement or federal agencies such as Customs and Border Patrol or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Contact the Law Office of Michael D. Barber to begin the process of recovering your assets. Call 407-890-8000 to schedule a free consultation today. 

What is Civil Asset Forfeiture? 

Asset forfeiture occurs when law enforcement agencies believe money or property is involved in the commission of a crime. An asset may also be seized if it is believed to be part of the proceeds of crime or if it constitutes contraband by itself. 

The asset forfeiture laws were created to ensure that law enforcement agencies can prevent criminals from accessing the tools or proceeds of crime. Under both federal and Florida laws, these agencies can seize and take control of these assets and may even keep them in some cases. 

Most people who have their assets seized are targeted under civil asset forfeiture laws. In Florida, the Contraband Forfeiture Act controls proceedings for asset forfeiture brought in Florida’s state courts. When the assets are seized by federal agencies, proceedings are brought in federal courts. Under these laws, law enforcement agencies may seize any property, including cash, buildings, and vehicles. 

How Civil Asset Forfeiture Works

In civil asset forfeiture proceedings, you do not need to be charged with a crime. In fact, sometimes, you do not even need to be suspected of a crime. 

When your property is seized by law enforcement agencies, you will receive a receipt showing the property taken. You will also receive a Notice of Seizure that will inform you of your right to an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing. But you must request this hearing within 15 days for a chance at preserving your rights to your property. Anyone who fails to request the hearing may be at severe risk of permanently losing their property. 

Most people lose their property by not responding in time to request a hearing. A report by the Institute for Justice found that, between 2001 and 2014, the US Department of Justice and the US Treasury Department collected a joint $29 billion in annual civil asset forfeitures. Up to 88% of these forfeitures were administrative – meaning the owners failed to challenge the forfeiture in court. 

As a result, it is incredibly vital that you reach out to a civil asset forfeiture attorney the instant that your property is seized. You have no time to waste. 

The Problem with the Power to Seize Property 

In truth, the asset forfeiture laws have played a significant role in dismantling large criminal organizations. They have been important in the fight to prevent these organizations from having access to vital resources and have helped take away assets they acquired unlawfully. 

However, the problem with these laws is they are often turned on regular citizens, and sometimes even innocent ones. Although the government’s power to seize property has been around for a long time, the government has greatly increased the use the power in the past several decades.   When Congress gave law enforcement agencies the power to seize property, they began to enforce these laws much more frequently. 

The speedy process and relatively low thresholds for forfeiture make it very easy for agencies to initiate the asset forfeiture process and deprive people of their property. But the tradeoff is many innocent people lose their valuable assets as a result, simply because they do not understand the process or even fear they may be charged with an offense if they try to fight back. 

Many people lose their assets, usually in the form of cash, at ports of entry and exit into the US. For instance, a 2016 investigation found that the DEA seized up to $209 million in cash from travelers at 15 of the biggest airports in the US, over the course of 10 years. Most of these people had no idea that US laws require them to file a disclosure form whenever they are traveling with cash amounts over $10,000. 

In many cases, you will not deserve to have your assets seized by law enforcement agencies. But, the only way you can recover your property is by immediately taking steps to hold the officers who seized your property accountable and challenging the seizure through the court process. This is where Attorney Michael D. Barber can help. 

How Can Attorney Michael Barber Help Recover Your Property?

Although law enforcement agencies have the power to seize your property, they are still obligated to prove why the seizure is legally permissible. If they believe the property was used in the commission of a crime or constitutes contraband, they must provide credible evidence showing this is the case. 

If law enforcement can show why the property was seized and why they should keep it permanently, you will be called upon to prove why your ownership rights should be preserved. You can trust Attorney Michael D. Barber to present reasons why this should be the case to the court on your behalf. 

In many asset forfeiture cases, the seized property was either taken mistakenly or has no connection to a crime. According to a report made by the Justice Department in 2017, just 44% of seizures by the DEA in that year had any connection to a criminal offense. 

Throughout our years of experience defending people who had their assets seized unfairly we have developed deep knowledge of the system and will be able to raise multiple defenses on your behalf. But, in order to ensure recovery of your assets, you must contact our civil asset forfeiture attorney once your property is seized. 

Schedule a free consultation with Attorney Michael D. Barber today at 407-890-8000 to start the process of recovering your property. 

Why You Should Hire a Florida Crime Victim Rights (Marsy’s Law) Attorney

The United States Constitution and state statutes are replete with protections for the rights of persons accused of crimes. In the U.S. Constitution alone, there are roughly 20 different rights and protections that are guaranteed an accused person in a criminal trial. Yet until recently, there have been little to no provision for the rights of victims in state and federal law.  That has changed in Florida upon the passing of the Marsy’s Law amendment to the Florida State Constitution.

The Florida crime victims’ laws, otherwise called Marsy’s Law, aims to fill an important void in the criminal laws of the state. Marsy’s Law protects the rights of victims of crime and creates valuable protections for them before, during and after a criminal prosecution. 

The law recognizes that when a crime is committed, victims are the ones that suffer the most, yet they are the ones most often ignored. Now, every victim of a crime in Florida can enjoy important legal rights and remedies that protect them during the criminal process and give them a way to move on from their terrible experience. 

At the Law Office of Michael D. Barber, we are staunch representatives of the rights of crime victims. After suffering through the already terrible experience of being victimized, you should not have to suffer the injustice of a criminal system that does not protect your interests. 

If you were victimized by the criminal actions of another person, you can trust Attorney Michael D. Barber to look out for you and protect your interests. Schedule a free initial consultation with our Florida crime victims attorney today by calling 407-890-8000 for help. 

What is Marsy’s Law? 

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsy Nicholas, a girl who was stalked and brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. The movement towards creating the law began with a heart wrenching incident. Just a week after Marsy’s death, her brother and mother, after visiting her grave, decided to go grocery shopping. Upon entering the store, they were shocked to meet Marsy’s murderer. Her ex-boyfriend had apparently been released on bail, without their knowledge and input. 

The pain and disappointment of the experience sparked a movement that put a spotlight on the rights of crime victims and their families. Before the movement, victims were not regarded as active stakeholders in the criminal justice process. There was little to no consideration for their feelings, the painful experiences they had suffered, or even significant opportunities to let them have a say in the process. 

The movement was centered around a fight to enact constitutional amendments at the state level that would include rights for victims. This movement has seen a lot of success.  Many states have enacted constitutional amendments that protect the rights of victims. These states include California, Illinois, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Ohio, and Florida. 

Under these new laws, a victim of a crime enjoys specific rights that let them participate actively in the criminal trial of their abuser. The rights are contained in the Florida Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights which is now a part of the Florida Constitution. 

Rights of Crime Victims in Florida 

There are numerous rights guaranteed to victims of crimes under Marsy’s Law. One of the most important is the right to be informed about the existence of these protections. Crime victims must be informed that they have the right to seek the advice of an attorney regarding these rights and the information on these rights must be publicly available. Some of the other rights protected under Marsy’s Law include: 

  • The right to due process, including a requirement that every crime victim be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity
  • The right to freedom from intimidation, abuse and harassment, whether from the defendant, or any other person
  • The right to reasonable protection from the defendant and any of their agents. 
  • The right to have their safety and welfare considered when setting bail. This may include setting pretrial release conditions that specifically protect the victim’s welfare and safety, and that of their family 
  • The right to prevent disclosure of information or facts that can be used to trace, locate, or harass the victim or their family. The right also protects them against disclosure of any confidential or privileged information about the victim
  • The right to proper and timely notice about all hearings and trials. This also includes timely notice of release or any changes to the conditions of release, and the right to present information regarding the impact of the defendant’s conduct on their life. 
  • The right to prompt return of the victim’s property when law enforcement no longer requires it as evidence in the case
  • The right to full and timely restitution, which should cover all losses suffered by the victim, both directly and indirectly, from the defendant’s conduct

The broad nature of these rights means that a victim can finally have meaningful participation in the criminal processes of the defendant.  

Each of these rights are enforceable in a court of law. If you would like to know more about the protections given to crime victims under this law, contact Florida crime victims attorney at the Law Office of Michael D. Barber for help. 

Monetary and Civil Remedies for Florida Crime Victims

In addition to the concrete rights established under Marsy’s Law, crime victims also have the right to pursue financial compensation for the harm done to them. They may be able to obtain restitution in certain cases, depending on the defendant’s ability to pay. A Marsy’s Law attorney can help you understand if these rights exist and what options are available to receive compensation through monetary payments. 

Crime victims may also be able to seek restitution for loss of property and income, as well as reimbursement for medical expenses that were incurred as a result of the crime. In certain specific circumstances, you might also be entitled to seek monetary relief and justice through the civil legal system for the following types of cases: 

  • Failure to provide adequate security by a business owner, leading to a crime being committed against you
  • Violation of the Dram Shop laws by a business that sold alcohol to someone they shouldn’t have, leading to a drunk driving crash that hurt you
  • Sexual assault violations in which the perpetrator has the financial ability to pay damages
  • Crimes committed against you as a result of negligent hiring on the part of a company

You may also be able to claim compensation through the Florida Bureau of Victim Compensation. In order to qualify, you must have cooperated fully with law enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office. You must also have reported the crime within 72 hours of its happening unless there were good reasons for reporting later. 

If a claim for victims’ compensation is submitted before the expiration of one year from the date of the crime (or two years in certain cases), you may be able to request various types of victim compensation benefits, including: 

  • Disability benefits 
  • Loss of support 
  • Compensation for wage loss
  • Compensation for property loss
  • Reimbursement for expenses 
  • Sexual battery relocation assistance 
  • Domestic violence relocation assistance
  • Human trafficking relocation assistance

Reach out to an experienced attorney today 

No matter what type of crime or indignity you have suffered, know that the crime victim attorneys at the Law Office of Michael D. Barber are prepared to fight aggressively on your behalf.  We approach these cases with the discretion and care that you deserve and will work hard to help you move on from your experiences. 

To learn more about your rights and how we can help, contact our law office at 407-890-8000 to schedule a free consultation today.