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 office 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 office 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 begun to use this power more often 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 Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer After a Car Accident in Florida?

If you’ve sustained injuries in a car accident due to the negligence of another person, you may be hesitant to hire a personal injury lawyer. 

You’re not alone.

Many drivers fear that after paying the attorney’s fees they are going to end up with a smaller insurance payout. Others believe their injuries are just too insignificant to even justify hiring a lawyer, and then there are those who are simply intimidated by the whole process. 

The truth, however, is quite the opposite. In fact, one study reports that claimants who chose to hire an attorney received on average three and a half times more compensation than those who tried to settle the claim on their own. Plus, you should keep in mind that some injuries can show up weeks or even months after the accident occurred.

Many clients don’t initially consult a lawyer because they believe that insurance companies will offer them a fair compensation that will adequately cover things like medical treatment, lost work, and auto repairs. But it’s a well-documented fact that insurance companies are not working in your best interest. They are out there to maximize profits often at the expense of the very people they’re supposed to be helping. 

So if you’ve been injured in a car accident, especially in the state of Florida, you should resist the urge to just contact the insurance company yourself to get your claim started. You really need someone on your side who knows the system and who will work on your behalf to help you get the compensation you deserve. 

3 Undeniable Reasons to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer After an Auto Accident

A lot of people don’t realize they have options in the wake of an accident. Aside from getting a bigger payout and protecting yourself in the event of future medical issues, there are three very good reasons to hire a lawyer as soon as you can.

  1. A lawyer knows the insurance company’s tactics.

There are many rather sophisticated tactics that insurance companies routinely use to pay the lowest claim possible. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) compiles an annual list of the most common complaints consumers have about their insurance providers. The top three reasons for consumer complaints involving the handling of claims in 2019 were

  • Significant processing delays (19%),
  • Denial of claim (14%), and
  • Inadequate settlement or offer (11.7%).
  1. A lawyer knows how to build a case and fight for it.

In the state of Florida, you don’t just need a qualified personal injury lawyer: you need an experienced and knowledgeable professional who has spent several years working with in-state insurance claims. 

Let me explain why.

The state of Florida has a no-fault insurance system that can make it extremely difficult to secure adequate compensation after an accident. According to the no-fault system, if you suffer from a “minor” injury, then your right to sue for the full amount of your damages is basically taken away. Only accidents with serious injuries can lead to a lawsuit in court — that is, as long as certain conditions are met. 

Any dispute involving minor injuries must be resolved directly with your insurance company regardless of who was at fault. This means you have a lot less leverage to get the compensation you deserve.

Experienced personal injury lawyers are not only well-versed in the tactics insurance companies use to keep payouts as low as possible, as mentioned above. They also have access to a range of data and advanced technologies, such as software for accident reconstructions, and are aware of recent settlement values. All of this helps them assess claims. They are thus in the best position to put the maximum pressure on insurance companies to pay up.  

  1. Peace of mind.

This last benefit is really priceless. After being injured in a car accident, your attention should be on your recovery and any other fallout of the incident. 

Personal injury claims are tough and stressful, involving a significant amount of documentation and back and forth over email and on the phone. When you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer, what you are really doing is gaining an advocate who will help you make critical decisions, fight and negotiate on your behalf, and handle all the difficult grunt work. You also want someone who will take the time to explain your options and the processes they entail so you understand why it may be better to wait it out for a few months instead of taking that seemingly good settlement now. 

In the end, you’ll have less worry and less stress. Plus, you’ll be in the best position to get the compensation you truly deserve.

When looking for a personal injury law firm, make sure you choose someone who knows what they’re doing and has your best interest in mind. Contact us at The Law Office of Michael D. Barber for a free consultation today.


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