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.