How Does Expungement Work in Florida?
If you have an arrest or criminal record, it can be hard for you to find a job or to gain approval for housing. Having a mark on your record may also make it difficult for you to obtain professional licensure in your chosen degree field. In Florida, it is possible to get your record expunged if you qualify. Some records may also be sealed. Many people confuse sealing their records with expungements, but they are two separate processes. If you do not qualify to have your record expunged, you may still be eligible to have it sealed.
Expungement versus sealing
Having your record expunged or sealed in Florida will prevent most employers that conduct background checks from seeing the arrest or crime of which you were accused. When it is sealed or expunged, you are able to deny its existence in most cases under Florida Statutes §§ 943.0585 and 943.059. If your arrest or charge is ordered to be expunged by a court, all records of it must be removed and destroyed by the various law enforcement agencies other than the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The copy that is retained by the FDLE remains confidential and can only be viewed by court order. Entities that would be able to access sealed records will only receive responses that the information has been expunged without a court order.
Sealing your record prevents the general public from being able to see it. If your record is sealed, access to it will be limited to specific government agencies, including the courts and law enforcement agencies. Potential employers will not be able to see a sealed record when they complete a background check, however.
Eligibility to expunge your record
It is more difficult to have your record expunged than to have it sealed. To have your record expunged, you must not have been charged with a crime or your charges were dismissed. Expungement is available in cases in which you were arrested by mistake, for example. This might occur when the police accidentally confused you with someone else. Expungement may also be available for certain crimes that have been sealed for longer than 10 years. There are many crimes that cannot be expunged in Florida, including some that may be sealed.
Eligibility to seal your record
Under Florida Statute § 943.059, certain types of crimes may not be sealed, including arson, some sex offenses, kidnapping, and homicide. If your offense is one that qualifies for potential sealing, you must have had the adjudication withheld or have not been convicted. You also cannot have received an expungement or a sealing of your record previously or have multiple prior convictions.
To have your record expunged or sealed, you must first start by applying for a certificate of eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Along with your application, you will be required to submit your fingerprints and a certified copy of the disposition of your case. Because the laws regarding sealing and expungement in Florida are complex, it may be best for you to contact an experienced lawyer such as Richard Della Fera today to take you thru the process.