A tainted criminal record can impede numerous aspects of a person’s life, from career opportunities to housing options. Fortunately, you can conceal a criminal record if you satisfy certain requirements. Recognizing that a criminal record can create a damaging social bias for offenders long after they have paid their debts, the state created two concealment practices: sealment and expunction.
Offenders must meet strict criteria and undergo a time-consuming process for the court to seal or expunge a criminal record. However, the benefit of having the incident concealed or stricken far outweighs the inconvenience. Our sealing and expunction lawyers in Bradenton, FL can help you navigate the process and truly put the past behind you.
The Difference Between Sealment and Expunction
The laws pertaining to the protocols and practices for sealing and expunging criminal records, found in Florida Statute § 943.059 and Florida Statute § 943.0585, are detailed and complex. In basic terms:
When the court seals a record, it hides the record from the public, but certain government agencies may still obtain the record in its entirely. These entities include criminal justice agencies, the Florida Bar, Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Education, and the Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services, among others.
Expungement essentially destroys a criminal record. The only way for a government agency to obtain an expunged record is with a court order.
“When a record is expunged, all [eligible] entities will receive the subject’s demographic information and a caveat stating that criminal history information has been expunged, but will not see the details of the arrest, any charges filed, or their disposition,” explains the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
Sealment and Expungement Eligibility Criteria
Below are the five general requirements defendants must meet to qualify for the sealment or expunction of a criminal record:
- You have never had another record sealed or expunged in Florida. The law only allows each person a single concealment in their lifetime. (Note: You can seek an expungement for a record that has previously been sealed, but you must wait 10 years after the sealment occurs. You can also seek a sealing or expungement of an adult record if you previously expunged or sealed a juvenile record.)
- You have never been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense or been adjudicated delinquent for committing certain felonies or misdemeanors.
- You are not under court supervision for the case to which the petition to seal or expunge the record pertains.
- You did not plead guilty or no contest to an ineligible offense.
Offenses Ineligible for Sealing or Expunction
Florida Statute § 943.0585 lists the offenses ineligible for sealment or expunction. They include offenses such as:
- Sexual battery
- Domestic violence
- Sex crimes involving children or the elderly
- Any crime that required you to register as a sex offender or predator
- Burglary of a dwelling, robbery, and carjacking
- Aggravated assault or aggravated battery
- Child abuse and kidnapping
- Manslaughter and murder
- Drug trafficking
Contact Goldman Wetzel to determine if you might qualify for the court to seal or expunge your record.
The Process of Obtaining Approval for Sealment or Expunction
Florida details the sealment and expunction approval process in the aforementioned statutes.
Applying for Sealment or Expunction
The first step involves sending an application to the FDLE for a Certificate of Eligibility.
Filing a Petition
The offender must then file a petition for sealment or expunction along with accompanying documents at the court that has jurisdiction over the original case.
The presiding judge will review the file, determine if the petitioner’s case meets all the criteria, and then approve or deny the petition.
If Approved, The Court Seals or Expunges Your Record
Once the judge issues the order to seal or expunge your criminal history record and the FDLE receives a certified copy of the order, the court will officially seal or expunge your record and all involving agencies will comply with the order.
Because the laws are complex and contain a lot of legal jargon, people often find them difficult to understand at all. Do not feel overwhelmed; we can help. Our sealment and expunction attorneys would be happy to answer any questions you may have and help you navigate the process of getting your records sealed or erased.
Clemency vs. Sealment/Expunction
Clemency, a process handled by the Office of Executive Clemency, is not the same as sealment or expunction. It involves a different procedure, different criteria, and different purposes. Obtaining clemency will restore your civil rights such as the right to vote or hold public office, but it has nothing to do with your permanent criminal record.
The FDLE explains: “Neither a full pardon, nor any other type of executive clemency, will automatically expunge or facilitate the expungement of your criminal history record.”
If you want both your civil rights restored and your criminal record concealed, you must go through two separate processes. Goldman Wetzel can assist you with all the details. For more information about clemency, sealment, or expunction, call 941-405-5193.
Free Consultation with a Criminal Defense Attorney in Bradenton, FL
Sealing and/or expunging your criminal record is a powerful tool because once complete, you can lawfully deny the arrest covered by the sealed record. This means you do not have to report it on applications (with certain exceptions). It will no longer haunt you when employers, landlords, or others do a background check on you.
If your case meets the state’s criteria, our attorneys can help you get your record sealed or expunged. We will explain your rights, file the necessary petitions, and handle all the legal aspects of the sealment or expunction process.