Having a criminal record can affect numerous aspects of your life, from employment to housing. Employers, landlords, lenders, and others that do a background check and see charges on your record are less likely to do business with you. Fortunately, Florida law allows people that meet specific criteria to apply to seal or expunge certain offenses from their criminal history record.
Sealing or expunging your record can effectively remove an arrest, charge, or disposition from your file and help you avoid future problems. For help determining eligibility and applying for sealment or expunction, call the sealing and expungement lawyers in Pinellas County, FL at Goldman Wetzel today: 727-828-3900.
Benefits of Sealing or Expunging Your Record
A criminal record can follow you around like a black cloud. Sealing or expunging a case can provide several benefits:
- Employment Opportunities: Job applications typically require you to list past convictions. Once the court has expunged a record, you can legally deny the offense on the application.
- Housing and Lending Opportunities: Landlords and lenders often deny applicants who have criminal records. After sealing/expunging your record, prospective property owners and banks will not be able to access it.
- Licensing: You will also not have to worry about the mar on your criminal record interfering with your driver’s or professional licenses.
- Naturalization Benefits: If you plan to apply for U.S. citizenship, sealing or expunging your record helps protect you. The immigration department can still access a sealed or expunged record, but it cannot hold it against you when deciding eligibility for citizenship.
Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in Florida
Per Florida Statute § 943.053, criminal history records are public, which means anyone can access them and see a list of your charges and criminal case information. However, defendants who qualify can file for sealment or expunction to “hide” their record from interested parties.
There are two recourses for getting rid of an entry on your criminal record:
Sealing: Sealing a record places it under highly restricted access. The court will not grant the public access; however, some government agencies, such as the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Education, will still have access.
Expunging: Expunging a record removes it from most state record systems. The court hides it from the public as well as government agencies. The only way an agency can view an expunged record is with a court order.
Requirements for Sealing or Expunging a Record
For the court to approve your request to seal or expunge your record, you must meet the following requirements:
- You have never had any other record sealed or expunged.
- You were not adjudicated guilty or convicted of a crime. Only cases where adjudication was withheld, and the incident resulted in “No Action,” “Nolle Prosequi” (dismissal), or an acquittal are eligible for sealment or expunction.
- You did not plead guilty or no-contest.
- The case is closed, and you are not under court supervision (house arrest, probation, etc.) pertaining to it.
- To expunge a record you previously sealed, the record must have been sealed for at least 10 years.
- The case does not involve any of the offenses listed in Florida Statute § 943.0585. (More on ineligible crimes below.)
The criteria for sealment and expunction is technical and complex. To have one of our attorneys review your file and determine eligibility, call 727-828-3900 and schedule a free consultation at your convenience.
Types of Cases Ineligible for Sealment or Expunction
Florida law specifies that certain records involving serious felonies are not eligible for sealing or expungement. Examples of ineligible offenses include:
- Lewd and lascivious conduct, battery, or molestation
- Sexual misconduct and sexual battery
- Luring or enticing a child and other sex crimes involving children
- Domestic violence and stalking
- Drug trafficking
- Violent offenses such as aggravated battery, arson, burglary, and robbery
- Murder and manslaughter
Steps to Seal or Expunge Your Criminal Record
Florida Statutes §§ 943.059 and 943.0585 detail the sealment and expunction rules and process. Legislatures use complex language with difficult terminology when writing many of these laws. Do not let these complexities deter you from learning about your rights and exercising your legal privilege to seal or expunge a damaging criminal record.
At Goldman Wetzel, we simplify the process. We can help you with expunging or sealing your record in a few, easy steps:
- Contact our firm for an introductory meeting. We will review the offense you want sealed or expunged and tell you if it looks like you will qualify.
- We will let you know how to retain us, and once hired, will begin completing the paperwork to initiate the process. This includes the application for Certificate of Eligibility and the petition to seal or expunge the record.
- Our team will send you all documents for review. After you verify the paperwork for accuracy and sign it, you return them to us along with your fingerprints.
- We will then file the documents with the appropriate agency and oversee the process until completion.
When you work with our firm, we will make every effort to have your offense removed from your record and the view of the public. The entire process takes several months to complete, but once the court finalizes it, you can legally deny the arrest or charge on most applications.
FREE Consult with Sealing & Expunction Lawyer in Pinellas County, FL
Having worked with defendants in Pinellas County for over three decades, we know how much a criminal record can impede your life and damage your future. Our attorneys are here to help. We can:
- Answer any questions you may have about sealing or expunging a criminal record.
- Perform a free, preliminary case review to determine your eligibility.
- Guide you through the sealing or expunging process and complete all the necessary paperwork.
- Serve as your legal advocates and advisors until the application and petition process concludes and the court removes your record from the databases.