Getting your record sealed or expunged can do a world of good for your future. It will clear your criminal history of a lingering, embarrassing charge and open up new opportunities for you. However, you must meet certain criteria and follow the state-required process to successfully wipe your record via sealing or expunction.
Difference Between Sealing and Expunction
Sealing and expunging a record are similar processes in that they hide criminal charges from the public. The difference lies in how they restrict access to the file.
“A sealed record is placed under highly restricted access. An expunged record is removed from record systems or files and destroyed (also called expunction),” explains the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The first method, sealing, means the court will make your record highly classified. The public can no longer view it, but certain government agencies, such as the Department of Education and the Department of Children and Family Services can still access the record.
The second, more powerful avenue, expunction, places the record under even more guarded access. In fact, the court removes expunged records entirely from many state computer directories. The only way for government agencies to see the file is by obtaining a court order.
Good Reasons to Seal/Expunge Your Criminal Record
All criminal cases show up on your public criminal record, regardless of the way in which the case concluded. Even if the state dropped your case, you agreed to a plea bargain, or received an acquittal, anyone can do a criminal record search and see various details about your charges. Even just an arrest will remain on your record.
That is, unless, you get the court to seal or expunge your record. When the court seals or expunges your record, the case will remain hidden to most parties. Some of the general trickle-down benefits include:
1. Career Opportunities
Sealed and expunged records do not appear on background checks. And by law, you can legally deny a sealed/expunged charge on a job application. So, applying for jobs, board memberships, or professional licenses becomes much easier because employers and most commercial agencies will not be able to see the sealed or expunged charge.
2. Secondary School Opportunities
When applying for college, university, trade school, or other secondary educational institution, you do not have to report your charges if they have been sealed or expunged. You do not have to worry about the institution’s administration denying you entry, expelling you, putting you on probation, or denying participation in student memberships.
3. Home and Banking Opportunities
Lenders and landlords often perform background checks before approving applications. When the court seals or expunges your file, banks and finance companies will no longer be able to deny you based on a mar on your criminal record.
Requirements for Sealing or Expunging a Record
Florida law provides a strict list of criteria applicants must meet to qualify for sealing or expunction. For the court to approve your request for sealing or expungement, you must be able to answer “yes” to the following questions:
- Is this the first time the court will be sealing or expunging your record?
- Was the case dismissed (“Nolle Prosequi”), acquitted, or dropped (“No Action”)? Cases that resulted in “adjudicated guilty” or “conviction” do not qualify for sealing or expunction.
- Are all of your criminal cases closed?
- Have you finished any court supervision, e.g., probation, house arrest, etc.?
- If applying for expunction, has your case been sealed for at least 10 years?
Types of Crimes Ineligible for Sealing or Expunction
Certain types of crimes do not qualify for sealing or expunction. If your charges appear in Florida Statute § 943.0585(5), the case is ineligible for sealing or expunction. The majority of ineligible offenses involve sex crimes, violent crimes, and crimes against children and elderly:
- Domestic violence and stalking
- Sexual misconduct and sexual battery
- Sex crimes involving children, e.g., sexual performance by a child, luring or enticing a child, and traveling to meet minor
- Lewd or lascivious crimes committed on an elderly or disabled person
- Voyeurism and computer pornography
- Human trafficking
- Drug trafficking
- Homicide cases such as manslaughter and murder
- Certain offenses committed by public officers and employees, as listed in Florida Statutes Chapter 839
Adhering to the Process for Sealing or Expunging a Record
The state provides a detailed scope of the sealing and expunction processes in Florida Statutes §§ 943.059 and 943.0585. The primary steps you should take entail the following:
- Enlist the help of our sealing and expunging lawyers to see if you qualify and for assistance getting your petition approved.
- Apply to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for a Certificate of Eligibility.
- File a petition for the court to seal your criminal history record, along with your valid certificate of eligibility and a specific sworn statement.
Failing to adhere to the steps can result in a denied application. Trying to read through complex legislation can be quite intimidating and tedious. Let our sealing and expunging lawyers help with your case. Contact our office to learn more about how we can walk you through the process and improve your chances of successfully getting your record wiped clean.
How Our Sealing and Expunction Lawyers in Sarasota Can Help
With over three decades of combined experience, our attorneys are fully equipped to help with any criminal case, including sealing or expunging old records. Do not miss out on the tremendous benefits of having your record sealed or expunged. Let our team at Goldman Wetzel help.
Our criminal lawyers can:
- Review your record and tell you if your case qualifies for sealing or expunction.
- Help you file the necessary documents.
- Ensure all necessary paperwork is compelling and accurate.
- Explain the process and inform you of updates in your case.
- Advocate for your interests and offer insightful counsel at each stage of the process.
For more information, call our office at 941-405-5193 for a free, no-obligation consultation today.