In Florida, sealing or expunging your record can effectively remove an arrest, charge or deposition from your criminal history and help avoid future problems in your personal and professional life. However, in order to be eligible for these processes, there are certain requirements that people need to meet. The expungement and record sealing lawyers in Pinellas County at Goldman Wetzel can help you determine if you meet the criteria to have your record sealed or expunged.
Having a criminal record can affect numerous aspects of your life with: employers, landlords, lenders, and others that do a background check and see charges on your record are less likely to do business with you. As a result, you might want to explore the possibility of sealing or expunging your criminal record. Given that these processes can be legally complex, you might want to enlist the help of a criminal attorney.
Difference Between Sealing and Expunging in Florida
In a broad definition, sealing or expunging a record in Florida are very similar in purpose: to remove a criminal record from public access. Despite the similarities between these processes, there are some differences between sealed record and an expunged record.
In Florida, sealing a record implies that the record is placed under highly restricted access. It will only be available for some government agencies. Expunging a record means that the record was removed or destroyed from most record databases. To access an expunged file, a court order will be required.
According to Florida Statute § 943.053, criminal history records are public. This means that anyone can access them and see a list of a person’s charges and criminal history information. However, if they meet certain requirements, defendants can file to seal or file for expunction to “hide” their record from interested parties.
As established before, government agencies will still have access to a sealed record. After an expunction, the record is removed from most criminal record systems. Nevertheless, a government agency can still have access to it as long as they have a court order.
Examples of who can see a sealed record in Florida
In Florida, there are some situations where a government agency can have access to a sealed record. Below are some instances of who can see a sealed record:
- Department of Children and Family Services
- Division of Vocational Rehabilitation within the Department of Education
- Agency for Health Care Administration
- Licensed firearm importer, manufacturer or dealer
- Department of Juvenile Justice
- Department of Elderly Affairs
- Agency for Persons with Disabilities
- Department of Education
Additionally, some agencies can also gain access to your sealed record if you are going through a criminal prosecution or if you are a candidate for a criminal justice agency or school employment.
Requirements for Sealing or Expunging a Record in Pinellas County
Given that a criminal record can create a damaging social bias for offenders long after they have paid their debts, Florida law provides them the option to seal or expunge their records.
Nevertheless, for the court to approve your request to seal or expunge your record, you must meet the following requirements:
- Never had any other record sealed or expunged.
- The defendant has not been convicted or guilty 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 records to be sealed or expunged.
- The defendant’s case has been closed and you are not under court supervision (house arrest, probation).
- Not being convicted for one of the offenses listed in Florida Statute § 943.0585.
- The defendant did not plead guilty or no-contest.
- To expunge a record you previously sealed, the record must have been sealed for at least 10 years.
The criteria for sealing and expunction is technical and complex. Thus, you should consider retaining the legal services of an experienced criminal attorney. Call our lawyers in Pinellas County at 727-828-3900 to schedule a free consultation.
What Charges Cannot be Sealed or Expunged in Florida?
According to Florida law there are some criminal offenses that are not eligible for sealing or expungement. Some of the include:
- Animal cruelty
- Assault and battery
- Carrying a concealed weapon or unlawful possession of a firearm
- Child neglect or crimes against children
- Domestic violence and stalking
- Drug trafficking
- Lewd and lascivious conduct
- Murder and manslaughter
- Petit theft
- Sexual misconduct and sexual battery
- Violent offenses such as aggravated battery, burglary, and robbery
Can a DUI be sealed in Florida?
In Florida, people convicted for a DUI offense will not be able to seal or expunge their record since Driving Under the Influence is considered a criminal offense. A DUI charge might be sealed if the charges were dropped or the court withheld adjudication.
If you were charged with a crime and want to know if you are eligible to seal or expunge your record, contact the St. Petersburg criminal defense attorneys from Goldman Wetzel.
Benefits of Sealing or Expunging Your Record
A criminal record can negatively affect your personal and professional life. Thus, sealing or expunging your record can provide several benefits:
- Employment Opportunities: Job applications typically require you to list criminal history. Once the court has expunged a record, you can legally omit the offense on the application.
- Housing and Lending Opportunities: Landlords and lenders often deny applicants who have criminal records. After sealing or 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 mark 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.
Resources to Expunge and Seal Your Record in Pinellas County
Florida Department of Law Enforcement: Offers information, forms, and instructions to people interested in expunging or sealing their criminal record in Florida. It also answers some frequently asked questions and provides a list of the entities that are able to access a sealed or expunged record.
The Papillon Foundation: Provides links and useful resources for expunging or sealing a record in Florida. Additionally, the foundation also provides information about how to perform different activities (such as adopting or volunteering) when having a criminal record.
Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court: Offers public access to court records so people can see current information about different cases. It also provides guidelines and information for sealing or expunging a record in Pinellas County.
Contact an Expunge and Seal Lawyer in St. Petersburg
Even if you are not convicted of a crime, you will still have criminal record listing charges that can damage your life. Thus, you might want to enlist a St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney that can help you with the legal process of sealing and expunging your record.
With over 30 years of combined experience, the attorneys from Goldman Wetzel provide legal representation to people facing criminal charges in Pinellas County, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Dunedin, Polk County and surrounding areas.