In Florida, criminal records are public. This means that anyone can run a background check and see if a person has a criminal history. Since this sensitive information can be detrimental to your opportunities in life, you might be able to apply to seal or expunge your record in Tampa. But what does it mean to seal and expunge your criminal record?
In Florida, sealing or expunging a record consists of removing it from public access. A sealed record is not available to the public. Some government agencies can still access it, within limitations. An expunged record means that it has been deleted from most databases. Only a court order can grant access to it.
Having a criminal record can affect your personal life and professional opportunities. As a result, in order to protect your future, you might want to seal or expunge your criminal history. Given that not all cases are eligible, before applying make sure to meet all the requirements. If you need legal representation, do not hesitate to contact our criminal attorneys.
Sealing and Expunging a Record: Florida Definition
Criminal records in Florida are public information. In other words, when someone (employer, landlord, etc) conducts a background check, they can see all the information related to a person’s case such as the charges, the dates when the offense occurred and the court resolution. Even if you were not convicted, information on your charges is available to the public.
Given that past criminal history can result in severe and long-lasting consequences, Florida law provides people with two separate avenues to remove an entry from their criminal record. Notice that, despite their similarities, there are some differences between sealing and expunging a criminal history.
Sealing means that a record will be preserved with highly restricted access. This means that the criminal history is no longer available for public access. Nevertheless, some government agencies will still be able to access a sealed record.
On the other hand, expunging a record is a more thorough route than sealing. An expunction is the process where the court orders the physical destruction or obliteration of a record from most government databases and state directories.
In other words, with the expungement process, the public and government agencies will not have access to that record. However, a government agency can have access to an expunged record if they possess a court order that grants them permission to do so.
Eligibility for sealing and expunging a record in Tampa, Florida
Below there are some of the requirements to be eligible for sealing or expunging a record:
- Charges were dropped, dismissed, or acquitted.
- Having been found guilty or convicted for a crime does not qualify for sealing and expunction.
- The offense committed does not fall into the crimes listed in Florida Statute § 943.0585(5) (arson, child neglect, aggravated assault, DUI, murder, etc).
- Have not previously applied for a seal or expunge petition. Florida only allows one sealing or expunction per person.
- An individual’s record is eligible for expunction after it has been sealed for 10 years.
- Do not have open criminal cases and/or not being under any type of court supervision such as probation or house arrest.
How many cases can you expunge in Florida?
Overall, Florida allows people to expunge a one arrest record in their lifetime. However, if there are other arrests closely related to the same arrest, the court might also expunge them. Deciding if a series of crimes are related to the offense to be expunged it is up to the court discretion.
Can you expunge a sealed record in Florida?
In Florida, a person can apply for an expunction if their criminal record has been sealed for 10 years provided that it qualifies for this process. Some requirements to consider include that the petitioner has not been convicted of a crime and that the sealed offense remains eligible.
Determining if a person is eligible to seal and expunge a record can be complex. If you are not sure if you can get a charge removed from your criminal history, speak to one of our Tampa sealing and expungement attorneys.
Criminal charges that cannot be expunged
As mentioned above, there are some offenses that are not eligible for sealing or expunging a criminal record. According to the Florida § 943.0584, some of these offenses include:
- Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
- Assault and battery
- Domestic battery
- Drug trafficking and manufacturing
- False imprisonment or kidnapping
- Lewd and lascivious offenses
- Sexual crimes against children
How to Seal and Expunge a Record in Tampa, Florida
Due to the complexity of the process and the paperwork involved, you should retain a seal and expunge lawyer in Tampa to help you with your application process. Below are some of the steps that you need to take in order to seal or expunge your record in Florida:
- Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility. This application is filed to the FDLE and if the petitioner meets the requirements, he or she will receive a certificate of eligibility. Filing this application includes completing a fingerprint card, providing a certified disposition, among other legal procedures.
- File a petition for relief. Receiving a Certificate of Eligibility does not mean that your record has been sealed or expunged. Thus, you need to present your certificate, a notarized affidavit and a form for Petition to Seal or Petition to Expunge to the court.
- Process the Petition to Seal or Expunge. Once your paperwork is done, the Court Clerk will process your petition. If the judge grants your petition, you will be asked to pay some fees.
Once your process is complete, the Clerk of Court will forward certified copies to the appropriate agencies so they can reflect the court order. The process of sealing or expunging your record can be legally complex. If you are seeking legal representation or help with your petition, contact our Tampa criminal defense attorneys.
Speak to a Lawyer in Hillsborough County to Seal and Expunge Your Record
If you were arrested in Florida, you will have a criminal record even if you were not convicted. Given that this information is for public access, a criminal history could be detrimental for your personal and professional opportunities. Thus, you might want to get your record sealed or expunged.
Goldman Wetzel represents petitioners that want to seal and expunge their records in Tampa, Bradenton, Sarasota, Largo, Venice, Hillsborough County, and surrounding areas.
Sealing or expunging your record will remove your record from public access. In order to get legal representation, speak to the criminal defense attorneys at Goldman Wetzel. Call us at (888) 727-4652 or send us a secure message to book a free consultation.