If you have a negative entry on your criminal record, it is worth the effort to look into having the court seal or expunge your record. A tainted record can limit numerous opportunities, from potential jobs and loans to international travel and college admission. Not everyone qualifies for record sealing or expungement, though. Florida imposes strict guidelines regarding eligibility for the seal-and-expunge process, and each court has jurisdiction over its own expunction procedures. To learn if you are eligible, speak with the expungement lawyers in St. Petersburg at Goldman Wetzel. Our firm offers a free initial consultation.
Concealing Records: Sealing vs. Expunging
While both sealing and expunging a record can be advantageous, there is a distinct difference in the two processes:
- Sealing – Sealing your record means that your case is still kept on file, but no one is permitted to open it or retrieve any information about it without a judge’s order.
- Expunging – When your record is expunged, your case is deleted from pertinent databases, including the Clerk of the Courts and the police department.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s website, after a court seals a criminal history record, the public will not have access to it. Certain governmental or related entities, such as the Florida Bar and the Department of Education, have access to sealed record information in its entirety.
When a court expunges a record, it informs those entities that would have access to the sealed record that the subject of the record has had a record expunged. It also informs the entity that it would not have access to the record itself without a court order. All the entity would receive is a caveat statement indicating “Criminal Information has been Expunged from this Record.”
Factors that Determine Eligibility
There are limits on sealing and expunction of criminal records. In order to qualify the following must be true of your case.
- This is the first time you have ever sought to seal or expunge your record. You are only allowed one sealing or expunction of a criminal history record in your lifetime (unless you only had one as a juvenile and you are now an adult, or if you are seeking an expunction 10 or more years after a sealment).
- You have never been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation. This means that you must not have ever been convicted of a crime (not just the crime for which you are seeking sealment or expunction, but any crime).
- You have never been adjudicated guilty of any of the acts stemming from the arrest or alleged criminal activity for which you are seeking sealment/expunction.
The good news is that if you meet all the guidelines, the judge will almost always rule to seal or expunge your record.
Crimes not Eligible for Expungement
Even if you meet the above guidelines, there are certain crimes that are never eligible for sealing or expunging. Violent crimes, crimes against children, and sexual predator crimes generally are not eligible. Below are examples of crimes that likely remain on criminal history indefinitely:
- Domestic violence,
- Aggravated assault,
- Kidnapping or lewd acts involving children,
- Sexual battery,
- Manslaughter or homicide,
- Drug trafficking,
- Abuse against a child, elderly person or disabled person, and
- Terrorism or piracy.
If you are unsure of whether or not your record is eligible for sealing or expunging, contact Goldman Wetzel at 727-828-3900. We will review your case, explain your options, and help you navigate the sealing or expunging process to protect your name and future.