Having a criminal record can have significant and long-lasting consequences, affecting various aspects of life, including employment, housing, and personal relationships. Florida’s courts and law enforcement agencies make it easy for anyone to access criminal records. In Florida, only those individuals who have no convictions on their record, regardless of where or when the conviction occurred, are eligible to seal or expunge their criminal record.
Florida statues makes it possible to remove certain arrest records from your criminal history as it appears on background checks. Our criminal defense lawyer at Anderson & Ackerman Law Group explains the process of expungement and sealing of criminal records, which is sufficiently complicated that it is advisable to hire a lawyer to help you with it.
Key Differences Between Sealed and Expunged Records
When considering expunging criminal records, it is essential to understand the difference between sealed and expunged records. Both processes aim to limit public access to certain criminal records, but there are distinctions in how they are handled.
- Sealed Records: Criminal records sealed means that it is placed under restricted access and removed from public view. Law enforcement agencies and certain government entities will still have access to sealed records. Sealed records may still be considered by the court in future sentencing if the individual is convicted of another crime. Individuals may be eligible to have their record sealed under specific circumstances, including first-time offenders and certain non-violent offenses.
- Expunged Records: Expunging a criminal record goes a step further than sealing; it involves the physical destruction or obliteration of the record. Expunged records are removed from public records entirely and destroyed, making them no longer accessible to anyone. An expunged record is legally treated as if it never existed, and the individual can legally deny the occurrence of the expunged incident in most situations. Not all criminal records are eligible for expungement, and certain offenses, such as serious felonies and violent crimes, are typically ineligible. Expungement of criminal records is a lengthy process.
Eligibility for Florida Seal and Expunge
The eligibility criteria for sealing and expunging criminal records in Florida are essential factors to consider. To be eligible for the “Seal and Expunge” process, an individual must meet specific requirements:
- First-Time Offenders: Generally, individuals with a first-time offense and no prior record of sealing or expungement are more likely to be eligible.
- Nature of Offense: Certain misdemeanors and non-violent felonies may be eligible for sealing or expungement under specific conditions in Florida.
- Adjudication Withheld: If the court withheld adjudication in the case, the individual may be eligible for sealing or expungement, provided other criteria are met.
- Waiting Period: Florida law requires a waiting period after the completion of probation or any other sentence before an individual can apply for sealing or expungement. The waiting period typically ranges from 8 to 10 years.
- No Current Charges or Convictions: Eligibility requires that the individual has no pending charges or subsequent convictions.
- Limited Offenses: Serious offenses, such as violent crimes and certain sexual offenses, are generally not eligible for sealing or expungement.
The Process of Florida Seal and Expunge
The process of sealing or expunging criminal records in Florida involves several steps:
- Petition Filing: The individual must file a petition with the court in the county where the charges were filed. The petition should include essential information, such as the case number, charges, and the date of arrest.
- Background Check: The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) conducts a background check to verify the petitioner’s eligibility for sealing or expungement.
- State Attorney and Law Enforcement Review: The petition is reviewed by the State Attorney’s Office and the law enforcement agency involved in the case.
- Court Hearing: In some cases, a court hearing may be required, where the petitioner or their attorney presents their case for sealing or expungement.
- Court Order: If the petition is approved, the court issues an order to seal or expunge the criminal record.
How long does the Florida seal and expunge process take?
The duration of the seal and expunge process in Florida can vary depending on several factors. Typically, the process can take an average of 6-9 months to complete. The background check conducted FDLE alone may take several weeks. Additionally, the caseload of the court and other involved agencies may affect the timeline.
Need Legal Help? Contact a Criminal Lawyer
Handling the intricate procedures of sealing or expunging a criminal record in Florida poses significant challenges. The guidance of a seasoned criminal lawyer well-versed in the nuances of the Florida statutes and the criteria for sealing and expungement is crucial.
An experienced attorney can evaluate an individual’s eligibility for these processes, aid in the meticulous preparation of essential documents, and even represent them in court if necessary. Furthermore, they can act as a strong advocate during background checks and reviews, striving to secure the most favorable outcome for their client’s case.
If you or someone you know needs assistance with the Florida seal and expunge process, do not hesitate to contact a knowledgeable lawyer to navigate this process effectively.