People make mistakes. As a law firm with extensive experience in criminal defense, we understand that as much as anyone. But your mistakes should not define the rest of your life. And those mistakes can present a challenge if they resulted in criminal charges that are part of the public records and can affect your ability to get a good job, obtain a professional license, get a loan or even rent an apartment.
We’ve previously covered how disclosure works with crimes in Florida. Thankfully, many criminal charges can be sealed or expunged from your record in Florida if you successfully complete your sentence and follow the process correctly.
For clarity, expungement and sealing of charges are two similar processes. Expungement results in the destruction and removal of charges from your record (a backend copy is kept by law enforcement which can only be accessed in very limited situations). Sealing is the process of making the record only accessible to law enforcement and the courts for very limited purposes.
How Florida expungement and sealing laws work
Florida law has a strict procedure for this process, which must be followed to the letter. To have your record sealed, you will need to either obtain a dismissal of the charges or receive a withhold of adjudication (which means no criminal conviction) in your case. In order to have your record expunged, you will need to have the charges dropped by the state or you will need to be acquitted of the crime(s). If you satisfy these conditions, there are two more important considerations: if you’ve previously been convicted of any crime, in any jurisdiction, or if you have previously had another record sealed or expunged, you will not be eligible.
Charges that don’t qualify for expungement
If you fulfill all of the requirements for sealing or expunging your records, there are certain crimes which the Florida legislature has prohibited from being sealed or expunged. You can see a full list here. It includes: Arson Aggravated Assault Child abuse Manslaughter/Murder Robbery/burglary Criminal conduct by public officials Child pornography Drug trafficking/manufacturing Any violations that require you to register as a sex offender
The Effect of Sealing or Expunging Records
Once you successfully seal or expunge your records, the law provides that you may legally deny ever having been charged with the crime. You read that right - it is as if the charges never happened. But be aware, like many things in the law there are always exceptions to the rule. If you are applying for law school or admission as an attorney to the Florida Bar, or seeking a professional license to work with children or the elderly, or applying to become a police officer you will still have to disclose the case. These are but a few examples of exceptions to the rule, but there are several more. Most importantly, sealing or expunging your records only applies to the records maintained by the State of Florida. It does not bind the federal government. That means that any federal records will still exist, and if you are applying for a federal license or employment, you will have to disclose it also.
Hire the right defense attorney
The best first step to getting a charge off your record is to defend your case. With the right criminal defense attorney by your side, you will be able to get the charges dropped and increase your chances of sealing or expungement. Barry M. Wax has extensive experience interpreting the maze of regulations surrounding this process. As an added value, if your records are sealed or expunged by The Law Offices of Barry M. Wax, you may contact the office at any time in the future for assistance in filling out any applications which require you to answer questions about your criminal history. At the Law Offices of Barry M. Wax, we want to give people in trouble the ability to make the right choices and regain control of their lives. Contact us today to get your case started.