A Second Chance: Understanding How Expunging or Sealing Your Criminal Record in Florida Works

If you have ever been charged with a crime, you have a criminal record. Even if the charges were later dropped, it stays on your record, and it can greatly impact your present and future. Whenever you apply for a job or to rent an apartment, this information shows up in a report about you. The same goes for applying for a loan, to a school, for a professional license, and more. That’s why, for many people, going through the process of getting their criminal record expunged or sealed is worth it—but not everyone is qualified. That’s why first, you must know the basics:

What is the difference between expunging and sealing your record?

When you expunge your record, it is completely removed and disappears from your official criminal record/history with the Court. It’s not that it becomes invisible, it’s that it no longer “exists.” No matter where or what a person searches, there will be no record of it on your official public criminal record.

When you seal your record, your official court criminal record becomes invisible to the general public. Future employers and landlords may never know that you had charges brought against you in the past. However, there are still certain individuals who will be able to see your record (e.g. law enforcement).

Who can expunge or seal their criminal record?

If you were a juvenile when you were charged with a crime, your record is already scheduled to be expunged. Depending on the nature of your crime and providing that you have not been charged with any other crimes, your Florida criminal record will automatically be expunged either when you turn 21 or 26. However, if you need to have your record expunged when you are between the ages of 18 and 21, you may file an Early Juvenile Expungement.

If, however, you were charged as an adult, you may only file to have your charges expunged or sealed if the charges against you were dropped and you have no prior convictions on your record. This means that if you went to court, if you were found guilty of the charges against you and you were convicted, your petition to have your record expunged or sealed will be denied. A withhold of adjudication (not a conviction) may be sealed, but not expunged, if you otherwise meet the criteria established by law. Also, those who were charged with more serious crimes (such as those relating to drugs or sexual offenses) may not be qualified to get their records expunged or sealed. If you think this is the case with you, call us, and let’s research your eligibility.

How to get your record expunged in Florida

First, find a qualified Florida lawyer with a background in expunging and sealing records like Barry Wax. We can help determine if you qualify and are eligible for expungement. We can also help you file the necessary paperwork properly and accurately. Any mistakes in the application can further delay the process.

Your next step is to submit an application to have your record sealed or expunged. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is working to streamline this process, so it’s a good idea to check their website for the latest advice on how to proceed. Also, please be aware that you can only file to have one record sealed at a time.

Next, you’ll want to file for a Certificate of Eligibility to have your record expunged or sealed. You must have this certificate before moving forward.Once the Certificate of Eligibility is issued, your attorney will then file a Petition to Expunge or Seal Records with the Court, which is granted in 99.9999% of cases. Once granted, you will be able to lawfully deny that you were ever arrested.

A Few Words of Caution

With the rise of the internet, we are now living in the “information age.” Every month, private information databases such as Lexis/Nexis, Accurint, ChoicePoint and others pay court systems for the ability to copy all public records.  That information is swept into a vast database which is maintained outside the court systems and the government of the State of Florida. There are also websites such as www.mugshots.com which exploit arrests for profit by posting the mugshots from people’s arrests, and charging a fee to remove them. This Court Order does not bind those companies, corporations or websites to delete this information from their records.

Additionally, there are certain exceptions to a Court Order Expunging or Sealing Records which will require you, in certain circumstances, to disclose the arrest. Those exceptions include applying to law school, applying for a position within the criminal justice system (such as police officer, corrections officer, etc.) and applying for a license to work with children or the elderly. Also, the Court Order Expunging or Sealing Records only binds the State of Florida. It does not bind the United States Federal Government. If there is an FBI record of your arrest, it will still exist. However, that is not a “public record” which is easily accessible by the general public. If you retain Barry M. Wax to file to expunge or seal your records, his legal services includes continuing advice if you ever have to fill out a form or application which inquires about a criminal history.

We Can Help You!

With so much paperwork, it’s best to have help from a qualified Florida lawyer. Barry Wax can help you clear your record so you can make the most out of your future. To find out more, give our office a call at (305) 373-4400 or send us an email at info@barrywax.com.

Written by Law Offices of Barry M. Wax

Law Offices of Barry M. Wax

For 34 years, I have provided both State- and Federal-Level representation for those facing charges ranging from wire fraud, mortgage fraud, and healthcare fraud to identity theft, drug trafficking, money laundering, murder, DUI, domestic violence and numerous other criminal charges. In every case, it is my commitment to one-on-one service and support that has separated the Law Offices of Barry M. Wax from other criminal defense firms. When it comes to your future, you need a strong defense and the ability to make the right choices and regain control of your life.