Living with a criminal record can be difficult. A minor crime you committed years earlier can hold you back from renting safe, affordable housing. It can make it difficult to go to college or graduate school and obtain a professional license. When a criminal record affects where you can live, your education, and your livelihood, it surely impacts your family. But there is a potential reprieve from the constant punishment of a criminal record. You may be able to have your Florida criminal record sealed or expunged.
Sealing Records vs. Expungement
When your criminal record is sealed, the public cannot access it. This means a potential landlord, loan officer, or school cannot see it. However, certain federal and state entities will still be able to see your criminal history.
When your record is expunged, no one can gain access to it without a court order. Even government entities will only be told that you have an expunged record, but not any of the facts the record included.
Determining Your Eligibility
Two Florida statutes outline the possibilities for an offender to have an adult criminal record sealed or expunged: Florida Statutes Sections 943.059 and 943.0585. You must be eligible for sealing your records or expunging your criminal history under one of these laws.
Applying for a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which states you are able to seek this remedy under one of the statutes, is the first step in the process. This certificate does not say you will have your records sealed or expunged, merely that you are eligible to request such an action. The certificate is valid for 12 months.
Sealing Criminal Records Under Statute 943.059
If your adjudication was withheld and you were never convicted of a crime, you may be eligible.
Many criminal records cannot be sealed due to the type of crime committed, including violent crimes, offenses that required sex offender registration, crimes related to children or the elderly, and more. There are nearly 40 specific crimes that can never be sealed.
Expunging Records Under Statute 943.0585
You can ask to have your records expunged if:
- You were arrested but never charged
- All charges were dismissed in court
- Charges were dropped by the prosecution
- You were found not guilty upon completion of a trial
You Can Only Seal or Expunge Records Once
If you want to have your criminal record expunged in Florida, you can only do so once in your lifetime. You can request that multiple cases related to the same arrest be sealed at once. You cannot ask for multiple cases or arrests related to different events to be sealed. You also cannot ask for one arrest to be sealed and then later in life ask for another arrest to be sealed.
If you have multiple instances of criminal history on your record, you should speak with your attorney about what you should seek to be sealed or expunged.
The Court Process in Florida
Once you have your Certificate of Eligibility, you and your Sarasota and Manatee County criminal defense attorney will need to fill out additional forms to file with the court. These forms will include an affidavit, which is your sworn statement regarding your criminal history. You and your attorney will review these documents and fill them out carefully to ensure they are entirely accurate.
Your attorney will file these forms along with a Petition to Expunge with the appropriate Clerk’s Office and send a copy to the State Attorney’s Office. If the State Attorney’s Office does not object and you are eligible for the sealing or expunction, then your petition will most likely be granted by the judge without a hearing.
Contact a Sarasota and Manatee County Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help
Having your criminal record sealed or expunged is often the best way to move forward. It helps you build a life without a past mistake weighing you down. However, there are narrow circumstances in which you can use sealing records or an expungement to your advantage. If you are interested in sealing or expunging your records, contact Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. right away to learn if you may be eligible.
Sarasota and Manatee County criminal defense attorney Erika Valcarcel believes in advocating for your rights. She has years of experience in Manatee County and Florida courts and knows how to address your sealing or expungement application. No matter your criminal history, she will get to know you and advise you on your legal options.
Contact Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. at (941) 363-7900 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.