The Tancredo Law Firm knows that a momentary lapse in judgment that resulted in criminal charges may not have to ruin your reputation for life. For certain offenses, Florida state law allows individuals to have their records sealed or expunged. In order for you to be eligible for sealing or expunging, your criminal record must be free of any prior convictions. Moreover, you can use this privilege afforded to you by Florida law only once in your lifetime.
Many people are unaware of the difference between having your record sealed vs. having your record expunged. Our Florida expungement lawyers know that there are key distinctions, which we have outlined below. To learn more, or discuss your eligibility, consult with our experienced attorney today.
Having your record sealed means that the court will order your criminal record to be sealed and therefore confidential from the public, future employers, or a public background search. However, the existence (but not the specific contents) of a criminal record may still be disclosed if:
-You are seeking employment with a criminal justice agency
-You are the subject of future criminal prosecution
-You are seeking to be licensed by the Florida Bar to practice law in the state of Florida
-You are seeking to be employed, licensed, or to contract with the Department of Children and Families, Agency for Health Care Administration, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, or Department of Juvenile Justice
-You are seeking to be employed or licensed by the Department of Education, certain types of public schools, private schools or child care facilities
-You are seeking employment or access to one of Florida’s seaports; and/or
-You are seeking to purchase a firearm.
Expungement, on the other hand, is a process by which your criminal records will be physically destroyed and therefore kept confidential from the public, future employers, and public background searches. However, as our experienced Florida attorney Mr. Tancredo knows, one copy of your record will be kept by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). This record can only be disclosed to law enforcement. When a record is expunged, the applicable above entities (criminal justice agencies, the Florida Bar, etc.) will be informed that the record has been expunged but they will not have access to your actual record.
In both cases of sealing and cases of expunging, if you are not dealing with any of the above entities, you may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the events covered by the sealing or expungement. Essentially, aside from with situations involving the above entities, when your record is sealed or expunge, your record returns to the way it was before the criminal incident ever occurred.
Who is eligible to have their criminal record Sealed or Expunged?
You may petition to have your criminal record sealed if you were not convicted of a crime or if adjudication of guilt has been withheld. To qualify, you must not have had a criminal record sealed or expunged in the past, nor may you have a pending petition to seal or expunge a criminal record. Criminal records related to any of the serious offenses specified in the statute—such as arson, homicide, kidnapping, and certain sex offenses—can never be sealed. (Florida Statutes § 943.059 (2018).)
Expungement, on the other hand, is generally available only in cases where no charges were filed, charges were dismissed, or when the criminal record you want expunged has been sealed for ten years. Florida law prohibits the expungement of records for a wide range of crimes—including some crimes that can be sealed. (Florida Statutes § 943.0585 (2018).)
If you were found guilty—or pleaded guilty or nolo contendere—there is a long list of crimes that are not eligible for expungement or sealing under Florida law, even if the adjudication was withheld. For example, you cannot have your record expunged or sealed if you have been found guilty of any felony or of child abuse. You can find more information, along with the complete list of disqualified offenses, in the Expunge/Seal Package available from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. (Florida Statutes §§ 943.0585 and 943.059 (2018).)
If you were arrested or convicted of a prostitution or obscenity offense as a result of being a victim of human trafficking, you may petition to have your criminal record expunged. (Florida Statutes § 943.0583
What is the process for filing for Expungement or Record Sealing?
Adults seeking sealing or expungement must begin by filing an application for a certificate of eligibility with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The application requires you to submit additional items, including a certified copy of the final disposition of the case you are applying to have sealed or expunged and a full set of fingerprints. (Find forms and instructions in the Expunge/Seal Package available on the website of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.)
After your request is filed with the Department of Law Enforcement, the agency will determine whether to grant you a certificate of eligibility. Once you have obtained the certificate, you must file your petition to seal or expunge with the court that handled your case and present a copy to the arresting agency and the state attorney or prosecutor. (Victims of human trafficking who are seeking expungement or record sealing are not required to file the petition in the same court that originally handled the case.)
If your petition is granted and your record is sealed or expunged, in most instances you won’t have to disclose it. However, there are a number of situations when you are required to reveal your sealed or expunged record, including when applying for a job with a criminal justice agency or a state department that serves children, the disabled, or the elderly. (Florida Statutes §§ 943.0585(4)(a), 943.059(4)(a)
The Tancredo Law Firm has assisted thousands of individuals with their Records Sealing and Expungement over the past 20 years.
Our experienced attorney and staff are standing by to help with your case. Feel free to reach out so we can begin working to find the best plan for you.
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