The New Rules of Sealing and Expungement in Florida
In 2019, Florida modified their rules regarding sealing and expunction of criminal charges. One major change includes a system that will automatically seal non-conviction records. According to Fla.Stat.943.0595(a) “The department shall automatically seal a criminal history record that does not result from an indictment, information, or other charging document for a forcible felony”
Do You Need a Lawyer?
To request a seal or expungement of your criminal history, an attorney is not required. However, this process could be complicated to tackle on your own. Hiring an attorney saves you time and ensures that the paperwork is done correctly. Additionally, some applications require a court hearing where you may benefit from having an attorney to argue on your behalf.
What are the Benefits of a Sealing/Expungement?
If you are successful in sealing or expunging your records you can deny the charges ever existed or the arrest ever occurred and it will not appear on any private background checks done by employers, with a few exceptions including applications for employment with any law enforcement agency, state bar examiners, and employment working in close proximity to children or the elderly.
Are You Eligible for Sealing/Expungement?
To be eligible to seal or expunge a criminal record the applicant must be able to attest that they have never previously had a record sealed or expunged in Florida. With a few exceptions, a person may only seal or expunge one arrest record in one proceeding. More than one arrest record may be sealed or expunged in a single proceeding if the court, finds the arrests in question to be directly related.
Who Can See the Record After Sealing?
After a criminal history record is sealed, the general public will not have access to it. Under Florida law, only certain government agencies will be able to view sealed information. However, if a court orders your record to be expunged, it must be physically destroyed by criminal justice agencies, except that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement must retain a copy. That copy is kept confidential and can only be viewed by court order. In most cases, it is as if the incident never happened.
What if the Arrest was as a Juvenile?
Juvenile criminal history records maintained by FDLE are not available to the general public. Juvenile records are subject to an abbreviated retention schedule, which results in the automatic expungement of the record after a specified period. Persons between the ages of 18 and 21, who meet certain conditions, may apply for the “early” expungement of their juvenile criminal history record. Juvenile defendants, who successfully complete a qualified diversion program, may be eligible for expungement of their record as the term is defined therein.
What if there is a Conviction?
If you were adjudicated guilty of a felony, then you lost many rights as a result of becoming a convicted felon. Persons who have been convicted of a felony are not eligible for an expungement or sealing of their criminal history, but they may apply for their civil rights (including gun ownership) to be restored.
If You Think You Need Help with Your Florida Sealing or Expungement
Please contact us today. We’re happy to give you the advice you need to understand the process and whether a Sealing or Expungement will work in your situation. Please fill out the contact form here and we’ll be in touch to assist you.