Having a criminal record often has adverse lifelong consequences. It can affect your housing and employment opportunities, your reputation, and your ability to get a professional license. If you qualify, Florida allows you to seal or expunge your criminal record.
Adult criminal history records are public unless the record has been sealed or expunged, as stated in Florida Statutes §943.053. The benefits to sealing or expunging your criminal record cannot be overstated.
Sealing vs. Expungement
A sealed record still exists, but with highly restricted access. An expunged record is removed from the records and destroyed. As the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) explains, there are numerous statutorily prescribed procedures for sealing and expungement including:
- Juvenile (diversion, automatic or early)
- Lawful self-defense
- Human trafficking
Do You Qualify?
This is where it gets tricky. There are numerous factors that determine whether you are eligible for sealing or expunging your criminal record:
- Have you ever applied before to have your record sealed or expunged?
- Have you been convicted (adjudicated) of a felony, misdemeanor, driving with suspended license, driving under the influence (DUI), or reckless driving?
- Were you arrested as a juvenile?
- Are you on probation or do you have a pending case?
You may also qualify if your criminal record is incorrect or you were mistakenly arrested.
This is an area that requires an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the sealing or expungement process.
Conviction and Withholding Adjudication
This is a complex area of the law for which you need a qualified attorney. In Florida, even if you plead guilty, that may not constitute a conviction. If the court does not make the decision about your guilt, this known as “withholding the adjudication of guilt.”
Withholding adjudication is extremely beneficial because the court did not convict you. That usually means you can keep your license, and answer “no” on job applications that ask if you were ever convicted of a crime. Withholding adjudication also allows you to seek to seal your criminal record.
Florida Statutes §948.01 provides a mechanism and guidelines for a judge to withhold adjudication (for example, depending on the seriousness of the offense, and the likelihood whether the offender will commit the crime again). That is designed to give second chances, in conjunction with probation and/or a community control plan. Community-based sanctions may include restitution, curfew, revoking or suspending driver’s license, community service, deprivation of nonessential activities or privileges, or other appropriate restraints on the offender’s liberty.
Do You Want to Seal or Expunge a Florida Criminal Arrest Record? Contact a St. Petersburg, Florida, Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you have a criminal record and want your record sealed or expunged, contact an experienced attorney right away. Do not delay. At the Khonsari Law Group, we are ready to help you. Call us at (727) 269-5300 to schedule a consultation, or contact us confidentially. We are seasoned lawyers and regularly handle sealing and expungement for our clients. We may be able to help you get relief from your burdensome criminal record. Call us today.