Have you been in trouble with the law? Perhaps in the past, you made a bad decision or two that led to an arrest or conviction. Unfortunately, these past mistakes generate a criminal record that can impact your future. For instance, in Florida applications for jobs, professional licensing, or housing require a criminal background check. Any criminal record can justify rejection of your application. Background checks or public criminal record searches may associate you with criminal charges even if your case was dismissed. These records are available to the public unless they have been sealed or expunged. Read on for more information to discuss your case and legal options contact the defense attorneys At Khonsari Law Group today.
A criminal history record is created when a person is arrested and fingerprinted. The record includes the charges stemming from an arrest and the disposition of those charges. For example, adjudication of guilt or the withholding of adjudication, acquittal, or dismissal of charges before trial, or other disposition. A criminal record can adversely affect many aspects of your life. If you have a criminal record, the only way to avoid possible impacts is to have your case sealed or expunged.
Record Sealing versus Expungement
Depending on the circumstances of your case, Florida law may allow you to request that your criminal record be sealed or expunged. Both record sealing and expungement prohibit the public from accessing your criminal history. While a sealed record still “exists” in the system, the contents of the record cannot be viewed without a court order. On the other hand, an expunged record is completely deleted, as if the arrest never occurred. Record sealing and expungement operate to ensure your criminal record is non-public. Generally, expunged or sealed records will not appear on criminal background checks searches. Whether your specific charges qualify for record sealing or expungement will depend on a few factors.
Qualifications for Expungement or Record Sealing
To qualify for an expungement, you must not have any prior convictions and the charges have to be dismissed. Charges are dismissed if you are acquitted at trial, the prosecutor drops the case, or a judge grants a motion to dismiss. Additionally, if your case was previously sealed for 10 years or more, you may qualify for expungement.
You may qualify for record sealing if you “pled guilty, no contest, or even have been found guilty at trial as long as adjudication was withheld.” However, there are certain types of offenses that are barred from sealing, including violent crimes or terrorism.
Charges will not qualify if you have had a criminal record sealed or expunged in the past (even in another state). Also, any request will be disqualified if you have a pending petition to seal or expunge a criminal record.
It is possible to be found guilty of criminal charges, but not convicted. In that case, you may qualify to have your record sealed even if you plead guilty, no contest, or were found guilty of a criminal charge. Expungement may be available for an adult or minor whose arrest was “contrary to law or by mistake.” The criminal record of a minor may also be eligible for other forms of expungement.
The Expungement Process
To begin the expungement process, you must first apply to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for a Certificate of Eligibility. The Certificate of Eligibility is not a guarantee that the criminal history record will be sealed or expunged by the court. The certificate merely represents an individual’s eligibility. After your case is deemed eligible, whether the petition for sealing or expungement will be granted is at the sole discretion of the court.
There is no set time limit on requests for sealing or expungement. However, several factors will influence how long expungement will take. The process requires the coordination of multiple agencies, which can cause delays. Therefore, do not wait to start the process until you need to have your record expunged.
An expungement usually takes more time than a sealing. For an expungement, the state attorney must sign off on the disposition of your case. Then, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement must issue the required certificate of eligibility. After eligibility is determined, a court appearance for consideration of the final petition will be scheduled. Ultimately, the pace of the expungement process will depend on agency caseload and efficiency and docket availability.
Benefits of Expungement
A variety of benefits will come due to a successful expungement, including:
- Destruction of your criminal record;
- No history that an arrest ever occurred,
- Penalties available to deter disclosure by government agencies; and
- Current holders of a professional license or certificate will be permitted to retain those credentials.
Generally, an expungement allows you to legally state on a job application that you were never convicted of a crime. However, there are exceptions to this benefit. Even with an expungement, you cannot deny your prior arrest if:
- If you are applying for employment with a criminal justice agency;
- If you are applying for employment with the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Education, the Department of Children and Family Services, any local governmental unit in charge of licensing child care facilities, any district school board, or any school, including charter schools, parochial schools, private schools, and universities;
- If you are seeking employment in which you would deal directly with minor children, the mentally or physically disabled, or the elderly;
- If you are seeking employment at or access to a seaport; or
- If you are applying for admission to the Florida State Bar.
Additionally, Florida residents may only petition to seal or expunge a record once. Even with an expungement, you might lose your right to own firearms, remain in the country if you’re an immigrant, or drive.
How Can an Attorney Help?
If you qualify, sealing or expunging your criminal arrest records can decrease the impact on your future. Record clearing proceedings can be complicated. Contacting an experienced attorney can handle the case more efficiently and avoid errors that may affect your situation. Find your type of case here and learn how Khonsari Law Group can help you today.
Khonsari Law Group
150 2nd Ave N #970,
St. Petersburg, FL 33701