A criminal record can affect your job and housing prospects years after your case is over. Even if you are never convicted of a crime, there is still a public record of your arrest and trial. But it is possible in certain cases to seal or expunge that public record, allowing you to legally state that you do not have a criminal record.
How Do I Qualify for Sealing or Expunction?
You can only have your criminal record sealed or expunged if you have never been convicted of a crime as an adult. (Juvenile criminal records are automatically expunged at age 21 in most cases.) Any prior criminal conviction, even for a DUI, renders you ineligible. A conviction can also include a case where you pleaded guilty or no contest and received a “withhold of adjudication” from the judge.
You also can only have your criminal record sealed or expunged only once, excluding any automatic expunction of your juvenile record. This applies even if you previously had a record sealed or expunged in another state. You are also ineligible if you have any pending criminal case or on probation for any offense.
How Does Sealing Differ From Expunction?
If a criminal record is sealed, that simply means the public can no longer access it. By law, your record is still available to law enforcement and other government agencies, and you may still have to disclose any arrests to such agencies under certain circumstances. For example, if you seek to purchase a firearm or apply for a job at a public school, sealing your record will not prevent the disclosure of your prior arrests.
If a record is expunged, in contrast, most government entities will no longer be able to access your criminal record at all without first obtaining a court order. You also do not need to acknowledge the arrests when asked about your criminal record. However, expunction does not actually eliminate your criminal record. It simply means that if a government agency tries to access your information without a court order, it will be informed the record has been expunged pursuant to Florida law.
How Do I Actually Seek Sealing or Expungement?
There is a two-stage process. First, you must submit an application with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for a Certificate of Eligibility. If the Department issues the certificate, you then file a petition with a judge for an order actually granting the sealing or expunction. This petition should be filed in the same county court as where your initial arrest took place.
Please note, the court is not required to grant your petition just because the FDLE issued you a certificate of eligibility. The court retains full discretion to grant or deny sealing and expungement requests as it sees fit. But you can always appeal an adverse decision, either from the FDLE or the court.
Do I Need to Speak With an Orlando Expungement Attorney?
Sealing or expunging a criminal record is not a simple or quick process. It requires dealing with the FDLE, the courts, and a complex web of legal requirements. Let our experienced Orlando criminal defense attorneys help you address your criminal record so you can move on with your life. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0150.