When you are convicted of a crime in Florida, not only can you end up paying steep financial penalties and even serving a term of imprisonment, but you can lose many opportunities once you have completed the terms of your sentence. For instance, convictions can prevent individuals from obtaining student loans and other lines of credit, and they can prevent you from being approved for a housing rental application or a job application. To be sure, each time you fill out an application that asks about your criminal background or criminal history, you will need to admit to your conviction. Florida residents with felony convictions also lose their right to vote. A history of conviction can have lifelong implications for many Floridians, regardless of the severity of the conviction.
In many cases, Floridians are wrongly accused and wrongly convicted of crimes. Even when there was no wrongful conviction, a person with a history of a criminal conviction can change his or her life yet remain weighed down by that criminal history. There is good news: you may be able to have your criminal record sealed or expunged.
What Does It Mean to Seal or Expunge Criminal Convictions?
Under Florida law (Fla. Stat. Section 943.053), criminal history records are public for adults unless that record is sealed or expunged. What does it mean to seal or expunge a record? According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), sealing a record places your criminal history record “under highly restricted access.” To be clear, sealing the record does not wipe away your criminal history, but it does make it very difficult to access except under particular circumstances. When a record is sealed, it remains in the criminal record system.
Expungement is different, and for most individuals with a criminal history record, expunging the record is preferable to sealing it. The FDLE explains that, when a record is expunged, it is “removed from record systems or files and destroyed.” In other words, there is no longer an official history of your criminal record.
How Can I Get My Criminal History Records Sealed or Expunged?
There are several ways that criminal records can be sealed or expunged, including but not limited to the following:
- Wrongful arrest: if your arrest was made “contrary to law or by mistake,” then you can seek an administrative expungement under Florida Statutes Section 943.0581;
- Lawful self-defense: if you were arrested for and/or charged with a crime for which it is later determined that you acted in lawful self-defense, you can apply for expungement under Florida Statutes Section 943.0585; and
- Juvenile diversion program: if you were arrested for and charged with certain crime(s) as a juvenile and completed a diversion program, you may be able to have your record expunged under Florida Statutes Section 943.0582 (there is also the possibility of an automatic juvenile expungement given certain other conditions are met).
Typically, the court-ordered sealing of criminal records may be possible for certain types of violations under Florida law (Fla. Stat. Section 943.059), but sealing requires that the individual first seek a “Certificate of Eligibility” to seal or expunge the record. This is also a necessary first step for expungement.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in Orlando
Do you have questions about cleaning up your criminal record in Orlando? An experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney can speak with you about your case and your options today. Contact Moses & Rooth to learn more about how we can assist you.