| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Steps to Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record in Orlando

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.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Expungement vs. Sealed Records

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.

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