Seal or Expunge Your Record in Florida
Sealing and Expungement
Protecting your record after a criminal arrest is extremely important. For every case that I handle, I always take into consideration how it will affect my client’s future. If you are eligible for sealing or expungement, our criminal defense attorneys will take care of it for you.
How Can I Benefit From Having My Florida Criminal Record Sealed Or Expunged?
If you have been arrested, you already know that the record of the arrest and all information about the case is public record unless it is sealed or expunged. The information about the case is able to be seen by anyone running a background search, or even by simply Googling your name. Many people who have had their criminal cases dropped come to me years or months later and complain that they did not get a job or were even prevented from renting an apartment. The stigma that the charges carry can be a real problem. So, there is a lot of benefit to moving quickly to get the record sealed or expunged. The faster that you move, the less time there is for websites and background companies to mine your information.
There is a lot of confusion about what sealing or expunging a record really is and who is eligible.
In Florida, there is a difference between expungement and sealing or records.
- Expunge – if you expunge your record, the court and government agencies’ records will be physically destroyed.
- Seal – when you seal your record, it becomes confidential. Your criminal record still exists, but the public won’t have access to it.
The end result about whether you seal or expunge is the same. Whether you seal or expunge your record, an employer will not have access to the information with a background check. The information no longer will be public record and that is the goal. In our opinion, the difference between whether you “seal” or “expunge” is just semantics. They cost the same and take the same amount of time, so don’t get hung up on the label.
Requirements to Expunge Your Record
You might be eligible to expunge your Florida record if you resolved your case without a plea or by doing a diversion program. You must have no other convictions anywhere for other criminal offenses to seal your record. This means no DUIs, no disorderly conduct, no DWLSR. Nothing that ended in an adjudication of guilt (conviction).
Some examples of circumstances when you might resolve a case without a plea include:
- The State Attorney’s office did not file a formal charge or information on your case. In other words, it was dismissed.
- The prosecutor filed charges but dropped them (nolle prosequi or nol pros)
- You were found not guilty or had a motion granted that resulted in the charges being dropped.
Once you expunge your Florida record, the public will not have access to any documents. That includes any information about your arrest or prosecution.
Requirements to Seal Your Record
If you completed a diversion plan or had a plea that included a withholding of adjudication, you might be eligible to seal your record. You must have no other convictions anywhere for other criminal offenses to seal your record. This means no DUIs, no disorderly conduct, no DWLSR. Nothing that ended in an adjudication of guilt (conviction). However, note that certain crimes are ineligible for sealing in Florida.
After you seal your criminal record in Florida, the public can no longer access it. After a record stays sealed for ten years, it becomes eligible for expunction. Most of our clients do not care about going back and getting the record expunged because it has already been hidden from the public.
List Of Ineligible Or Disqualifying Offenses For Sealing And Expungement
While you can seal or expunge certain records, other offenses do not qualify. For example, the following offenses are ineligible for sealing and expungement:
- Abuse of an elderly person or disabled person
- Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
- Aircraft piracy
- Assault offenses (domestic abuse)
- Aggravated assault
- Certain battery offenses (of one family or household member by another family or household member)
- Felony battery
- Domestic battery by strangulation
- Aggravated battery
- Burglary of a dwelling
- Child abuse or aggravated child abuse
- Computer pornography offenses
- Drug trafficking
- False imprisonment
- Fraud violation of the Florida Communications Fraud Act
- Human trafficking
- Illegal use of explosives
- Lewd or lascivious offenses in the presence of a person under 16 years old
- Lewd or lascivious offenses committed on or in front of an elderly person or disabled person.
- Luring or enticing a child
- Manslaughter or homicide
- Manufacturing a controlled substance in violation of chapter 893
- Certain acts of obscenity
- Certain offenses by public officers and employees
- Procuring a person less than 18 years of age for prostitution
- Robbery offenses
- Robbery by sudden snatching
- Robbery by home invasion
- Selling or buying of minors
- Sexual battery
- Sexual misconduct under any of the following Florida statutes:
- Sexual misconduct with a developmentally disabled person (§393.135)
- Sexual misconduct with a mentally ill person (§394.4593)
- Sexual misconduct by a covered person and a forensic client in the custody of an agency (§916.1075)
- Sexual performance by a child, as defined in (s. 827.071)
- Stalking or aggravated stalking
- Voyeurism or video voyeurism
- Any violation considered a predicate offense that necessitates registration as a sexual predator according to s. 775.21, or sexual offender under s. 943.0435, regardless of whether that offense alone is sufficient to require registration.
1. If you have a criminal record reflecting a guilty adjudication as an adult. If you committed a felony or any misdemeanor specified in F.S. Section 943.051(3)(b). Note that Florida law classifies certain driving violations as criminal offenses, such as:
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Reckless driving (with a few exceptions)
- Driving with a revoked/suspended/or canceled license
2. If you have a criminal history record showing that you have been found guilty for one or more of the acts stemming from the arrest related to your sealing/expungement application.
How An Attorney Can Help You Seal Or Expunge A Criminal Record In Florida
You are not required to hire an attorney to seal or expunge a criminal record, but I cannot imagine how a non-lawyer could ever handle this process on their own. There are so many hoops to jump through that you would have to have a lot of familiarity with the criminal justice system.
We first help you determine if you are eligible and explain all the eligibility requirements. We ensure you fill out the application correctly. Then, we handle all of the paperwork until the record is no longer accessible to the public. There are a lot of steps in the process and it takes several months from when we start the process until we get the signed Order.
What Is The Process To Seal Or Expunge A Criminal Record?
- You must get a fingerprint card
- We get certified copies of all of the relevant documents from the case
- We fill out the application together
- We submit the application to the Office of the State Attorney for approval
- We submit the application and fee to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
- Once we receive the Certificate of Eligibility, we must petition the court
- Court signs the Order approving the sealing or expungement
- Copies of the Order are sent to all agencies instructing them to remove the case from being seen by the public
This process has been taking us approximately 6 months from start to finish. This is actually an improvement. Until 2021, the process took approximately 9-12 months.
Fees And Costs To Seal Or Expunge A Criminal Record
We charge a flat rate to seal or expunge your criminal record. Our standard fee is $1500, which includes all of the costs. There are no additional fees that you will have to pay us. Because the costs vary from case to case and are due at different times in the process, we have found that it is easier to simply charge a flat rate that includes all of the costs. We have found that this process gets the desired result faster and is fairer to everyone.
You can come to our office to complete all necessary paperwork or we can do it through the mail. Our staff is excellent about answering questions and guiding you.
Criminal Defense Attorneys to Seal or Expunge a Criminal Record in Florida
If you meet the eligibility requirements, our criminal defense attorneys will help you petition to seal or expunge your record. We will work hard to ensure the process is as smooth as possible for you.
Contact us today to discuss your case and get the process started. Every day that you wait is another day that your record is open to the public.
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