Having a criminal record can greatly hinder multiple aspects of a person’s life – from job searches to apartment searches, records of criminal charges can come back to haunt you and hurt you. Criminal records, no matter how insignificant the charges may seem, are especially harmful for those in public service type jobs, such as teachers, law enforcement officers, or child care providers. Employers in those areas almost always require background checks, and any criminal record found could destroy a chance for employment.

Fortunately, when a person meets certain requirements, he or she may be eligible to expunge or seal criminal a criminal record to help alleviate some of the adverse effects.

What is the difference between sealing and expunging?

  • Expunging:
    • Expungements are typically done where the charges in a case were either dismissed by the judge or dropped by the State Attorney. In other words, the person was not convicted of any crime.
    • A record that has been expunged is supposed to be physically destroyed and unavailable for anyone to review without a court order.
  • Sealing:
    • Sealings are typically done where a person either plead no contest or was found guilty after trial, and adjudication was withheld.
    • In the case of a sealing, in order to be eligible, the person must have met all probationary terms, completed all parts of the sentence (such as fines or community service), obeyed all court orders, and had no subsequent criminal offenses.
    • A record that has been sealed will be is available only to the defendant, the attorney, judges, criminal justice agencies (such as the FBI), and certain other agencies such as DCF and the Department of Education.

 

A knowledgeable expungement lawyer can file a petition on a person’s behalf requesting a record be expunged or sealed if certain criteria are met. A successful expungement may open the door to new opportunities for someone whose criminal record was holding them back.

When is a person NOT eligible for sealing or expungement?

  • First,  a person who was convicted of a crime (meaning that the court adjudicated the person guilty) is ineligible to seal or expunge a criminal record.
  • Having ANY convictions on a person’s record, including felony, misdemeanor or traffic crimes, makes that person ineligible to seal or expunge a criminal record.
  • Already having had a case sealed or expunged makes a person ineligible for another sealing or expungement.
  • Additionally, certain crimes cannot be sealed or expunged, regardless of whether adjudication was withheld. These crimes include offenses listed in S. 907.041, F.S., to wit: Arson, Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Battery, Illegal use of explosives, Child abuse or aggravated child abuse, Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, or Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, Aircraft piracy, Kidnapping, Homicide,  Manslaughter, Sexual Battery, Robbery, Carjacking, Lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault or act upon or in the presence of a child under the age of 16 years, Sexual activity with a child, who is 12 years of age or older but less than 18 years of age, by or at solicitation of a person in familial or custodial authority, Burglary of a dwelling, Stalking and Aggravated Stalking, Act of Domestic Violence as defined in s. 741.28 F.S., Home-invasion Robbery, Act of Terrorism as defined by s. 775.30 F.S., Manufacturing any substances in violation of chapter 893, Attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above crimes. 

Ever wonder how to seal or expunge a criminal charge in Florida? In general, the process goes as follows:

  • First, fingerprints need to be taken and an application from FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) needs to be filled out by the applicant and the State Attorney’s Office.
  • Once the application is completed, it is provided to FDLE who then does a criminal record search.
  • Once that is finished, FDLE will send a Certficate of Eligibility if the applicant is eligible for sealing or expunging, and if not, FDLE will send a letter explaining why.
  • Then, assuming the person is eligible, a sealing or expungement attorney will file a Motion to Seal, an Affidavit, and a proposed Order, and will appear for a hearing on the matter.
  • If the judge grants the motion, the case will then be sealed or expunged.
  • The entire process can take several months.
  • There are also various costs associated with the process, including application and filing fees.

Anyone who is seeking to have a criminal record sealed or expunged in Palm Beach County should contact a Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney who is familiar with the process.

For the Florida statute regarding record expungement, see Florida Statute §943.0585.

For the Florida statute regarding record sealing, see Florida Statute §943.059.

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

 

 

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