Individuals who have been in legal trouble in the past often seek to have their criminal records sealed or expunged for various reasons. However, it is important for you to know whether or not your case is eligible for expungement or sealing.
The following questions and answers are provided to help individuals with their research of the common issues experienced when attempting to get rid of any evidence of past “indiscretions.” If you have questions or concerns about your criminal history and would like to find out if your record can be sealed or expunged, contact the Sarasota criminal defense attorneys at The Fowler Law Group as soon possible.
Who Typically Qualifies for Record Sealing or Expungement?
There are a number of factors used in determining eligibility for record sealing or expungement. In general, Florida law permits an individual to seal or expunge his or her criminal record if the case was dismissed, dropped or no-billed (meaning no information or insufficient information was provided). Also, if the judge gave you a “withhold of adjudication,” you might be eligible to have the record sealed.
What Are Some Disqualifying Factors That Might Keep Me From Having My Criminal Record Sealed or Expunged?
Individuals who have been adjudicated guilty and convicted as an adult or adjudicated delinquent (while a juvenile) of a criminal offense are usually disqualified. Such offenses include criminal ordinance violations, traffic offenses, misdemeanors or felonies. You may also be disqualified from sealing or expunging your record if you were found guilty and convicted as an adult or found delinquent as a juvenile for the criminal offense for which you’re seeking sealing or expungement.
You might also be disqualified if you were put on probation or community control and ultimately violated the terms such that the judge changed the withhold of adjudication to an adjudication. Also, if you have had a previous record sealed or expunged in another jurisdiction (including another state), you may be disqualified. To get a clear understanding of whether or not you are qualified, you are encouraged to speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney about your specific set of circumstances.
I’ve Heard There Are Different Types Of Expungements. Which One Do I Need?
There are generally four different types of record expungements. Some individuals may seek to have records sealed or expunged due to having an inaccurate criminal record. For instance, if you know you’ve never been arrested in the past, but an arrest shows up on your criminal background, you will likely be able to get that record expunged.
Also, if you were arrested by mistake, as is sometimes the case when two individuals share the same name, you may be entitled to expunge the record. Please note, however, that this will not necessarily be granted in cases where you simply believe your arrest was a mistake.
For juveniles under 18 years of age who are currently in or have just completed a pretrial diversion program, expungement of juvenile arrest records may be an option, but it is crucial for anyone considering this type of expungement to act fast, as time is of the essence. And, as noted in a previous post, the hurdles that must be crossed are numerous; however, reforms to the laws have been proposed. Finally, some individuals simply want their criminal record removed for some other reason than what has been discussed above.
Are There Any Advantages to Having My Record Sealed or Expunged?
Under Florida law, once your record has been sealed or expunged, you can legally deny or not acknowledge any of the arrests covered by the sealed or expunged record. There are exceptions, however.
For example, if you are an immigrant seeking a change of status, or if you are currently a defendant in a criminal case, you cannot deny or choose not to acknowledge your arrest. Also, those seeking employment with a criminal justice agency, the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Education or any position having direct contact with kids, the elderly or the developmentally disabled may not deny or fail to acknowledge past arrests. You also cannot deny or fail to acknowledge an arrest if you are seeking admission to the Florida Bar.