A Clean Slate — Expunging and Sealing Your Criminal Record in Florida

In Florida, and throughout the country, those who have a criminal record — whether they have simply been arrested or charged and convicted — may have to deal with a number of unexpected difficulties.  Oftentimes, criminal offenders struggle with the process of reintegrating into society.  The details of their criminal case(s) are accessible to the public, after all, and they may be required to disclose aspects of their criminal record to employers.

Sealing and expungement can provide those with a criminal record the means by which to start over again with a “clean slate.”  Still, though Florida allows certain criminal offenders to request expungement and record sealing, there are a number of limitations that everyone should keep in mind as they consider next steps.

How Does Sealing and Expungement Differ?

Sealing and expungement accomplish somewhat similar things: primarily, they help those with a criminal record better “hide” their record from the general public.  In that sense, then, the difference between sealing and expungement is in how effectively they allow a person to hide their criminal record.

Record sealing does not clear away a person’s criminal record entirely.  Instead, sealing a criminal record removes it from the public access.  Your records will be deleted from court databases but will be maintained elsewhere.  Members of the public may still be able to access a sealed record, but they must obtain a court order first.

Expungement acts as a deletion, of sorts.  A record will be maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but aside from that, the criminal record at-issue will effectively cease to exist.  Members of the public are not entitled to access an expunged record, even with a court order.

Limitations on Sealing and Expungement

When petitioning to seal or expunge your criminal records, it’s important to note that a variety of limitations apply.

First, you cannot seal or expunge more than one criminal record (over the course of your entire lifetime!), so choose carefully.  If you’ve been arrested and charged with multiple different crimes, for example, you could expunge the record of all charges arising from the single arrest incident.

Second, you cannot seal or expunge the criminal record of any action that resulted in a guilty verdict.  Similarly, you cannot expunge the criminal record of any action that led to trial, unless you were found “not guilty.”

Third, certain charges may not be sealed or expunged.  These generally involve serious felonies, such as aggravated assault and battery, homicide, manslaughter, robbery, burglary of someone’s residence, various sexual crimes, and more.

Disclosing Your Criminal Record to an Employer

Once you have had your criminal record sealed or expunged, you may be wondering whether you have to disclose the criminal record at-issue to an employer.  Fortunately, you do not have to disclose it — and in fact, you can deny that you have a criminal record, if the record has been sealed or expunged.

There are, however, a few exceptions in Florida for which you’ll have to reveal your sealed or expunged record to an employer.  For example, if you are applying to serve as a law enforcement officer, you will have to reveal your criminal record, even if it has been sealed or expunged.

Contact an Experienced Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney for Further Guidance

Here at Fowler Law Group, our attorneys have over thirteen years of collective experience representing clients in a range of criminal matters, from litigation to administrative issues including expungement/sealing.  We are committed to our clients and advocate aggressively on their behalf — we understand that criminal charges can have a life-changing impact on an individual, and as such, we treat our clients and their issues with the gravity they deserve.

If you’re interested in potentially expunging or sealing your criminal record in Florida, call (941) 900-3100 or submit an online form to schedule a consultation with an experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorney here at Fowler Law Group.  We look forward to assisting you.

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