Expungement in Florida
Law Office of William B. Wynne
2501 Orient Road, Suite D
Tampa, FL 33619
The Law Office of William B. Wynne, P.L.L.C., represents clients in criminal and civil matters in Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Polk, Hernando, Pinellas, and Pasco Counties. Consultations are free of charge. Call us today!
Do you have a criminal record?
One of my favorite particular areas of practice is expungement in Florida. There is something special about making that final phone call, to tell a client that the wait is over. Their case has been officially expunged. And, sharing in their celebration, experiencing the weight falling off their shoulders. It’s a rewarding experience, it provides them with a lifelong benefit, and it is very affordable.
The bottom line is that expungement in Florida is a complicated process.
When I was in law school, a classmate of mine had his record expunged. Confident in his legal knowledge, and being a law student, he did it himself. And he still made a mistake! The moral of the story is that expunging and sealing a record is a tricky, complex process. While it is possible to do it yourself (without a lawyer), most legal professionals do not recommend it. And I promise, they’re not saying that just to get your money.
“A criminal arrest record does not simply disappear over time. It doesn’t matter if the charges were dismissed against you, or if you were acquitted at trial.”
I’ve done over 200 expungements and sealings throughout counties all over Florida. From up in the panhandle near Alabama to to Miami-Dade, Broward, and even Key West. Since I am a one-lawyer firm, I don’t have the same expenses and overhead as other firms. Which means I’m able to offer a competitive price. I don’t charge for initial consultations or phone calls, so please, feel free to give me a call. I’d be happy to help you clear your record.
Do I qualify for Expungement in Florida?
The first question asked by roughly 95% of my clients, is whether they qualify for expungement in Florida. Indeed, this is the first thing you need to consider. About 75% of the calls that come into my office don’t qualify. While determining eligibility is sometimes simple, it can also be a tricky business. It often requires legal research skills, knowledge, and familiarity with court records.
The basics of Expungement in Florida
Despite popular opinion, a criminal arrest record does not simply disappear over time. It doesn’t matter if the charges were dismissed against you, or if you were acquitted at trial.
The fact that you were arrested or charged with a criminal law violation will remain public record permanently unless and until you apply for expungement in Florida.
Even without a conviction, a criminal case can cause people serious problems with employment, housing and other important areas. In today’s modern age of high-speed information, it is becoming increasingly popular and economically viable for both public and private parties to conduct background checks. Today more than ever, it is imperative to seek expungement in Florida.
What crimes cannot be sealed?
A criminal record can be expunged (Florida Statute 943.0585) when it was dismissed or dropped, or if charges were never officially filed—known as a “no information.” On the other hand, a criminal record can be sealed (943.059), if adjudication was withheld, and if it is not included in a list of crimes forbidden under Florida Law—another trap to look out for. There is quite a long list of crimes that cannot be sealed, even if adjudication is withheld. In addition, an applicant can only expunge/seal once in their lifetime within the State, and only one arrested record can be sealed/expunged. Multiple cases can sometimes be sealed or expunged, but only if they arose out of the same set of facts or criminal conduct, or otherwise have a temporal or causal connection. This can be somewhat of a grey area and requires discretion.
What does it mean to have your record expunged?
Having your record sealed or expunged means that the court will order your criminal record to be sealed or expunged, and therefore confidential from the public, future employers, or a public background search, with certain limitations. And, what’s more, the law allows the applicant to lawfully deny the existence of the expunged or sealed record. In theory, it’s as if it never happened. However, the existence—but not necessarily the specific contents—of a criminal record must still be disclosed, under a few exceptional circumstances outlined under Florida Statutes sections 943.0585 and 943.059.
“A criminal record can be expunged (Florida Statute 943.0585) when it was dismissed or dropped, or if charges were never officially filed—known as a “no information.”
Exceptions to the Rule of Disclosure
The following is a list of exceptions. These are known as exceptions to the rule of disclosure. You will still be required to disclose the existence of a sealed or expunged record under these circumstances:
A SEALED record has two more exceptions:
If you are eligible, expungement in Florida will prevent others from discriminating against you based on your criminal history. What exactly does this entail? We start by reviewing your criminal history and then applying for eligibility through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. After receiving a certificate of eligibility from the F.D.L.E., we then petition the Court to seal or expunge your arrest record.
Once this process is complete, and your record is officially expunged, you may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge anything having to do with the criminal case.
The Process of Exupngement
There are 4 to 5 steps in the process, depending on whether you are seeking an expungement or a sealing. An expungement involves 5 steps, while a sealing involves 4 steps. Thus, a sealing can be concluded a little faster than an expungement—having one less step.
First, the application must be properly assembled, including notarized documents, fingerprints, specific charges and correct dates, complete demographic information, and certified copies of correct court documents.
Second, for expungement applications only, State Attorney approval must be obtained. Sealing applications can skip this step and go straight to the next.
Expungements require State Attorney authorization, Sealings do not.
Third, once State Attorney approval is obtained—if seeking expungement—the application must be submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This is the longest stage of the process, and depending on the wait time, it can take anywhere from six months to nearly a year to get a certificate of eligibility from the FDLE. Unfortunately, there is not expedited option available, and applications are taken and reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.Fourth, once the certificate of eligibility is received, the final court pleadings must be assembled and filed with the correct court, using the correct language, and properly noticing all interested parties. Further, local court procedures must be followed which can include setting a hearing, filing a notice of hearing, organizing the calendar with opposing counsel, and ensuring everything is done properly.
Finally, a proposed order must be submitted to the judge, and must be filled out in detail, completely and correctly, to be forwarded to all the relevant agencies for completion of the expungement or sealing.
Crimes that cannot be sealed even if adjudication was withheld:
And Also Violations enumerated in Section 907.041:
So, unfortunately, if you were charged with one of the above offenses, you will not be able to have it sealed, even if adjudication was withheld. Now, keep in mind, if the case was dismissed, dropped, or if charges were never filed, you can have it expunged, regardless of what it was. You could be charged with premeditated murder, but if the charges are dropped, you can petition to have it expunged. The list above applies only to cases one is seeking to have sealed.