Expungement 101: The Basics
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. A friend of mine expunged his own record without an attorney. He was a recent law school graduate at the time so it made sense for him to do it on his own. 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. 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 and Sealing
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.
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:
The Law Office of William B. Wynne, P.L.L.C., provides expungement and sealing services throughout the entire state of Florida. If you would like to expunge or seal your criminal record, please call today for a free consultation. (813) 532-5057
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