Sealing and Expungement in Florida
Florida Expungement Attorney: Expunge a Record in Florida
If you are interested in expungement in Florida, contact Florida expungement lawyer William B. Wynne today to discuss your options. Attorney William B. Wynne has successfully represented over 200 clients through the process of expunging and sealing their records, throughout counties all over the state of Florida. He accepts cases in all Florida counties. If your criminal record originated in Florida, Mr. Wynne can help you expunge or seal it.
The expungement and/or sealing of records in Florida, is a long and complicated legal process. Most people find that hiring a Florida expungement lawyer gives them peace of mind, and saves money, time, and frustration. In fact, many people are eventually forced to hire an attorney after unsuccessfully attempting to expunge a record in Florida on their own. The Law Office of William B. Wynne does everything possible to ensure the process is done correctly and as quickly as possible.
The Scourge of Criminal Records
Despite popular opinion, a criminal arrest record does not simply disappear over time. It does not matter if the charges were dismissed against you, or if you were acquitted at trial. Every time a person is arrested and fingerprinted, a criminal record is created. And the fact that you were arrested or charged with a criminal law violation will remain a public record permanently unless a judge orders it to be sealed or expunged. In fact, a simple FDLE background check will uncover any criminal court records. Even without a conviction, a criminal record 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 FDLE background checks. To make matters worse, anyone with a computer or a smartphone can easily access mugshots online and search public court records—that often include detailed arrest reports. These reasons underscore the value and importance of expungement in Florida. If you are seeking to expunge a record in Florida contact our office today to speak with a Florida expungement lawyer. We offer free consultations.
“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.”
Do You Qualify for Expungement in Florida?
The first thing (and the most important thing) to be determined, is eligibility. Do you qualify for expungement or sealing in Florida? While determining eligibility is sometimes simple, it can also be ambiguous, and sometimes complex. An accurate assessment of eligibility often requires legal knowledge, and familiarity with court records and other legal documents. Many cases are not cut and dry, which is why it is always a good idea to consult with an experienced Florida expungement lawyer. Sadly, roughly 80% of the clients that contact our office to inquire about the service, are not eligible for expungement or sealing.
Florida Expungement & Sealing: Requirements
For starters, you are only entitled to one Florida court-ordered exungement or sealing. That is, you can only expunge or seal your Florida record once. This does not apply to out-of-state expungement or sealing. So if you had a record expunged or sealed in another state, you can breathe easy; it will not (by itself) disqualify you.
The FDLE Background Check:
Additionally, if you have ever been convicted of a crime in Florida (even less serious offenses like driving with a suspended license or trespassing) you will not be eligible for expungement or sealing, and your application will be denied. When you apply for a certificate of eligibility, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will conduct a background check. The FDLE background check will uncover any prior convictions in the state of Florida. To put it simply, you cannot have any prior criminal convictions. Again, there is an out-of-state exception, thanks to a recent change in the law. Therefore, a criminal conviction from another state, will not (by itself) disqualify you.
Below is a list of eligibility requirements:
- No Prior Convictions: You will be subject to the FDLE background check, and you cannot have been previously convicted (adjudicated guilty) for any criminal offense anywhere. This means that even if you were found guilty of a petty offense over thirty years ago, you will not be eligible for expungement in Florida. Update: As of October 1, 2019, a change in the allow now allows for out-of-state convictions. So, under the current law, only Florida convictions will disqualify you. Juvenile criminal records can also have an impact on your eligibility.
- No prior sealing/expungement: You cannot have previously had your record sealed or expunged. Expungement/Sealing has a one-time allowance. Keep in mind, a prior expungement or sealing from a different state is okay.
- You can only expunge one case or criminal record. However, under certain circumstances, it is possible to seal or expunge multiple cases in Florida.
- You cannot be currently under court supervision, community control, probation, etc.
- If you received a withhold of adjudication for your offense, your offense isn’t one of the crimes listed below. (See the list of crimes at the bottom of this page.) However, keep in mind, that if the charges were dismissed, or never filed, you can expunge the record even if the crime appears on the list below.
- Only arrest records that originated in Florida can be sealed or expunged by this firm. Each state has its own laws pertaining to the expungement and sealing process. If your arrest record pertains to charges that occurred in another state, you will need to contact an attorney licensed in that state.
Difference Between Expungement and Sealing
Exungement and Sealing are remarkably similar in that they achieve generally the same outcome. Which is to remove your record from public view and allow you to deny its existence. The process of expungement is governed by section 943.0585 of the Florida Statutes. 943.0585, Fla. Stat. (2019). In contrast, the process of Sealing criminal records is governed by section 943.059 of the Florida Statutes. 943.059, Fla. Stat. (2019).
Destroyed v. Sealed
The first primary difference involves what happens to your records after expungement or sealing. Having your record sealed means that a judge will order your criminal record to be sealed and kept private. This makes it inaccessible to the public generally, which includes future employers, background searches, educational institutions, and others.
On the other hand, expungement is the process in which your record is physically destroyed or obliterated, and therefore kept confidential from the public. But there is a caveat: one copy of your criminal record is kept by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement—which is only accessible to law enforcement. Certain parties can still be informed that the record was expunged but will not have access to the actual physical record.
Different Eligibility Requirements
The next significant difference between the two, are the eligibility requirements. A criminal record can be expunged 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, if adjudication was withheld, and if it is not included in a list of crimes forbidden under Florida law, as provided in section 943.0584 of the Florida Statutes—another trap to look out for. 943.0584, Fla. Stat. (2019). See the list at the bottom of this page. To put it simply, expungement is typically for when the charges are dismissed. If, on the other hand, you entered a plea of “guilty” or “no-contest,” but were not convicted, sealing would be appropriate.
The Process of Expungement and Sealing
An experienced Florida expungement lawyer can help you through this complicated legal process, and make sure everything is done expeditiously and correctly. What exactly does this entail? We start by reviewing your criminal history and then applying for eligibility through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). They will conduct their own internal FDLE background check. After receiving a certificate of eligibility from the FDLE, 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, with a few limited exceptions, as provided by Florida law. 943.0585(4)(a), Fla. Stat. (2019).
“An experienced Florida expungement lawyer can help you through this complicated legal process, and make sure everything is done expeditiously and correctly.”
The Effect of Florida Sealing and Expungement
If you are eligible, expunging or sealing your record will prevent others from discriminating against you based on your criminal history. It goes without saying, that expungement/sealing is a wonderful tool that can brighten your future, open employment opportunities, and restore your reputation and standing in the community. As a Florida expungement lawyer, William B. Wynne takes pride in helping clients free themselves from the burden of a prior criminal record.
The Removal and Destruction of Records
Sealing and expungement will result in your criminal court records being kept from public inquiry. Further, once a judge signs an order to expunge or seal a criminal case, certified copies of that order are then forwarded to all agencies that may have collected and/or retained criminal records relating to the case. Typically, this includes, the County Sheriff, the State Attorney’s Office, the arresting agency, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and others. All these institutions are legally obligated to comply with the laws of expungement and sealing. Unfortunately, private parties cannot be legally compelled to remove or destroy records that they lawfully possess—a topic that perhaps deserves its own section or article.
The Right to Legally Tell a Lie
As previously stated, one of the major benefits of having your record expunged, is that you can lawfully deny, or fail to acknowledge the criminal arrest. This is essentially giving you a free pass to lie to any person, firm, company, or agency that inquires about your criminal history. Unfortunately, there are some limitations regarding who you can lie to, and under what circumstances. There are certain circumstances that will require you to disclose the existence and nature of the criminal record, even though it was expunged or sealed. Some examples include, candidates for admission to the Florida Bar, and those seeking employment with a criminal justice agency. For more on this topic, see our blog post covering the basics of expungement and sealing in Florida.
Crimes Ineligible for Sealing
The following is a list of crimes that cannot be sealed, even if adjudication is withheld, as provided in Section 943.0584 of the Florida Statutes. 943.0584, Fla. Stat. (2019).
- Luring or Enticing a Child – F.S. 787.025
- Sexual Battery and related offense – Chapter 794
- Procuring person under 18 for prostitution – F.S. 796.03
- Lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age – F.S. 800.04
- Voyeurism – F.S. 810.14
- Violations of the Florida Communications Fraud Act (Scheme to defraud or Organized Fraud as defined in F.S. 817.034)
- Lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of an elderly person or disabled adult – F.S. 825.1025
- Sexual Performance by a child – F.S. 827.071
- Sexual misconduct with mentally deficient or mentally ill defendant and related offenses.
- A violation of any offense qualify for registration as a sexual predator under F.S. 775.21 or for registration as a sexual offender under F.S. 943.0435.
- Offenses by public officers and employees – Chapter 839
- Giving/showing/transmitting/loaning obscene materials to a minor – F.S. 847.0133
- Computer pornography(child related) – F.S. 847.0135
- Selling or buying of minors – F.S. 847.0145
- Drug Trafficking (Trafficking in Controlled Substances) – F.S. 893.135 (This does not include possession)
- Violations of Pretrial detention or release – F.S. 907.041
- Arson – F.S. 806.01
- Aggravated Assault – F.S. 784.021
- Aggravated Battery – F.S. 784.045
- Illegal use of explosives – F.S. 790.001
- Child abuse or aggravated child abuse- Chapter 827
- Abuse of elderly person or disabled adult, or aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
- Aircraft Piracy
- Kidnapping – Chapter 787
- Homicide – Chapter 782
- Manslaughter – F.S. 782.07
- Robbery – F.S. 812.13
- Carjacking – F.S. 812.133
- 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 – F.S. 827.071
- Burglary of a dwelling – F.S. 810.02
- Stalking and aggravated stalking – F.S. 784.048
- Act of Domestic Violence as defined in F.S. 741.28
- Home invasion robbery – F.S. 812.135
- Act of terrorism as defined by F.S. 775.30
- Manufacturing any substances in violation of chapter 893
- Attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above crimes
Contact Us Today
The Law Office of William B. Wynne, P.L.L.C., provides expungement and sealing services throughout the entire state of Florida. Attorney William B. Wynne is an experienced and knowledgeable Florida Expungement Lawyer that has successfully handled hundreds of cases. If you are interested in expungement or sealing in Florida, contact us today for a free consultation.