Expungement in Florida
Criminal charges should not be taken lightly as a criminal conviction can have long-lasting consequences on your day to day life, especially if you face jail time. However, a criminal record can also adversely affect your career, your ability to obtain student financial aid, and a conviction can even result in the suspension of your driving privileges. Luckily, in some limited cases, Florida allows for the sealing or expunction of your criminal record, effectively clearing your conviction or arrest from official public records.
Expungement of your criminal record basically means that any evidence of your arrest or criminal conviction is cleared from official public records. In the event of an expungement of a certain criminal record, you will be able to legally deny that you were ever arrested for the crime covered by that expungement. Moreover, if your criminal record is sealed, the public will not have access to the record via government databases, meaning that most employers will not have access to the information in your record. However, it is important to note that the government, including the police and the military, still have a legal right to access criminal history records even if they are sealed. While the government can access to a sealed record and can tell that criminal information has been expunged from the record, the government can only have access to that record through a court order. Also, be wary that an expungement typically has no impact on private company or federal databases, meaning that employers and the general public may still be able to access your information if it is stored in these databases. Finally, it should be noted that Florida judges also have online access to view sealed or expunged records.
Under Florida law, to qualify for a record expungement you:
- Must not have a conviction, or finding of guilt as an adult, and your records have not previously been sealed or expunged; or
- You have a juvenile record – in this instance, it is possible to have an automatic record expungement when you become 24 or 26 years old, depending on your history, and whether you have been arrested or convicted as an adult; or
- You are a minor – in this instance, certain misdemeanor records can be expunged after certain programs are completed; or
- You were subject to an arrest that was “contrary to law or by mistake.”
Even if you meet one of these qualifications, it is possible that in certain situations or circumstances, you may be ineligible for expungement. In these cases, you will be disqualified from receiving an expungement if:
- You have a conviction or finding of guilt as an adult, or you were found delinquent as a juvenile, of a crime, including misdemeanors, felonies, and even driving under the influence;
- You have a conviction as an adult, or were found delinquent as a juvenile for the crime you wish to seal or expunge;
- While on probation you violated the terms of your sentence and a judge, therefore, converted a “withhold” to an “adjudication;”
- You were found guilty, or plead guilty or no contest to certain offenses and have a “withhold of adjudication,” even if you were a minor;
- A previous criminal record was sealed or expunged in any other state or jurisdiction;
- You are waiting for an expungement in another case; or
- You have an open criminal case, need to complete community service hours, are on probation, or you still owe a court-ordered financial obligation such as restitution.