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.
Expungement Lawyer in Orlando, Florida
Record Clearing –Protecting Your Reputation & Career
Whether you are being vetted for a security clearance as part of a promotion or you are the subject of a background check as part of a hiring process, the negative impact of a criminal record can derail your career. Even if your conviction occurred many years before, the impact of a conviction lasts long after people have served their time and completed the terms of probation. Expungement or sealing of criminal records has become especially important because background checks are increasingly used by investors, companies, employers, landlords, and occupational licensing boards just to name a few examples.
Many people do not realize that damage to their reputation can occur even if they have never been convicted of a crime. Whenever a person is fingerprinted or arrested in Florida, a criminal record is generated that is accessible to the public. Some people forget about long ago arrests or convictions until the prior contact with law enforcement costs a job, promotion, or another opportunity. Orlando criminal expungement attorney Beryl Thompson-McClary is a former Florida State’s Attorney who has participated in more than 350 trials. As both a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, she recognizes the devastating consequences of not sealing or expunging a criminal record.
What Is Expungement in Florida?
An expungement is a powerful tool for protecting your reputation and career because it allows you to legally deny or fail to acknowledge an arrest if you are asked by employers and certain others. In basic terms, expungements result in much of the information about your arrest being deleted from the clerk of the court computers and police databases, as well as the hard copy files being destroyed. However, certain government agencies, such as the FBI and Department of Education, will still have access to information about an expunged arrest.
Requirements for Expungement
The court has the power to grant an expungement only if certain requirements are met. The arrest to be expunged must not result in an adjudication of guilt. Further, the charges from any prior arrest must have been dropped or dismissed or adjudication must have been withheld. There is no waiting period before you can initiate the expungement process, so an expungement request can be filed immediately after the current case has been resolved. Expungement will remove your arrest from public dissemination by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the police department. Records with the court clerk regarding your arrest also will no longer be available to the public.
Expungement Benefits and Limits
Expungement will make it more difficult for private employers, landlords, and creditors to learn about your criminal case, but this form of relief is not absolute. Some companies that conduct background checks might have archived records obtained from public records prior to the expungement. However, you have the legal right to deny the arrest and to request that a prospective employer contact law enforcement or the court regarding the inaccurate result. Since these entities will not have public records that are available, the court or police department will not be able to confirm the arrest. If you seek employment with the government in certain types of occupations, such as jobs working with kids in a school, the elderly in a nursing home, or the disabled in a facility, the records will remain available.
Florida Criminal Record Sealing
If your case has not been dismissed or dropped by the prosecutor, you must first seek to have the record sealed. This approach is typical when the disposition of your case involves the withholding of the adjudication of guilt. Currently, the impact on an accused is similar because the records are made unavailable to the public, but the digital files do not have to be eliminated. Whether you successfully seek expungement or the sealing of your records, you have the legal right to deny that the arrest ever occurred.
What High-Profile Individuals Should Know
If you were arrested for a youthful transgression, your reputation, career, or business opportunities could be at risk. For example, a situation involving a prior felony conviction of actor Mark Wahlberg was widely reported by the media. According to media sources, he sought expungement because he wanted to join the LAPD as a reservist, but he was disqualified by his felony record for an assault and battery many years before. An expungement can help keep an encounter with law enforcement from interfering with your life goals and make it more difficult for the media to learn about the incident.
Contact the Law Offices of Beryl Thompson-McClary, P.A. Today
If you have been arrested in the past, you might believe that your criminal record is clear because you were not convicted. However, the records relating to your arrest remain unless you have them expunged or sealed. Florida law has exceptions to the offenses that qualify for expunging or sealing of records. If you are unsure if you would be successful in seeking an expungement, Orlando criminal expungement attorney Beryl Thompson-McClary invites you to contact us for a case evaluation. We have law offices in Orlando and practice in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Brevard, and Volusia counties. To schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney, you can call our office at 888-640-2999.