There are many reasons you may want to have your criminal record sealed. Maybe you’re seeking employment, and are worried a potential boss might raise an eyebrow at a youthful mistake. Even though it occurred years ago and you were never convicted, a smudge on your criminal record can also affect your chances of acquiring real estate, a career-oriented license, and other aspects of life that may include a criminal background check. A criminal record can stay with you forever, potentially damaging your professional reputation and personal relationships. Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of it?
In order to seal a criminal record in the state of Florida, the applicant must meet five requirements:
1) You’ve never been convicted of a crime anywhere;
2) You’ve never expunged or sealed any record, anywhere;
3) Your case never went to trial, even if you were acquitted;
4) Adjudication was withheld on a Guilty or No Contest plea;
5) You’ve completed any and all sentenced imposed on the charge you hope to seal, including probation.
If you meet all five requirements, you may be eligible to have your record sealed. However, in the state of Florida, there are some past crimes for which sealing is not allowed. These include but are not limited to: abuse of an elderly or disabled adult, domestic violence, terrorism, illegal use of explosives, aggravated battery or assault, arson, burglary of a home, drug trafficking, carjacking, child abuse, child pornography, providing a minor with adult materials, fraud, kidnapping, homicide, any act resulting in sexual offender status, aggravated stalking and attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above crimes.
If you meet the five requirements and none of the listed exceptions, your next step is to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). You will have to be fingerprinted and fill out applications, which will then be sent to the FDLE along with a $75.00 processing fee.
If you are eligible, you may have to be patient for your Certificate – a three-month wait is not uncommon. Once you’ve obtained your Certificate, you must petition a court in the county in which you were arrested. Some states still require in-person hearings; if your arrest occurred in one of them, you must contact the Clerk of Courts and schedule a date for the hearing.
If your petition is granted (with or without a hearing), you must get a copy of the court order. Compile a list of all criminal justice agencies that may have a copy of your record; this will be turned over to the Clerk of Courts, who will send a copy of your order to every agency on the list, thus closing any gaps in valid information and properly sealing your record.
Although the process can take awhile, the effort is surely worth it in the end. If you’re having trouble with any step of the process, contact an experienced lawyer at Tager Law Firm, P.A.