Having a criminal history a desirable thing for really anyone. Those who have an imperfect record can struggle to do even simple things, including find housing, get a job, travel, or even develop meaningful relationships. Florida makes this particularly difficult in that criminal histories are remarkably easy for just about anyone to access.
To make matters even more difficult, any criminal activity at all, including even simple arrests that wound up not even leading to charges being filed can warrant a criminal record entry that can come back to harm you later. However, there’s good news; you may be eligible to have your criminal record sealed, removing any entries from public view. Let’s take a look at how.
Expungement vs. Record Sealing
Florida is one of a select few states that actually recognizes both “expungement” and “record sealing.” In the Sunshine State, both of these tools have different uses and procedures you must follow to obtain them. “Expungement” is a term that generally implies having your record “destroyed,” or made as though it never happened and doesn’t exist. For this reason, you may only have your record expunged if you had your charges dismissed before you were ever taken to trial. In other words, if you were arrested on suspicion of a crime, but had your charges dropped due to a lack of evidence to convict you, you can immediately petition to have this wrongful arrest and criminal charge expunged.
Record sealing is when your case proceeds a step further and you do actually go to trial, but are either acquitted or the court withholds adjudication on your case. In this instance, since no conviction was obtained, you may be able to have your record sealed, which essentially hides your charges from view. While the record does still exist, it can only be opened and seen by an extremely small group of people, and only for an extremely limited number of reasons.
Applying to have your record sealed or expunged is fairly simple. First, you must obtain a certificate of eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which usually carries at $75 fee. You must also submit a disposition of your case as well as a set of fingerprints. Once this is complete, you’ll be able to fill out a petition and submit it along with an affidavit. The entire process can take 60 days or more to complete, but once it’s finished your record will be cleared and you’ll no longer have to worry about any past arrests showing up on background checks.
In both of these instances, you may only petition for them if your criminal history is clean and devoid of any guilty verdicts or convictions. Any actual convictions are not eligible to be sealed, including all misdemeanor and felony convictions, no matter how old they might be. This makes Florida one of the strictest states in terms of your ability to actually seal your history.
This means that if you’re facing criminal charges, it’s absolutely imperative that you have strong, qualified representation from a Weston criminal defense attorney on your side. By working with an experienced advocate, you can give yourself the best possible chance of avoiding a conviction in the first place, which then retains your ability to pursue having your record sealed or expunged at a later date.
If you need an attorney for your case, call the Law Office of Kevin F. Moot today at (954) 371-0770 to request a case evaluation!