A criminal record can negatively impact your chances of getting a job, pursuing higher education or securing a loan or a home mortgage. Unfortunately, Florida law does not permit expunging or sealing records of criminal convictions or of guilty pleas to certain offenses, but there are other types of information that can be removed from public view, allowing you to answer “No” when asked if you’ve ever been arrested or charged with a crime. The criminal defense attorneys at Faught & Faught, P.A. can determine if you’re eligible for this relief and can guide you through the application process so you can get a fresh start, unburdened by past mistakes.
Sealing and expunging both remove a criminal record from public view, but there is a difference. When a record is sealed, certain governmental and nongovernmental entities can access the record in its entirety. When a record is expunged, all files are destroyed, except for one stored by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Qualified entities can learn that you have an expunged record but cannot access any details without a court order. Whether you can seal or expunge the record depends on how the case concluded. If a judge dismissed your case, or if the state attorney declined to prosecute, your case can be expunged. If you pled guilty or nolo contendere in exchange for a withholding of adjudication, you can only ask for your case to be sealed.
Before you can apply to a court for sealing or expungement, you must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility for Court-Ordered Sealing or Expungement (COE) from the FDLE. This requires showing that you have completed probation or any pretrial diversion program, such as drug treatment or community service, and that there are no charges pending against you or warrants out for your arrest. Notably, sealing or expungement is a one-time remedy. Anyone who previously has had a record sealed or expunged is ineligible. In addition, certain records are not able to be sealed, such as those relating to aggravated battery or assault, child abuse, kidnapping, sexual assault, rape, murder or manslaughter.
Expungements in Florida can also take one of these forms, depending on a defendant’s circumstances:
Our criminal defense attorneys can determine if you qualify for expungement and if so can represent you throughout the process.
If a criminal record is hampering your career or other aspects of your life, the determined defense lawyers at Faught & Faught, P.A. in Brandon, FL may be able to help you petition for expungement or sealing. Call 813-681-4246 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.