Florida law provides a way to have your criminal record sealed or expunged under limited circumstances. However, the process of sealing or expunging can seem daunting at first, and it is easy to get caught up in the technicalities involved. We have put together a guide which we hope will simplify the process. But first, what exactly is sealing and expunging?
Sealing a criminal record refers to the process of restricting access to the record so that the public cannot see it. Sealing is beneficial because most employers will be unable to access your criminal record (although there are some exceptions, which we cover below). A potential employer, however, may conduct a background check and the background check company could have an outdated version of your criminal record. Fortunately, if your record is sealed, you can direct the employer to call the appropriate Clerk of Courts, who will then inform the employer there is no record for you.
Sealing and expunging are easy to get confused, and in practical terms there may be very little difference between the two. The main distinction lies in the fact that, if a criminal record is sealed, then people are restricted from accessing your record. If a record is expunged, then the record is actually destroyed by the courthouse. However, some government entities will still be able to see that you had your record expunged and may ask about it.
Who Can See a Sealed or Expunged Record?
Although the general public, including most employers, will be unable to see your record once it is sealed or expunged, the law provides for some exceptions. Here are a few of the entities that can still access your record:
- The Department of Education, if you apply for a teaching position
- The Florida Bar, if you apply to be a lawyer
- Any criminal justice agency with which you seek employment
- The Florida Department of Agriculture, if you apply for a concealed carry permit
APPLYING FOR A SEALED OR EXPUNGED RECORD
Without further ado, here is the process of getting your record sealed or expunged:
- Determining Eligibility: In order to be eligible, you must:
- Not have a conviction for any crime, including traffic crimes (civil or traffic infractions—e.g. speeding, Driving with License Suspended without knowledge—do not count as a conviction). For most crimes, a withhold of adjudication will not eliminate your eligibility;
- Not have pled guilty or nolo contendere to, nor have been found guilty by a judge or jury of, any “dangerous crimes” including sex crimes, violent crimes, or any others found in Florida Statutes, section 907.041 (even a withhold of adjudication removes eligibility in these instances); AND
- Not have had a record sealed or expunged before in Florida—in other words, you only get one seal or expunction in a lifetime.
In addition to the above requirements, if you are applying for your record to be expunged, you must also meet one of these requirements:
- The prosecutor for the record to be expunged did not file charges against you or later dropped your case, or the judge dismissed the case; OR
- The record has already been sealed for 10 years.
- Filling in the Application for Sealing or Expungement: If you believe you are eligible, the next step is to fill out the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) Sealing and Expunction Application, which can be found at http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/cms/Seal-and-Expunge-Process/Documents/Seal-and-Expunge-Application_Revised-06152010.aspx
- Filing Remaining Paperwork: In addition to the Application for Sealing and Expunction, you also have to submit:
- A certified copy of the final disposition for each charge you list on the application;
- A fingerprint form, which can be completed at your Sheriff’s Office; AND
- A money order or Cashier’s check for a non-refundable processing fee of $75
If you are applying for expungement, then along with the above documents and fee, you also must contact the State Attorney or Statewide Prosecutor to complete part of the application.
For your convenience, we have also provided the following chart which may make it easier to understand the process of getting your record sealed or expunged:
|Definition||Preventing the general public from seeing your criminal record (Some governmental agencies can still see your record)||Having the courthouse and law enforcement destroy your criminal record|
(Some governmental agencies can still see your record)
|Eligibility||· No conviction on your record (withhold of adjudication does not usually remove eligibility)|
· No plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or finding of guilt by a judge or jury, for a “dangerous crime” (See Florida Statutes 907.041); even a withhold of adjudication for one of these crimes will eliminate eligibility
· No previous sealing or expunction
|Same as the requirements for sealing, PLUS one of the following:|
· Having your case dropped or dismissed; OR
· Having a record sealed for 10 years
|Applying||· Complete form (http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/cms/Seal-and-Expunge-Process/Documents/Seal-and-Expunge-Application_Revised-06152010.aspx)|
· Certified copy of final disposition for charges
· Fingerprint form
· $75 processing fee
|Same as the requirements for sealing, AND you must contact State Attorney or Statewide Prosecutor to complete designated part of form|