On top of everything else that flows from a criminal conviction – fines, jail time, community service, probation – you are left with a criminal record that follows you for the rest of your life. A criminal record can keep you from getting the job or occupational license you want. It can keep you from getting the apartment you want, prevent you from getting a loan, and generally ruin your reputation in the community wherever you go.
But a criminal record doesn’t have to sentence you to a life of misery. Thankfully, there is something you can do about it. Florida law allows for criminal records to be sealed or expunged under certain circumstances. The Florida criminal defense attorneys at Meldon Law can help you with this process. Learn more about record sealing and expungement below, and contact Meldon Law for help getting a new lease on life without the burden of a criminal record weighing you down.
How Do You Get a Record Sealed?
Sealing and expunging criminal records are two different things, with different processes and different outcomes. When your record is sealed, access to the record is restricted only to you, your attorney, and certain criminal justice agencies. A prospective employer, landlord or credit agency could not see it even if they run a background check, but if you apply to purchase a firearm, for instance, then the appropriate government agency could see the record. For most uses, though, a sealed record can be treated as though it doesn’t exist. When applying for a job, you can legally say that you haven’t been arrested or convicted of a crime, except for certain jobs listed in the law, such as being an attorney or working for law enforcement.
To get your record sealed, you first apply for a certificate of eligibility for sealing from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This certificate is valid for 12 months, although you can reapply for a new one if your old one expires. With a certificate of eligibility in hand, you can file a petition with the court to seal your record. The court may grant your petition and seal your record depending on the following factors:
- The offense charged – Not all records are eligible for sealing. Certain sex offenses and other listed crimes are ineligible, but a large number of other offenses are eligible for sealing.
- You don’t have an adjudication of guilt on your record – Probation, withhold of adjudication and other outcomes of a criminal case can keep you from an adjudication of guilt. Your defense attorney will work very hard to keep you from being adjudicated guilty to save you from the consequences of an adjudication of guilt.
- You’ve never had a record sealed previously
- You aren’t currently on probation for a given offense
How Do You Get a Record Expunged?
Expungement doesn’t just seal a record and restrict its access from prying eyes; expunging a criminal record will take the record completely out of the system and destroy or obliterate it. The process for getting a court to expunge your record is similar to getting a record sealed: you apply for a certificate of eligibility and then petition the court. The judge holds a hearing and decides on whether or not to expunge your records.
Florida law also provides several other methods for getting a record expunged other than going to court. These methods include the following:
Administrative Expungement – If an arrest was made by mistake or otherwise against the law, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement can expunge the record.
Lawful Self-Defense Expungement – If you were arrested for assault or other similar offenses but the state attorney certifies that your actions were taken in lawful self-defense, you can get this record expunged.
Juvenile Diversion Expungement – A juvenile who completes diversion on a non-violent misdemeanor can get the record expunged.
Early Juvenile Expungement – Some people between the ages of 18 and 21 who have not committed a criminal offense in the previous five years can apply to get their juvenile records expunged.
Automatic Juvenile Expungement – For persons who turn 21 (or 26 in some cases), their juvenile records are automatically expunged so long as they haven’t been charged or convicted of a forcible felony either as an adult or a juvenile tried as an adult.
Human Trafficking Expungement – Sometimes victims of human trafficking end up charged with a crime (such as prostitution) as part of the trafficking scheme. If you were in this situation, you can apply to get your record expunged.
Talk to the Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys at Meldon Law About Getting Your Criminal Record Sealed or Expunged
To learn whether your Florida arrest record might be eligible for sealing or expungement, and for help with the process, call Meldon Law at 800-373-8000 to speak with an experienced and dedicated Florida criminal defense attorney.