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Expungement/Sealing of Records

My law firm receives regular inquiries about the Florida criminal record expungement process. There are many hard-working, honest Floridians, who may have made a mistake in the past, and are now paying for it forever in the form of lost jobs or embarrassment (mug shots on the internet). One thing to know at the beginning is that you do not need an attorney to file for an expungement or sealing of records. The process is designed so having an attorney is not required. A good starting point is to review the frequently asked questions at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website here to get a better understanding of the steps required. You can find the FDLE website here.

Eligibility Requirements for expungement

The eligibility criteria to expunge a record are as follows:

  1. No indictment, Information, or other charging document was filed in the case that is the subject of the expunction, or the case was later dismissed or the subject of a nolle pros;
  2. No prior adjudications of guilt for any criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation, and no prior adjudications of delinquency (juvenile cases) for any criminal act outlined in Florida Statutes Section 943.051(3)(b);
  3. No adjudication of guilt or delinquency in the case that is the subject of the expunction
  4. No prior sealed or expunged cases pursued under Florida law
  5. No other seal or expunge petitions pending before any court. 

Eligibility Requirements for sealing records

Under Section 943.045, Florida Statutes, the sealing of a criminal history record is defined as the preservation of a record under such circumstances that it is secure and inaccessible to any person not having a legal right of access to the information contained…therein.

In practical terms, sealing is the placement of a criminal record under court-ordered protection, which bars public disclosure of or access to the record.  Information and documents related to the incident remain on file with the criminal justice agency, but the record is confidential. 

Eligibility Requirements

To seal a record in Florida, an applicant must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  1. No prior adjudications of guilt for any criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation, and no prior adjudications of delinquency (juvenile cases) for any criminal act outlined in Florida Statutes Section 943.051(3)(b)
  2. No adjudication of guilt or delinquency in the case that is the subject of the sealing
  3. No prior sealing or expunction of a criminal history record pursued under the laws of Florida
  4. No other petition to seal or any petition to expunge pending before any court
  5. The charge to which the applicant pled is not a “disqualifying” offense (see below)
  6. The charge at issue does not fall under the Related Offenses Exclusion;
  7. If placed on probation or community control for the offense, the probation or community control must be completed, and all court supervision otherwise terminated. 

Disqualifying offenses

Under Sections 943.0585 and 943.059, Florida Statutes, certain offenses are not eligible to be sealed or expunged, regardless of whether adjudication was withheld.  These offenses are disqualifying in all cases where a plea or verdict is entered to such a charge.  If the charges were dropped or otherwise dismissed, an applicant will remain eligible to seal or expunge.

  1. sexual misconduct with developmentally disabled person
  2. sexual misconduct between an employee and a mentally ill patient
  3. luring or enticing a child
  4. sexual battery
  5. procuring a minor for prostitution
  6. lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age
  7. voyeurism
  8. A violation of the Florida communications fraud act
  9. lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of an elderly person or disabled person
  10. sexual performance by a child
  11. criminal conduct by public employees and officials
  12. providing obscene material to minors
  13. computer pornography; traveling to meet minor
  14. selling or buying of minors
  15. drug trafficking (controlled substances, including cannabis)
  16. Any violation specified as a predicate offense for registration as a sexual predator
  17. Arson
  18. Aggravated assault
  19. Aggravated battery
  20. Illegal use of explosives;
  21. Child abuse or aggravated child abuse;
  22. Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult;
  23. Aircraft piracy;
  24. Kidnapping;
  25. Homicide;
  26. Manslaughter;
  27. Sexual battery;
  28. Robbery;
  29. Carjacking;
  30. Lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault upon or in presence of a child under 16;

Sexual activity with a child, who is 12 years of age or older but less than 18;

  1. Burglary of a dwelling;
  2. Stalking and aggravated stalking;
  3. Act of domestic violence as defined in Section 741.28, Florida Statutes (including assault, aggravated assault, domestic battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member);
  4. Home invasion robbery;
  5. Act of terrorism as defined in s. 775.30;
  6. Manufacturing any substances in violation of Chapter 893, Florida Statutes 

Benefits of sealing or expunging a record

There are many legal and practical benefits to expunging or sealing a criminal history record.  These include:
Protecting a person's criminal past from public view;
Avoiding discovery of a criminal incident by employers;
Avoiding discovery of a criminal incident by colleges and universities;
Protecting a person from having to disclose an arrest or charge to employers and other interested persons;
Preventing a record from being found on background checks;
Circumventing workplace policies that prevent advancement for employees with criminal histories;
Protection of reputation in the community;
Peace of mind and closure. 

Disclosure protections

The beneficiary of a sealing or expunction is legally protected from having to disclose or acknowledge the subject criminal history. This disclosure protection applies in virtually all scenarios, except those enumerated by statute. 

Exceptions to non-disclosure

There are multiple exceptions to the non-disclosure protections offered by Florida's seal and expunge statutes.  Under Sections 943.0585(4)(a) and 943.059(4)(a), a person must make a truthful disclosure of the record if he or she: 

Is a candidate for employment with law enforcement;
Is a defendant in a criminal prosecution;
Is seeking admission to The Florida Bar;
Is seeking employment/licensing/contracting with the Department of Children and Family Services, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, or the Department of Juvenile Justice;
Is seeking to be employed or licensed by the Department of Education, any district school board, any university laboratory school, any charter school, any private or parochial school, or any local governmental entity that licenses childcare facilities;
Is attempting to purchase a firearm from a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer and is subject to a criminal history check under state or federal law (this applies only to the sealing of records);
Is seeking authorization from a Florida seaport identified in Section 311.09, Florida Statutes, for employment within or access to one or more of such seaports pursuant to Section 311.12, Florida Statutes;
Is seeking to be appointed as a guardian;
Is seeking a concealed carry license. 

Expunging more than one record

Florida law permits the sealing or expunging of only one criminal history in a lifetime. For persons who have multiple arrests or cases, this means that only one of the records will be affected by a sealing or expunction order, assuming all eligibility requirements are met.

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