What many people don’t realize is that it is not easy to have your arrest records sealed or expunged in the State of Florida. Given current Florida statues, there are many reasons why sealing and expunging criminal records in Palm Beach County can be challenging, even with an experienced Florida expungement lawyer on your side. So to answer the question, Do I need a lawyer to expunge my record?, the answer is yes, if you want to be successful in sealing and expunging your criminal records.
Why Have Your Record Sealed or Expunged?
Having a criminal conviction can significantly hamper employment options. Up to 80% of employers conduct background checks and elect not to hire individuals with a criminal record. If your employer finds out about a past criminal conviction, they may seek to terminate your employment. Landlords also conduct background checks and may decide to not rent to you. This will severely limit where you can rent an apartment.
Sealing a Record vs. Expunging a Record
Having your record sealed means that only certain federal, state, county, and city government agencies will still have access to view the record, but the general public will not be able to view it. It is important to be aware that a sealed record can be viewed by the police and military as well as other government agencies. When you are seeking employment, your sealed records can be viewed by criminal justice agencies, the Department of Education, public schools, private schools, child care businesses, and Florida seaports. When seeking employment or a license, the following agencies will be able to view your sealed records:
- Department of Children and Families
- Department of Juvenile Justice
- Health Care Administration
- Agency for Persons with Disabilities
- The Florida Bar
- Criminal prosecutors in the event of future prosecution
- Firearm dealers
Unlike sealing, expunging means that the actual record is destroyed. In this case, the same government agencies would still know that a record had been expunged, but nothing further. Getting an expungement requires the Assistant State Attorney’s signature on your application for Expunction.
Even if you have your record sealed or expunged in the State of Florida, federal databases will still contain this information. Private companies that purchase information from the State of Florida and local counties including Palm Beach will also have this information. This means that employers, potential employers, and even the general public may be able to view this information.
Before you even begin to think about sealing and expungement, the charges against you will have had to have been dropped, dismissed, or not even filed. You must also not have any other convictions as an adult or any prior records sealed or expunged. You are allowed to have your record sealed or expunged only once in the state of Florida. So if you have multiple arrest records, you can only seal one of them and any of the related arrest records to that particular incident. Florida Statue 943.0515 deems that juvenile records are automatically expunged at the age of 24 or 26. This is dependent on other factors such as other arrests or convictions as an adult or other expunctions that have taken place and adherence to the teen court diversion program.
What Are Some of the Reasons I would Not Qualify for Having My Arrest Record Sealed or Expunged?
There are many factors that will prevent you from qualifying to have your record sealed or expunged, including:
- You already have another petition underway to seal or expunge your record for another arrest.
- You have a previous guilty conviction either as an adult or juvenile for the same type of offense.
- You have already had another record sealed or expunged in the State of Florida or any other jurisdiction or state.
- You have a previous adult criminal offense conviction. This also includes a criminal traffic conviction for DUI or driving without a license. In addition, if you have been previously been found guilty as an adult for a criminal ordinance violation, misdemeanor or felony, you are disqualified.
- If you were found guilty as a juvenile for weapons charges, including carrying a concealed weapon, unlawful possession or discharge of a weapon or firearm on school property, and unlawful use of destructive devices including bombs; assault or battery; arson; petit theft; negligent treatment of a child; or animal cruelty.
- You have a probation violation.
- You have a “Withhold of Adjudication,” whether as an adult or juvenile for a variety of previous criminal offenses.
- You currently have an open criminal case.
- You are on probation or in the process of community service.
- You have not satisfied any court-ordered financial obligations, such as restitution or paying court costs.
Types of Sealing and Expungement Processes Under Florida Law
Under Florida law, there are several sealing and expungement processes available based on the type of criminal history records that exist, including the following:
- Administrative expungement. This pertains to cases where an adult or juvenile arrest was made by mistake or contrary to law.
- Court-ordered sealing or expungement. This is the first step toward sealing or expungement of a criminal history record.
- Juvenile diversion expungement. This type of expungement covers juveniles that have completed a diversion program for non-violent misdemeanors.
- Lawful self–defense expungement. If you have been certified to have acted in lawful self-defense under the provisions of justifiable use of force under Florida law and charges were not filed or dismissed, you can apply for this type of expungement or sealing.
- Human trafficking expungement. Victims of human trafficking may apply for expungement of any record resulting from their being subjected this type of criminal activity.
- Automatic juvenile expungement. Florida Law maintains that the criminal history record of a minor will be automatically expunged at the age of 21. If they served time at a juvenile correctional facility, then the age eligibility is 26. The individual is disqualified if they have an adult felony conviction.
- Early juvenile expungement. If there is no conviction or prior criminal charges in the preceding five years, an individual with a juvenile record who is between the ages of 18 and 21 can apply for early juvenile expungement.
If You Are Eligible, We Will Seal or Expunge Your Criminal Record
I have been practicing criminal defense law in the State of Florida for over a decade and have successfully defended hundreds of individuals during this time, including dismissals and plea resolutions. Many of those dismissals cannot be viewed because they have been successfully expunged or sealed. If you are looking to seal or expunge your record, please contact us today for assistance in taking steps toward sealing and expunging your criminal record.