Tampa Expungement Attorneys
How to Seal Your Criminal Record in Florida
If you have been arrested or charged in the past, you are likely still feeling the weight of a criminal record. Although you may have served your time and paid your fines, some would say the aftermath is worse because of the marks on your criminal record. You could lose your job or find it extremely difficult to get a job that pays more than minimum wage.
However, you may be able to have your record expunged. In Florida, an "expungement" or "record sealing" allows you to have certain records hidden or removed from your history. While your record will never be permanently erased, having it expunged means that, for example, the public will no longer have access to your records when looking during an employment background check.
How Are Sealing and Expunging Your Record Different?
The criteria for sealing is different than for expunging. § 943.0585 of the Florida Statutes lays out the rules for court-ordered expunction, while § 943.059 of the Florida Statutes describes court-ordered sealing of criminal history records. The significant difference is that the public no longer has access to your criminal records with sealing, but some governmental agencies still do. For instance, if you apply for a position with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, that agency could see your criminal record in full.
However, with an expungement, even governmental agencies would not have open access to your criminal record. (They could still see that you have a record, but they wouldn't be able to see any of the details.)
Who Is Eligible for Record Sealing?
Record sealing is intended for individuals who were charged but never adjudicated guilty. This means their charges were dropped or the case was dismissed. Even in these cases, that person would still have a criminal history (§ 943.053(3)). Their record of arrest, fingerprinting, and any charges are still public, easily found by anyone who conducts a simple search online for a criminal record. Record sealing would fix that.
Can I Get My Records Sealed More Than Once?
No. One of the requirements for obtaining a record sealing or expungement is that you have never previously obtained an expungement or had your criminal records sealed. You may be able to get multiple arrest records expunged, but only if the court believes they are related. Every case is different, so ask your attorney what applies.
Ask Our Tampa Expungement Lawyers
If you want to have your record expunged, please contact Thomas & Paulk for insight from a trusted Tampa criminal defense lawyer. We offer a free initial evaluation of your case and can draw upon experience representing thousands of clients over the past two decades. We can advise you on your legal rights and options. Should you retain our law firm, we can guide you through the record sealing process.
Looking to have your Florida criminal record expunged or sealed? Contact our firm for your free initial consultation!
Expungement gives a person the opportunity to clear their criminal record, which can positively affect virtually every area of their life. Now is your chance to learn more about the Florida expungement process, what to expect, and whether you may qualify.
Qualifying for Expungement in Florida
Several factors are taken into consideration before a court will allow expungement. First, they will look at how long ago the charge was and your current criminal record to see if you have stayed clear of illegal activities. Next, the court will consider the specific crime you were charged with before determining whether to let you have your record cleared. For example, they will generally not allow a sex offender to have their record expunged because the court deems them to be a threat to society.
If the following apply, you may qualify for expungement in Florida:
- There was no filing of an indictment, information, or charging document.
- If the indictment/charging document was filed, it was dismissed.
- The charge/case in question did not relate to certain criminal offenses, such as sexual misconduct, trafficking, or any offense that qualifies one as a sexual predator.
- You have paid a $75 processing fee.
- You obtained and submitted a copy of your disposition.
- You have never, before your filing, been adjudicated guilty of a felony or misdemeanor.
- You have never (or within the past 10 years) obtained an expunction.
- You are no longer under any court supervision.
Even if the criminal charge you're trying to get expunged is eligible for such action, the judge will also consider the severity of other criminal arrests and convictions on your record. For example, the court does not generally consider sex crimes and violent crimes for expunction (§ 943.0584).
Some of the crimes that can't be expunged or sealed include:
- Child abuse
- Drug trafficking
- Elder abuse
- Murder / homicide
You can find out more specifics by asking for a Certificate of Eligibility, or by asking to get a copy of your own criminal history. Whether or not you are deemed eligible for expungement or sealing, or your criminal record seems like it won't qualify, it is still crucial to talk to a lawyer. They can help you take the next legal steps, whatever challenges or initial denials you may face.
The Tampa expungement lawyers at Thomas & Paulk can help. It’s easy to get bogged down by the intricacies of the Florida legal system, but we have the experience and resources to take you through the process while protecting your rights.
Expunging DUI Records in Florida
In Florida, it is not possible to receive an expungement if you have been convicted of DUI (or any crime). Florida law dictates that any criminal conviction must remain on your record.
The only two possible outcomes that could lead to a DUI expungement are:
- Dropping of the charges by the District Attorney
- Winning a not-guilty verdict
Sealing a record is possible when the court “withholds” adjudication, but a DUI is the only misdemeanor crime in which withholding adjudication is not an option for the judge presiding over the matter.
As a result, sealing your record after a DUI trial is not possible.
However, if an attorney is able to lower your charges to “reckless driving,” withholding adjudication is an option for the judge—making record sealing possible. Skilled criminal defense attorneys can help you determine your best options, as well as fight for the outcome that best protects your interests, whether that’s getting the charges dropped, acquittal, or lowering the charges to reckless driving.
No Exceptions for Underage Offenders
Unfortunately, all DUI convictions must remain public record, whether you were convicted as a minor or as an adult. For some Florida counties, DUI defendants may be able to participate in a pre-trial diversion program. This may include community service, psychiatric evaluation, educational classes, and more. Upon completion, charges may be dropped or lowered to a lesser crime (which can then be sealed).
If your DUI record falls short of a conviction, a court will still need to consider how long ago you were arrested and charged, if you have been arrested or convicted of other offenses since, as well as other key details about your case.
The judge will first consider the severity of the crime for which you were arrested. For example, if you were pulled over for a DUI while running a stop sign, the judge may be more likely to give you the chance to have your record expunged. However, if your DUI case involved an injury accident, the likelihood of a getting an expunction decreases considerably.
A DUI expungement would mean civilian employers would not see your arrest and criminal case on a background check. The only employers who could see your criminal record would be law enforcement and government entities. Although the government would still know that you were involved in a DUI case, it would be sealed to the public.
Contact our Tampa expungement attorneys for your free consultation.
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