Pensacola Expungement Attorney Jason Cromey answers,
'Can You Get Your Criminal Record Sealed or Expunged?'
Just the other day I had a gentleman stop into the office to ask whether he was qualified to have his criminal record expunged. He had recently applied for a job as an Uber driver and got turned down. He had entered a plea to a few misdemeanor charges a couple of years back and wanted to get it off his record so he could reapply with the company. After a few minutes of looking into it I unfortunately had to tell him that they could not be expunged and he was stuck with the convictions on his record. It is always difficult to tell somebody that an isolated moment in their life will be with them forever and continue to bring trouble for them in the years to come. This is not always the case, however, and many people are eligible to have their criminal case removed from their record. Here is a brief summary of Florida’s laws relating to sealing and expunging your record.
Expungement Requirements - Do I qualify for an expungement?
Florida only allows somebody to have charges related to one arrest in their lifetime sealed or expunged from their record. So, if you have already had a record sealed or expunged in Florida then you will not be able to apply for a second one. The same is not true if you have had something sealed or expunged in a different state. If you have had an arrest record sealed or expunged in a different state then you may still be able to get your Florida arrest record sealed or expunged. For example, I had a client who lived in Mississippi. Several decades ago she had been arrested in Florida and then shortly afterwards in Louisiana on misdemeanor charges. She applied to have her record expunged in Louisiana and we applied to have her Florida record expunged. She got her expungement in Louisiana. Because she had never had an expungement in Florida, only in Louisiana, she was still eligible to get her Florida case expunged.
So, you’ve never had an expungement in Florida – you’ve met the first requirement. The next question is whether or not you have ever been convicted of a crime – anywhere. If you have ever been convicted of a crime, no matter where in the United States it occurred, you are not eligible to have your Florida case sealed or expunged. A common question I get from clients is whether an “adjudication withheld” constitutes a conviction. The answer is no, it does not count as a conviction. When adjudication of guilt is “withheld” it means that the judge did not formally convict you of the crime.
At this point we know that you have never had an arrest sealed or expunged in Florida and you have never been convicted of a crime anywhere. So far, so good. There is one last issue to look at before moving forward. Arrests for certain offenses cannot be removed from your record. For a list of those charges see the Florida Statute 943.0585.
What is the difference between Sealing vs. Expunging my records?
All the boxes are checked and you are eligible to have your record sealed or expunged. At this point you are probably wondering what the difference and which one you should, or could, apply for. Having your record “sealed” means that it will still be there but none of the information related to it can be released without a court order. When your record is “expunged” there will be no signs of it, meaning you booking information will not appear in the jail records, the arrest information will not appear in the police department records, and the criminal court case will not appear anywhere.
In order to qualify for an expungement the charges against you must have either been dismissed or dropped by the state before trial. For example, I represented someone who had been arrested and charged for resisting an officer. We filed a motion to dismiss the charges, which the government conceded, and the case was dropped. The client met all the other requirements and therefore was eligible to have all records related to the arrest expunged. On the other hand, I have represented a client who ultimately entered a plea to the charge they were arrested for but judge withheld adjudication. In this case the client was qualified to have their record sealed. In order to receive an expungement in this situation the client will need to apply for expungement once the records have been sealed for ten years.
What is the next step?
The process for getting your arrest record sealed or expunged is the topic for a different article. Just know that the process takes several months to complete and involves communications with the state attorney’s office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and filing affidavits and petitions with the court.
This process can be intimidating for many people. A good criminal defense attorney will be able to quickly identify whether you qualify for getting your arrest record sealed or expunged and can handle the entire process for you. If you would like to follow up with me regarding whether or not you are qualified to get your arrest sealed or expunged please do not hesitate to contact my office.