Keep prying eyes out of your criminal record! Here’s how you seal a case –
So, you want to know how to seal a case? You were arrested and eventually entered a plea to the charge. The judge put you on probation for a certain amount of time and withheld adjudication of guilty (you were not formally convicted). You do everything you were asked to do and complete your probation with flying colors. Unfortunately, even though everything is done, you still have a criminal record. All anyone has to do is type your name in to Google, the clerk of court website, the jail’s inmate locator, and all your arrest and case information is there for the world to see – including potential employers.
Have no fear – you may be qualified to have your record sealed under Florida Statute 943.059. You may have heard about getting your record expunged (see my blog post on getting your record expunged). Sealing is different. You are only eligible to have your record expunged (erased) if the charges against you were dropped or you have had your record sealed for a period of ten years before you apply for expungement. Sealing will not “erase” your record but it does prevent nosy people from gaining access to the records related to your case. Even more importantly, in the situation described above, you must have your record sealed for ten years before you can have everything erased. Might as well start the process now!
The procedure for getting your record sealed in Florida is very similar to getting your record expunged. The process begins by applying to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for a Certificate of Eligibility to have your record sealed. You must complete the application and submit it, along with a set of your fingerprints and the required fee, to FDLE. It typically takes FDLE around three to four months to process the application. Once the certificate is issued you will need to complete a sworn affidavit stating that you are qualified to have your record sealed. The certificate and affidavit are attached to what is called a Petition, which is basically a motion asking the judge to order your records sealed. The whole process usually takes between four and six months.
Like expungement, there are certain requirements you must meet in order to qualify to have your record sealed. For example, you must never have been convicted of a crime anywhere in the country, you not have previously had any records sealed or expunged in Florida, and the crime you were charged with must not be excluded for eligibility by Florida law. If you have questions about whether or not you are qualified to have your records sealed please do not hesitate to contact us.