If you have ever been arrested for a crime in Florida, you have a criminal record, even if the charges were dropped. A criminal record can have devastating consequences to a person’s life and can affect his or her ability to find a job, complete an education, or even impact their living situation such as signing a lease.
That’s because, any time a background check is performed, this information will appear as part of your record. This is why, for many people, going through the process of getting their criminal record expunged or sealed is well worth it. But what is the qualification to have your record sealed or expunged and what is the difference between sealing and expunging a record?
The Difference Between Sealing And Expunging A Record
The difference between a seal and an expunge is an expungement is a complete eradication of the record whereas sealing just hides the record. Neither can be found in employer searches.
A sealed record still “exists” in both a legal and physical sense, while an expungement results in the eradication of any record that an arrest or criminal charge ever occurred.
If you go for a job interview and they do a background search, whether it’s sealed or expunged, the record will not come up unless your employer uses what’s called an FCIC/NCIC search, which is used by the FBI. They’ll be able to see that your record was sealed but not what was sealed.
Am I Eligible To Seal Or Expunge My Record?
The qualifications for expungement or sealing a record vary by state. In Florida, a person is allowed to seal or expunge their record only one time. If you were ever found guilty of a felony, crime or misdemeanor in the past, you will not be eligible to seal or expunge your record.
If there were multiple charges associated for one arrest, the court has sole discretion in deciding whether to expunge the record entirely or partly. A conviction is an adjudication of guilty, as opposed to a withhold of adjudication or nolle pross.
Depending on the offense, if you receive a withhold of adjudication, and you have never been adjudicated guilty of any offense before, you may be eligible to seal or expunge your record.
If you were found not guilty or your charges were dismissed or never filed, then you are eligible to expunge or seal your record. If you’re unsure whether or not you are eligible, schedule a free consultation with our firm and we’ll take a look.
The Process For Sealing Or Expunging A Record
The process for sealing or expunging your record is the same, once it’s been established which one you’re eligible for. It can take up to a year for the process to be completed.
We first create what’s called our Initial Packet to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FDLE. This packet includes a certified disposition of your case, a set of your fingerprints, the signed application for eligibility and a check for $75.00. We submit this packet to the FDLE or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and they then review, approve, or deny.
Once we’ve received the approval from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, they send us what’s called a Certificate of Eligibility and at that point, your record is completely approved for being sealed or expunged. Now we just have to go through the court systems for the area that you were arrested in and get them to start working on the process.
So, what we do is we create a packet for the clerk of court in the county that you were arrested in. That includes a signed affidavit, the Certificate of Eligibility. We pay any court costs that you may have and a petition and order for the Judge to sign.
Once everything’s been submitted to the clerk, they take about four to five weeks and get it approved by a Judge. At that point, we get a mailed signed order for your seal or expungement, and your case is done.
Can I Use A Different Attorney Than My Originating Attorney To Seal/Expunge My Record?
One of the most frequently asked questions we get is, “Can a different attorney than my originating attorney handle my seal or expunge?” And the answer to that is, absolutely yes. It does not have to be the originating attorney to handle your seal or expunge. You can contact a different Florida Criminal Defense attorney to help you with your seal or expunge.
How Long Do I Have To Seal Or Expunge My Record?
It’s never too late to seal or expunge your record. As long as you meet the eligibility, then we’re able to do it whether it’s five years or 50 years after the arrest.
Ready To Get Started?
If you are eligible to get your record sealed or expunged, contact our criminal defense team today! Or if you’re unsure and would like to speak with someone to see if you qualify, schedule your free consultation and someone from our team will get back with you.