The sealing or expungement of a criminal record is an effective way to minimize the impact of a past arrest or criminal incident. Florida Statutes set forth several requirements and conditions for sealing or expunging a criminal record.
The first step in determining whether to seal or expunge your criminal record is identifying and understanding how the court resolved the charge. The record of your charge will include a Court Disposition stating one of the following terms.
- No Bill/ No Information. This term indicates that the court has decided to not pursue the case. This generally means that there was insufficient facts or evidence for the prosecution to move forward. You could think of this as the charge being dropped.
- Nolle pros. This term means that the state filed the charge and then decided to dismiss the charge. You never appeared at trial; you never plead guilty or not guilty; you were not sentenced; and you were not convicted.
- Dismissed. This is when the court, based on a valid legal argument, is required to dismiss the charge against you.
- Guilty – Adjudication withheld. This term means that you were found guilty of the criminal charge, but the court has not convicted you. The court is withholding the adjudication of guilt. In Florida, a court may withhold adjudication on some charges; however, some, like a charge of driving under the influence (DUI), the court may not withhold adjudication – the judge has no discretion on the matter.
- Guilty – Adjudicated Guilty. This term indicates you were found guilty and you were convicted of the criminal charge.
What is the difference between sealing and expunging a criminal record?
When a criminal record is sealed in Florida it means that the record is closed to public inquiries and may only be offered in limited circumstances. Practically speaking, it prevents the information from being sold to public databases, like Spokeo, which offer criminal reports to web users for a charge.
An expungement means that the record is physically destroyed and no longer accessible to the public. Though the record is destroyed, a copy of the record is still retained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the clerk of court. It is important to understand, before you choose to pursue an expungement of your criminal record, that in certain situations, like during an application to certain associations, you may be asked to disclose the expunged record.
A sealed record and an expunged record are very similar, but some of the main differences include the details contained within the record. The sealed record, though closed to public inquiry, will include details of the incident, whereas an expunged record will have minimal information stating that the criminal record has been expunged. Additionally, when purchasing a firearm, a sealed record must be revealed, where an expunged record does not.
Am I able to seal or expunge my criminal record?
The short answer is: it depends. If the disposition of your charge resulted in no bill/ no information, nolle pros., or dismissed, then you will likely be able to expunge your criminal record. If the disposition of your charge was withhold of adjudication, you will not be able to have the record expunged initially, but you may be able to have the record sealed. There are some charges that, even when adjudication is withheld, cannot be sealed. If your criminal charge went to trial, then you may not have the record expunged; however, you may be able to have the record sealed. If you were found guilty, whether by entering a plea of guilty or no contest, or if found guilty by a jury, and adjudicated guilty, then you will not be able to have the record sealed or expunged.
How long does it take to seal or expunge a criminal record?
The process for sealing or expunging a criminal record in Florida can be a lengthy one, which includes applying for a certificate of eligibility, filing necessary documents to the clerk of court, potentially a hearing, and then ensuring that the order is received by the applicable agencies. The entire process can take upwards of seven months.
The sealing or expunging of a criminal record in Florida can be a challenging process, but yield a very beneficial result. Contact us today to speak to an attorney about your matter and whether sealing or expunging your criminal record is in your best interest.