In Florida, sealing or expunging a criminal record is an option available to some people with a criminal record. A person who successfully seals or expunges their criminal record can have the records of their criminal history made inaccessible to the public. However, there are many restrictions, and following the process can be complicated.
At the Law Office of Robert H. Hanaford, we can help you determine if you qualify and guide you through the process of sealing or expunging your criminal history. Eligibility for sealing or expungement is based on the type of offense, the facts of the case, and the individual’s criminal history. With that in mind, this article will provide general guidelines to help you determine if you may be eligible.
What Is the Difference Between Sealing and Expunging a Criminal Record?
Sealing a criminal record is the process of making a criminal record unavailable to the public, but accessible to law enforcement. Expungement is the process of completely removing the record from the public’s view as well as from the criminal justice system.
However, expungements may still show for certain law enforcement, but the details of the case are hidden from view unless a court order is issued to reopen the record. In other words, once you’re charged with a crime, it will be there forever, but you may still have options to make the record as private as possible.
What Types of Criminal Records Cannot Be Expunged?
There are a significant number of charges that Florida allows for expungement. But, there are also some serious criminal offenses that do not qualify for expungement. These include:
Depending on the circumstances of the incident, simple charges may be considered aggravated offenses. Aggravated offenses involve added penalties based on particularly egregious acts such as lack of remorse, committing a crime in front of a child, recidivism, and the use of a deadly weapon.
Most sex-related offenses are considered too serious to qualify for expungement. These can include but are not limited to sexual battery, lewd or indecent assault, and sexual activity with a child between the ages of 12-17 by or at the solicitation of a person in familial or custodial authority.
These charges focus on crimes committed against family members or a person with whom the defendant has had an intimate relationship or shared child. These can include but are not limited to false imprisonment, battery, assault, kidnapping, or any act of violence that causes harm or death to a member of a family or household by another relative or inhabitant of the same home.
In some circumstances, property-related offenses cannot be expunged. This is due to the serious nature of the crime and the potential for additional penalties if the crime is repeated. These can include but are not limited to arson, carjacking, burglary, robbery, home-invasion robbery, and acts of terrorism.
What Is the Process of Expunging a Criminal Record in Florida?
The expungement or sealing of criminal records is a long and daunting process. It can take up to nine months to complete, depending on the complexity of your case. The process has several steps, which include:
Applying for a Certificate of Eligibility to Seal or Expunge from FDLE
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is the agency responsible for processing applications for the expungement or sealing of criminal records. The application requires detailed and accurate information about the offense, the disposition of the case, and the individual’s criminal history. It can take up to 12 weeks to process the certificate request.
Filing the Petition for Relief
Once the Certificate of Eligibility is issued, the petitioner must pay a filing fee and file a petition for relief in the court in the county where the charge originated. Included in the petition should be the Certificate of Eligibility, and an affidavit from you stating the facts of the case. In some cases, you may be required to also submit your fingerprints, as well.
Attend the Hearing
Typically, if there is a valid Certificate of Eligibility, an expungement or sealing request is granted. However, if the Office of the State Attorney disagrees with the petitioner’s request, a hearing will be held to discuss the facts of the case. After the hearing, the final decision will be made by the presiding judge.
What Happens If the Petition is Denied?
If the petition is denied, the petitioner can appeal the decision. The first step in the appeal process is to understand why it was denied. Reasons for expungement denial in Florida can include:
The Nature of the Crime
Certain types of offenses, as discussed above, do not qualify for expungement. Additionally, if the offense is deemed to be too serious or there are aggravating factors, the petition may be denied.
The Petitioner’s Criminal History or Prior Leniency
If the petitioner has a history of criminal activity, the court may be unwilling to grant the petition. Additionally, if the petitioner has already received leniency from the court, such as a withheld adjudication or probation, the court may deny the petition.
If the petition entered requested expungement of the record but the court ordered the record to be sealed instead, the court must consider the original petition, not grant alternative relief. If the court has done so, the petitioner has the right to appeal the decision.
Appealing a Denied Petition
There are two circumstances in which a petitioner can appeal a denied petition: if the petition was denied due to incorrect information, or if the petitioner believes the court made an incorrect decision.
In cases where the denial was based on incorrect information in the original petition, the petitioner must file a new petition with the correct information. In cases where the petitioner believes the court made an incorrect decision, the petitioner must file a motion for rehearing and provide evidence to support their claim.
Learn How a Skilled Attorney Can Help You Expunge Your Criminal Record in Florida
Having a criminal record in Florida can have long-term repercussions on your life. From employment opportunities to housing prospects, a criminal record can make it difficult to move forward and live the life you want. Fortunately, the process of expunging a criminal record can help those who committed a crime to clear their name and start anew.
At the Law Office of Robert H. Hanaford, we understand the complexities of the legal process, and our experienced lawyers can provide you with guidance and advice throughout the entire process to ensure that the expungement of your criminal record goes as smoothly as possible. If you are looking to expunge your criminal record in Florida, contact us online or call us at (239) 315-9750 today to schedule a consultation.