If you would like to get your record sealed or expunged in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Belle Glade, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Jupiter, Lake Park, Lake Worth, Lantana, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Springs, Riviera Beach, Royal Palm Beach, or Wellington, call me, attorney Ron Chapman, at 561-832-4348 to discuss your case and see how I might be able to help you.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement website contains several frequently-asked questions and answers about sealing criminal history records in Florida. This article discusses 11 of those questions.
1. How do I get a criminal history record sealed or expunged?
Florida Statutes sections 943.0585 and 943.059 set forth the criteria that must be met in order to be eligible to have a criminal history record sealed or expunged. In addition, these statutes also state that in order to have a criminal history record sealed or expunged in Florida, an individual must first make application to the FDLE for a Certificate of Eligibility. Please note that the issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility does not mean that your criminal history record will be ordered sealed or expunged. It merely indicates that you are statutorily eligible for the type of relief that is being requested.
2. Why do I have a criminal history record when the charges against me were dropped?
The Florida Legislature has determined that Florida criminal history records are public unless the record is sealed or expunged. See Florida Statutes section 943.053(3) which provides for public access to criminal history records. The term "criminal history information" is defined, tracking the federal definition, at Florida Statutes section 943.045(4). A criminal history record is created when a person is arrested and fingerprinted and includes the disposition of that arrest whether it be a conviction, acquittal, dismissal of charges before trial, or other disposition.
3. Should I obtain a copy of my criminal history record prior to applying for a Certificate of Eligibility?
Under Florida and federal law, an individual has the right to request a copy of his or her criminal history record for purposes of review to ensure that it is both accurate and complete. This process is known as a Personal Review. The requestor may examine the record obtained through Personal Review for accuracy and challenge any information contained within the criminal history record that the requester believes is inaccurate or incomplete. No charge is assessed by FDLE for this service. See Florida Statutes section 943.056. A Personal Review allows an individual to determine which, if any, date(s) of arrest the applicant will be eligible to have sealed or expunged. However, obtaining a personal review is not a prerequisite to applying for a certificate of eligibility to seal or expunge a criminal history record.
4. What is the difference between having a criminal history record sealed versus having it expunged?
When a criminal history record is sealed, the public will not have access to it. However, certain governmental or related entities, primarily those listed in Florida Statutes section 943.059(4)(a), have access to sealed-record information in its entirety.
When a record has been expunged, those entities which would have access to a sealed record will be informed that the subject of the record has had a record expunged but would not have access to the record itself without a court order. All they would receive is a statement indicating that "Criminal Information has been Expunged from this Record".
5. When is my criminal history record sealed or expunged?
Once an order has been issued by the court of competent jurisdiction to seal or expunge your criminal history record and a certified copy of this order has been received by the FDLE, it will be complied with in accordance with state statutes.
6. How many dates of arrest can I have sealed or expunged?
The eligibility criteria for an applicant to have a record sealed or expunged include the requirement that the applicant be able to state under oath that he or she has never previously had a record sealed or expunged in Florida or in another jurisdiction. This means, in effect, that a person may only seal or expunge one arrest record in one proceeding. More than one record may be sealed or expunged in the same proceeding if the court, in its sole discretion, finds the arrests to be directly related. A record that is initially ineligible for expunction (for example, where adjudication is withheld) may become eligible after it has been sealed for 10 years. However, a person may not seal or expunge one arrest record and then later, in a different proceeding, ask to have a different arrest record sealed or expunged. An expunction or sealing which occurs automatically or by operation of law, without any action on the part of the applicant, is not considered a prior expunction or sealing for this purpose. Florida Statutes section 943.0582 provides that a juvenile diversion expunction does not prevent an applicant from seeking a judicial expunction or sealing under Florida Statutes sections 943.0585 or 943.059.
7. What charges may not be sealed?
A list of charges that may not be sealed when adjudication is withheld is contained in Florida Statutes section 943.059. (The same listing is found in section 943.0585 because the specified offenses may not be expunged either.) In addition, if a person has been adjudicated guilty of any criminal offense in any jurisdiction (or adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile for any felony or for certain specified misdemeanors), whether or not related to the charge(s) that the person is applying for, the record is ineligible for sealing, and the application will be denied.
8. What charges may be expunged?
The same eligibility requirements which apply to sealing also apply to expunction, with certain additional requirements. Any charge, which resulted in a withholding of adjudication or in an acquittal (that is, a not guilty verdict) after trial, may not be expunged unless and until it has first been sealed for at least 10 years. See Florida statutes section 943.0585(2)(h). A charge which was dismissed before trial (for example, no information, nolle prosequi, no bill, etc.) may be expunged immediately provided all charges related to the arrest were so disposed of and the record is otherwise eligible.
9. Can I appeal the denial of my application for a Certificate of Eligibility to seal or expunge my criminal history record?
If you believe that the denial of your application for Certification of Eligibility is in error, you may ask that the denial be reviewed. If the denial is based on information in your criminal history record that is believed to be in error or incomplete, the procedure for reviewing and correcting that record is given in Florida Administrative Code Rule 11C-8.001. If you agree that the criminal history information is correct, but believe that the law has been incorrectly applied or interpreted in your case, you may appeal the decision of the FDLE. The appeal of a denial is to be handled within the court of competent jurisdiction.
10. If I receive a full pardon can I have my criminal history record sealed or expunged?
Unless the pardon indicates on its face that it entitles the applicant to seal or expunge his or her criminal history record, the granting of a full pardon does not remove any condition of ineligibility for sealing or expunging a criminal history record imposed by the disposition of the pardoned offense. See Randall v. Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 791 So. 2d 1238 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001).
11. If I receive clemency, will my record be automatically expunged?