Sealing or Expunging a Criminal Record in Florida – Helpful Information from a Criminal Defense Attorney Serving the Clearwater, FL Area

Whether you live in Tampa or Clearwater, Hillsborough or Pinellas, the rules for sealing or expunging criminal records are the same throughout the state of Florida regardless of your location. What does affect sealing or expunging a criminal record in Florida, however, is the end result of the criminal case involved. If you are interested in learning more, Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney Charles Holloway, P.A., can review your records and determine whether they are eligible for sealing or expungement. In addition, Attorney Holloway may be able to recommend ways to help you be eligible for this legal option, and his main office is conveniently located in Clearwater, FL, to serve you.

Florida law provides for the sealing or expunging of criminal records that result from charges brought within the State of Florida. Florida Statutes, Chapter 943 lists the rules and procedures which control the sealing and expunging of records. The process requires
a determination of which records may be sealed or expunged, whether a person meets the prerequisites for sealing/expunging, proper application to the FDLE and petition to the Court, and a follow-up to ensure that records have been effectively sealed or expunged. The average time from the beginning to the end of the process is approximately six to eight
weeks. The greatest part of this is due to the backlog of applications waiting to be approved by the FDLE.

SEALING

The following is a list of crimes that cannot be sealed, if a person entered a plea of guilty, no contest, or was found guilty at trial:

(a) Arson

(b) Aggravated assault

(c) Aggravated battery

(d) Illegal use of explosives

(e) Child abuse or aggravated child abuse

(f) Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, or aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult

(g) Aircraft piracy

(h) Kidnapping

(i) Homicide

(j) Manslaughter

(k) Sexual battery

(l) Robbery

(m) Carjacking

(n) Lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault or act upon or in the presence of a child under the age of 16 years

(o) Sexual activity with a child who was 12 years of age or older but less than 18 years of age, by or at solicitation of a person in familial or custodial authority

(p) Burglary of a dwelling

(q) Stalking or aggravated stalking

(r) Act of domestic violence as defined in F/S 741.28

(s) Home invasion robbery

(t) Act of terrorism as defined by F/S 775.30

(u) Manufacturing any substances in violation of chapter 893

(v) Sexual misconduct with developmentally disabled person and related offenses

(w) Attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above crimes

(x) Sexual misconduct with mentally ill person and related offenses

(y) Luring or enticing a child

(z) Sexual battery and related offenses

(aa) Procuring person under 18 for prostitution

(bb) Lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age

(cc) Voyeurism

(dd) Florida communication fraud act (scheme to defraud or organized fraud as defined in F/S 817.034)

(ee) Lewd or lascivious offense upon or in the presence of elderly person or disabled adult

(ff) Sexual performance by a child

(gg) Offenses by public offers and employees under Chapter 839

(hh) Showing etc. obscene literature to a minor

(ii) Computer pornography under F/S 847.0145

(jj) The selling or buying of minors

(kk) Trafficking in controlled substances

(ll) Sexual misconduct with mentally deficient or mentally ill

(mm) A violation of any offense that qualifies for registration as a sexual predator under 775.21 or for registration as a sexual offender under 943.043

The above crimes can only be sealed if the charges were either dropped by the State Attorney or dismissed by the Court.

All other crimes can be sealed if the following criteria are met:

(a) The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) approves the records for sealing

(b) The person has never been adjudicated guilty by a court, for any crime, at any time, anywhere

(c) The person has never had a record previously sealed or expunged, for any crime, at any time, anywhere

(d) The person does not currently have a petition to seal or expunge pending with another court

(e) The person has completed all of the sentence on the case to be sealed

Once the Court grants the petition to seal and the order to seal is signed, copies of the order are distributed to the various entities that have records (computer or paper).
These organizations will then seal the records and protect them from public view. The records would then only be available to the person involved, that person’s attorney, and law enforcement agencies.

Once sealed, the person can lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrest/charge unless that person is subject to the following:

(a) Applies for subsequent sealing or expunction

(b) Applies to become an attorney

(c) Applies for employment with law enforcement

(d) Applies for employment with the Department of Children and Families or the Department of Juvenile Justice

(e) Applies for employment with the Department of Education or with any educational institution

(f) Applies to work at a Florida seaport

(g) Needs a background check to purchase a firearm

(h) Becomes a defendant in a new criminal case

If subject to the above, the person would have to reveal the previously sealed record.

EXPUNGING

The crimes that cannot be expunged if a person pled guilty, no contest, or was found
guilty at trial, are the same as those listed above for Sealing. Those crimes can only be
expunged if the charges were either dropped by the State Attorney or were dismissed
by the Court.

All other crimes can be expunged if the following criteria are met:

(a) The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) approves the records for expunction

(b) The person has never been adjudicated guilty by a court, for any crime, at any time, anywhere

(c) The person has never had a record previously sealed or expunged, for any crime, at any time, anywhere, unless the crime to be expunged was previously sealed for a period of at least 10 years*

(d) The indictment/information was not filed by the State Attorney, or if filed, was dropped by the State or dismissed by the Court

(e) The charges never resulted in a trial, regardless of whether the outcome of the trial was other than an adjudication of guilt

(f) The person does not currently have a petition to seal or expunge pending with another court

(g) The person has completed all of the sentence on the case to be sealed

* Previous sealing for a minimum of 10 years is required where the Court
withheld adjudication of guilt, or the charges were not dismissed prior to trial.

Once the Court grants the petition to expunge and the order to expunge is signed, copies of the order are distributed to the various entities that have records (computer or paper). These organizations will then physically destroy the records, with the exception of the FDLE, which will keep the records confidential. The records would then only be available
to the person involved, that person’s attorney, and law enforcement agencies.

Once expunged, the person can lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrest/charge unless that person is subject to the following:

(a) Applies for employment with law enforcement

(b) Becomes a defendant in a new criminal case

(c) Applies for subsequent sealing or expunction

(d) Applies to become an attorney

(e) Applies for employment with the Department of Children and Families or the Department of Juvenile Justice

(f) Applies for employment with the Department of Education or with any educational institution

(g) Applies to work at a Florida seaport

If subject to the above, the person would have to reveal the previously expunged record.

The sealing or expungement of criminal records in Florida requires knowledge of both the law and the procedures involved. Consultation with a criminal defense attorney can greatly facilitate the successful completion of the process. Please call Clearwater criminal defense attorney Charles Holloway, P.A., at (727) 446-8303 to schedule a free initial consultation about sealing or expunging a criminal record in Florida.