Expungements and Sealing Information and Records under Florida Privacy Laws
Who is eligible to have their Florida criminal record sealed or expunged?
Florida law permits certain individuals who have a criminal history in Florida to have a record sealed or expunged. The individual’s eligibility will depend on several factors, including what the underlying crime was, whether the individual was adjudicated guilty, whether the individual entered a “guilty” or “no contest” plea, or whether the individual has already sealed or expunged another Florida criminal record.
What if adjudication was withheld?
Despite the fact that a court may have “withheld adjudication” on the criminal charge, if may still not be eligible to be sealed or expunged under certain circumstances. According to Florida law, if adjudication was withheld on the following charges, it may not be eligible:
- Abuse or aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult;
- An act of domestic violence as defined in s. 741.28, Florida Statutes;
- Aggravated assault/aggravated battery; Arson; Burglary of a dwelling; Carjacking;
- Child abuse or aggravated child abuse; Computer pornography involving a child; Drug Trafficking;
- Hijacking; Home invasion robbery; Homicide; Illegal use of explosives; Kidnapping; Lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault or act upon or in the presence of a child; Manslaughter;
- Offenses by public officers and employees; Organized fraud; Robbery;
- Sexual activity with a child, who is 12 years of age or older but less than 18 years of age, by or at the solicitation of a person in familial or custodial authority; Sexual battery, Stalking and aggravated stalking; Use of a child in a sexual performance;
- Promoting a sexual performance by a child; Possession with the intent to promote any photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, representation, or presentation, which includes sexual conduct by a child; Possession of a photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, representation, or presentation, which includes sexual conduct by a child; and, Voyeurism.
Difference between having a record “Sealed” versus “Expunged”
When discussing this topic people often use the terms “sealed” and “expunged” interchangeably, however, there are real, legal distinctions between the two which are important to understanding. Although a record may be eligible to be sealed, it may not be eligible for expungement. Generally speaking, if the records are sealed or expunged, the general public will not have access to the record, but certain government agencies may have access to sealed records. However, if the record is expunged those agencies which would have access to your sealed record would only be able to access the expunged record by court order.
Can I deny an arrest if my record is sealed?
Under Florida law, if you have had a record sealed or expunged, you can legally deny the underlying arrest. However, there are a handful of circumstances where you may not lawful deny the arrest, such as when you apply for employment with a criminal justice agency, employment with certain agencies with direct contact with children, or admission to the Florida Bar, just to name a few.
How do I Get started?
In order to start the process of having a record sealed or expunged, the individual must first obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (“FDLE”). This is done by submitting an application, along with fingerprints, a certified copy of the final disposition of the charges, and a fee. Once reviewed by FDLE, they will issue a certificate to eligible applicants. If the charge is eligible, the individual must then take steps to petition the Court for an order to seal or expunge the record.
This process may be daunting to some but at Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, PLLC we have experienced attorneys who can help you through the process. Our Melbourne law office is centrally located, enabling us to serve clients throughout the “Space Coast”, including Brevard County and Vero Beach.