Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in Florida
In Florida, adult criminal records can be accessed through special provisions, unless the record was sealed or expunged. Public records are not just related to convictions, they can include arrests and charges as well. When a record is sealed, it is classified as highly restricted access. When a record is expunged, it means the record is removed from the systems and the files may be destroyed.
Sealed Records and Expungements Allowed by Law
There are several different processes that are authorized by Florida statutes. Some of these include:
- Administrative Expungement: An arrest made by mistake or contrary to law can be expunged by applying to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, or FDLE.
- Court-Ordered Sealing or Expungement: You can apply for a Certificate of Eligibility to seal or expunge, which is the first step to obtaining a court order allowing the records to be sealed or expunged. The FDLE will determine whether you are eligible under the law to petition the court.
- Self-Defense: If a state prosecutor or state attorney will certify that you lawfully acted in self-defense under applicable Florida statutes on use of force, and the charges were either dismissed or not filed upon, you can apply for a lawful self-defense expungement.
- Automatic Juvenile Expungement: If the record in question belongs to a minor, it will likely be expunged automatically at age 21. If the minor was sentenced to a juvenile prison or juvenile correctional facility, it is age 26, provided some conditions are met. An example is not having been charged with and/or convicted of a forcible felony and treated as an adult.
Denying or Failing to Acknowledge Sealed or Expunged Arrests
One benefit of having your records sealed or expunged is that Florida law allows for you to deny or fail to acknowledge any arrests covered in some cases. There are a number of scenarios that require you to admit to an arrest, even if the records were sealed or expunged. These include if you are attempting to change your immigration status or are a present defendant in a criminal case. In addition, you cannot deny or fail to admit an arrest if you are seeking:
- Admission to the Florida State Bar;
- Access to or employment at a seaport;
- A job with a criminal justice agency;
- Employment or use by a licensee or contractor in a sensitive position and have direct contact with aged, elderly, children, or developmentally disabled persons;
- A job or contract position with, or a license with, the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Education, the Department of Juvenile Justice, a university laboratory school, district school board, parochial or private school, or any government entity that provides licenses to child care facilities; or
- A petition to expunge or seal.
Retaining a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one have been arrested, it’s important to speak with a skilled West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side can help you by preparing the best defense possible and trying to get the charges reduced or dismissed entirely. Contact Scott Berry Law, P.A. today at 561-281-7155 to schedule a consultation.