After a criminal case is concluded in state court in Florida, the individual may be qualified for a sealing or expungement of records. A sealing means the records will be kept away from the public whereas an expungement is total destruction of those records. The problem with expungement is that because the records are destroyed, access to those records for work or other purposes will no longer exist. As such, it could be wise to make a public records request of all documents before obtaining an expungement so that, if they are needed, they will exist (privately).
It should be known that the expungement or sealing of records only applies to official and court documents and not those found on the internet posted by third parties. Internet documents (booking photos posted on third party sites, articles, or other submissions privately posted) cannot be sealed or expunged. With that in mind, if the alleged crime and the individual experienced a great deal of pretrial publicity, the public may still be able to read all about it on the Internet.
There are some jobs which require disclosure regardless of the sealing or expungement of records. Those jobs can also be found within the statute. But there are far more employers which, if a sealing or expungement of records is successful, would not have access or even know that a prior crime ever existed. In fact, the statute on sealing and expungement of records, allows the individual, once an order is signed, to lawfully deny that he or she was ever charged with a crime that was sealed or expunged. That fact may encourage individuals who qualify for the sealing or expungement of their records to choose this benefit.
To qualify for either a sealing or expungement, the charge that is involved must be one that is lawfully permitted to be sealed or expunged and the crime involved had to result in a withhold of adjudication of guilt. In other words, there can be no formal conviction. There are some crimes that the law does not allow to be sealed or expunged. Because they are somewhat numerous, that list must be checked before proceeding. If it is a qualified crime, then the next step is to determine whether or not the individual has had a previous sealing or expungement. The law generally only permits one in a lifetime. An exception to this is if an individual uses self-defense successfully and the charge is either dismissed or there was an acquittal. If that can be shown, an expungement can be applied for even if one normally would not be permitted as noted above.
On average, it takes approximately six to eight months to complete the process. For more information or to see if you qualify, give us a call.