A criminal defense lawyer prepares documents for criminal record expungement.

Some of the most common questions we get at The Firearm Firm include questions about criminal records, such as, “Will my criminal case from many years ago still show up on background checks?” or “If I was charged with a crime but never convicted, how do I get rid of my criminal record?” One of the two most common ways to remove a criminal record in Florid with expungement. This article will explain what expungement is, what types of cases qualify for expungement, and the basics of getting a case expunged.

What is an Expungement?

Records in criminal cases are normally kept indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the case. This means that if you are charged with a crime, even if the charge is dropped the next day, there will permanently be a record of the charge against you. However, Florida law makes it possible to have these records destroyed with a process called expungement. If a court orders records of a criminal case to be expunged, the records will be destroyed by the court and any criminal justice agency that has such records, including the arresting law enforcement agency. The only exception is that the Department of Law Enforcement keeps the records, but they must keep the records confidential except upon further court order. This means that any person who does a background check on you after your expungement is ordered should not be able to find any actual criminal records pertaining to your case.

Can You Have Records from Other States Expunged in Florida?

The first thing to note is that Florida expungement only applies to Florida criminal records. Many people call asking whether a Florida attorney can help expunge their record for a case in other states. This is especially common when people have old criminal records in other states, but moved to Florida and were surprised when their record followed them. Unfortunately, no matter how long you have lived in Florida, the Florida expungement process will not apply to your case if the charge was in another state. Fortunately, many other states have an expungement process or similar process to get rid of old criminal records, so feel free to reach out to an attorney practicing in the state where your charge occurred.

The Outcome of Your Case Determines Whether You Qualify for Expungement

If your case resulted in you being found guilty of any crime, the charge cannot be expunged. This is true whether you were found guilty at trial or if you took a plea deal where you were adjudicated guilty, even if you plead to a lesser crime. Florida Statute § 943.0585 states that a person may qualify to have their criminal records expunged if an indictment, information, or other charging document was never filed in their case, or if a charging document was filed, but the case was dismissed, the judge issued a judgement of acquittal, or the defendant was found not guilty at trial. Essentially, in order to qualify for an expungement, your charges must have been dropped or you must have been found not guilty.

What if I Received a Withhold of Adjudication

Sometimes when a person pleas to a crime, the court will withhold adjudication of guilt. You can learn more about what a withhold of adjudication is here. For the purpose of this article, the important thing is that a withhold of adjudication of guilt means that you have not been formally convicted of or found guilty of the crime. Unfortunately, even a withhold of adjudication will disqualify the record from being expunged. Luckily, Florida law has created an alternative route for getting rid of records in cases like these. A person who receives a withhold of adjudication for a charge may still qualify to have the records sealed. We will explore sealing of records further in a later post. The main difference worth noting here is that getting an expungement results in the records being destroyed, while sealing results in the records being locked away.

Can I Expunge the Record of One Case if I Have Been Found Guilty in a Different Case?

Florida’s expungement statute states that a person is only eligible to have their records expunged if “The person has never, as of the date the application for a certificate of expunction is filed, been adjudicated guilty in this state of a criminal offense or been adjudicated delinquent in this state for committing any felony or [certain] misdemeanors.” § 943.0585(d), Florida Statutes. The list of disqualifying misdemeanors for juvenile charges (where a person may be adjudicated delinquent) can be found in section (d) of the statute. This section means that if a person has been convicted of any crime in the state of Florida, no matter how long ago, no matter how serious, and regardless of whether that charge is related in any way to the record you want expunged, it is impossible to get an expungement.

Can I Have Multiple Charges Sealed or Expunged?

Unfortunately, expungement is almost always a once in a lifetime process. A person only qualifies for expungement if “The person has never secured a prior sealing or expunction of a criminal history record . . . unless expunction is sought of a criminal history record previously sealed for 10 years pursuant to paragraph (h) and the record is otherwise eligible for expunction.” If you have ever sealed or expunged a criminal charge, you will not be able to expunge another, even if your future charges are dropped or if you are found not guilty at trial. The only exception discussed in the statute is where a person had a record sealed initially, and 10 years have passed since the record was sealed.

How do I Get My Criminal Record Expunged?

Expungement can be a lengthy process, often taking several months or longer from start to finish. § 943.0585 lists the specific process required. The person petitioning for the expungement must get a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). To get this certificate, you will need to send FDLE the proper paperwork, including a written certified statement reviewed and signed by the appropriate State Attorney’s Office. Along with the other paperwork required, you will have to pay a $75 processing fee to FDLE. Once you have the certificate, you can submit the certificate, a sworn statement, which includes swearing that you are, to the best of your knowledge, eligible for the expungement, and the actual petition for expungement. Many courts will also require you to submit a proposed order for the judge to sign. Lastly, the processing fee for the expungement is typically borne by the person seeking the expungement, meaning there will likely be additional costs during this final stage.

Contact Our Experienced Expungement Law Firm For Top-Notch Legal Representation

Overall, the process of seeking an expungement can be lengthy and will require properly preparing several legal documents. It is always a good idea to retain an attorney whenever you have to submit legal documents to a court, as attorneys are familiar with the process, the court system, and how to properly prepare the legal documents. In any case, once a judge submits a final order granting your petition, you will soon find that the records of your criminal case have been destroyed.

If you have any questions regarding expungement or if you are seeking an expungement yourself, feel free to give us a call or submit your question to our attorneys.