Under some circumstances, in the state of Florida, a person may qualify to have their criminal record expunged or sealed. Once a record is sealed, the general public will not be able to view it, however, access to the record will still be available to most government agencies. If a criminal record is actually expunged then it is not even available to government agencies, without a court order. In most cases, if a person’s records are either sealed or expunged, they are not required to disclose the arrest.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the following exceptions apply to sealed record disclosure and access:
- When the subject of the record is a candidate for employment with a criminal justice agency
- If the subject is a defendant in a criminal prosecution
- Concurrent petitions for relief
- If the subject is a candidate for admission to The Florida Bar
- If the subject is seeking to be employed or licensed by or to contract with the Department of Children and Family Services, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation within the Department of Education, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Health, the Department of Elderly Affairs, the Department of Juvenile Justice, or to be employed by such contractor or licensee in a sensitive position having direct contact with children, the disabled or the elderly.
- Is seeking to be employed or licensed by the Department of Education, any district school board, any university laboratory school, any charter school, any private or parochial school, or any local governmental entity that licenses child care facilities
- Is attempting to purchase a firearm from a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer and is the subject to a criminal history background check under state or federal law.
It is possible for the criminal record of a person who was arrested but was never convicted of a crime, to be eligible for either expungement or sealing. To qualify, the non-convicted person must have never previously had a criminal record expunged or sealed, whether in Florida or any other state. They must also not have a petition pending to expunge or seal any criminal records. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement offers an Expunge/Seal Package where a complete list of exceptions and requirements regarding the sealing and expunging of criminal records can be found. The Expunge/Seal package can be viewed and downloaded at: http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/cms/Seal-and-Expunge-Process/Seal-and-Expunge-Home.aspx
Additional information is available in, Florida Statute 943.0585. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0900-0999/0943/Sections/0943.0585.html
The following items are necessary for an Application for Sealing or Expungement to be accepted for processing:
- A completed, signed and notarized, Application for Certification of Eligibility
- A check or money order made payable to Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the required amount
- A certified copy of the disposition of the case to be sealed or expunged
- A legible set of fingerprints recorded by a law enforcement agency on an applicant card
- If the applicant is seeking expungement, Section B of the application must be completed and signed by the appropriate State Attorney or statewide prosecutor.
If a person was falsely arrested or was arrested by mistake, Florida law does allow for expungement of those arrest records. Florida Statute 943.0581 contains additional information on expunging mistaken arrests or arrests that were made contrary to law. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0900-0999/0943/Sections/0943.0581.html
In circumstances where a person pleads guilty, nolo contendere, or if they were found guilty, there are several crimes that are not eligible for neither sealing or expungement, under Florida law. Specifically, persons who have been found guilty of any felony, are not eligible. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the following are a few of the crimes that are not eligible for sealing or expungement:
- Illegal use of explosives
- Aircraft Piracy
- Burglary of a dwelling
- Home-invasion Robbery
- Aggravated Assault
- Child Abuse or Aggravated Child Abuse
- Sexual Battery
- Lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault or act upon or in the presence of a child under the age of 16 years
- Stalking or Aggravated Stalking
- Act of Terrorism as defined by Florida Statute 775.30
A complete listing of disqualifying offenses are available in the Expunge/Seal Package that is provided, along with additional pertinent information, by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Additionally, a reading of Florida Statutes 943.0585 and 943.059 will provide more information on this topic. Florida Statute 943.0585 can be viewed at: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0900-0999/0943/Sections/0943.0585.html and Florida Statute 943.059 is available at: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0900-0999/0943/Sections/0943.059.html
Due to how complicated nature of cleaning up a criminal record in the state of Florida, if a person is interested in getting their criminal or arrest record sealed or expunged, the benefit of a qualified criminal law attorney cannot be overstated. A good lawyer will take the time to understand the specifics of your personal situation and can then guide you through the necessary steps.