Florida Expungements: Clearing Your Criminal Record for a Fresh Start

Florida expungements
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What is an Expungement in Florida?

In the state of Florida, an expungement (also known as expunction) is a court-ordered process that allows you to have your criminal history record sealed or erased in the eyes of the law. When a record is expunged, it is physically destroyed or obliterated by criminal justice agencies. The public will not have access to it, and in most cases you can legally deny the arrest or conviction ever occurred.

Florida Statute 943.0585 provides the guidelines for expungement of criminal records in the state. The law allows for court-ordered expungement of criminal history records if the person has not been adjudicated guilty or delinquent of the offense and has not had a prior record expunged or sealed.

Benefits of Expunging Your Criminal Record in Florida

Having a criminal record, even for a minor offense, can negatively impact many areas of your life. Some of the key benefits of having your record expunged include:

  • Increased employment opportunities – Many employers conduct background checks. An expunged record allows you to legally state on a job application that you have not been convicted of a crime.
  • Improved housing options – Landlords often run criminal background checks on potential tenants. With an expungement, you can expand your housing options.
  • Loan and credit eligibility – A criminal record can affect your ability to be approved for loans, mortgages, and other lines of credit. An expungement can improve your chances.
  • Educational opportunities – Some colleges and financial aid programs factor criminal history into admission and eligibility decisions. Expunging your record can open up more educational options.
  • Peace of mind – Moving on from a past mistake can be difficult with a criminal record looming over you. An expungement provides a sense of closure and a fresh start.

A 2020 study published in the Harvard Law Review found that people with expunged criminal records have extremely low subsequent crime rates, comparing favorably to the general population. Only 3.4% are rearrested within 2 years and 7.1% within 5 years of receiving their expungement.

What Criminal Records are Eligible for Expungement in Florida?

Not all criminal records qualify to be expunged in Florida. The following types of records may be eligible:

  • Dismissed charges before trial
  • Acquittals or verdicts of not guilty after trial
  • Arrests not resulting in charges being filed
  • Charges dropped by the prosecutor (nolle prosequi)
  • Successful completion of diversion programs for minor offenses

Certain offenses can never be expunged, even if adjudication was withheld:

  • Sexual misconduct
  • Illegal use of explosives
  • Terrorism
  • Murder, manslaughter, homicide
  • Stalking
  • Domestic violence
  • Trafficking in controlled substances

According to Florida Department of Law Enforcement statistics, 21,686 orders for sealing or expunging criminal history records were issued by Florida courts in 2021. This was an increase from 16,662 orders in 2020.

The Expungement Process in Florida

The process to seal or expunge a criminal record in Florida involves several steps:

  1. Obtain a certificate of eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The FDLE conducts a background check to ensure you qualify.
  2. File a petition for expungement with the court in the county where the arrest or charge occurred. The petition must include the certificate of eligibility and a sworn affidavit.
  3. Serve the petition on the prosecuting attorney’s office. The state attorney has an opportunity to object to the expungement.
  4. Attend the court hearing, if required. The judge reviews the petition and makes a ruling to grant or deny the expungement.
  5. If the court grants the expungement, obtain a certified copy of the court order. The order must be delivered to all agencies that have a record of the arrest or charge.

The entire process can take several months from start to finish. Having an experienced expungement attorney manage the process can improve your chances of success and take the stress out of dealing with the courts and multiple agencies.

Sealing vs. Expungement: What’s the Difference?

Technically, you can apply for expungement on your own in Florida. However, the process can be complex and involves dealing with multiple agencies and legal filings. A single mistake can lead to your petition being denied by the courts.An experienced expungement attorney can help in many ways:

  • Determine if you are eligible for expungement or sealing
  • Obtain your certificate of eligibility from the FDLE
  • File your petition and represent you in court proceedings
  • Serve all relevant agencies with the expungement order
  • Ensure your record is properly destroyed or sealed

At CDB Injury Law, our knowledgeable attorneys have helped many individuals in the Tampa area successfully expunge their criminal records. We understand the impact a criminal record can have on your life and are committed to helping you get the fresh start you deserve.

Conclusion

Expungement offers a way to clear your criminal record and open up new opportunities in life. By understanding the requirements and process for expungement in Florida, you can take steps to put your past behind you. If you are considering expungement, consulting with an experienced attorney is the best way to ensure the process goes smoothly and your petition has the greatest chance of success.

At CDB Injury Law, we offer free consultations to discuss your expungement case. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you expunge or seal your criminal record in Florida.Sources:

Chris Debari

Chris Debari

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