What Charges can be Sealed or Expunged in Florida?

April 14, 2020 Seal or Expunge Criminal Record

seal and expunge laws in florida

Sealing and expunging of records in the state of Florida is a statutory mechanism that prevents public access to records pertaining to a criminal history and the benefit of not needing to disclose those records upon most requests. The State of Florida – beginning in 1995 – enacted what is colloquially referred to as the “Sunshine Law,” technically a misnomer as it encompasses a series of laws. The series of laws guarantee public access to all non-sensitive records pertaining to any government entity in the state of Florida. This is fantastic for citizens of Florida seeking to find information on state or local governance for accountability or looking into the records of truly dangerous criminals. The law can be a horrible roadblock however for those of whom have made a simple mistake or were falsely accused. In order to remedy this disparity, the State of Florida enacted Florida Statutes §§ 943.0585 and 943.059 to introduce expunging and sealing, respectively.

Sealing Vs. Expunging

Expunging and Sealing are very similar in execution, both the procedural requirements and the end result. The process will be outlined below, but the purpose of each is to prevent the public from accessing all records tied to the record in question.

Expungement is essentially the destruction and deletion of all records, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) will keep a confidential record for extremely limited purposes, but even entities who can normally see anything in the criminal justice system will instead receive word the individual’s criminal record has been expunged. Florida Statutes § 943.045(16) defines expunction (a synonym for expungement) as: “the court-ordered physical destruction or obliteration of a record or portion of a record by any criminal justice agency having custody thereof.”

Sealing is a little bit different, it does not delete or destroy any information, but instead places it under government protection. There is no public disclosure of the record, and it is considered confidential, but the courts and criminal justice system in general will still have access. Florida Statutes § 943.045(19) defines sealing as: “the preservation of a record under such circumstances that it is secure and inaccessible to any person not having a legal right of access to the record or the information contained and preserved therein.”

If you have been charged with or arrested for – but not convicted – of a crime, you may be eligible to have your record sealed or expunged. The process to have a record sealed or expunged is long and complicated, and an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer experienced in the process can help guide you through the complex procedure to seal or expunge your criminal record.

Sealed and Expunged Eligibility

No case can be sealed or expunged if:

In addition, a case can only be expunged if:

  • If the case was dismissed, OR
  • There was no other Indictment, Information or charging document filed in the case.

There are also additional requirements for sealing of a case, sealing is only eligible when:

  • There is a probation or community control requirement which has been completed, including any remaining court supervision.

Process to Expunge or Seal Reckless Driving Records in Florida

An attorney is not required to seal or expunge a record, but it is highly recommended to consult with a Florida criminal defense attorney to ensure the process is not needlessly delayed or potentially even denied due to the complicated nature of the process.

The first step is to fill out an application with FDLE. This requires fingerprints and a disposition of the case, which must be certified. This application requires a notarized signature before submission. The State Attorney in the jurisdiction also must complete part of the application if seeking expungement.

Once FDLE certifies eligibility, you must go to the jurisdiction of the arrest or accusation and file a petition with the local court. Your attorney, or you can obtain the forms for Petition, Affidavit, and Order from the local Clerk of Courts, but an attorney should have those available. The affidavit requires a signature in front of a notary as well.

All of these forms must then be filed along with the FDLE certificate in that local court and served to the State Attorney’s Office. The date of receipt of the FDLE certificate starts a six-month deadline to complete all of this.

The order to seal or expunge must be approved and signed by a judge, sometimes this can be done without a hearing, but it can be required by the judge to go to hearing and speak to the judge directly. The entire process takes about a month.

Defense Attorney Near Me

Don Pumphrey and the firm have years of experience representing defendants in criminal cases and assisting with sealing and expunging procedure. They are dedicated to defending the rights of clients, and they will fight to preserve your rights during a sealing or expunging process. Call (850) 681-7777 or send an online message today to discuss your rights during an open and free consultation with our legal team.