What is an expungement?
An expungement is the legal process that allows people that have been arrested to have the records of their criminal case to be destroyed. Unfortunately, anytime a person is arrested the records of their arrest are all public record. This means that the records of the criminal case can be searched and found by anyone looking. These records are usually even accessible online making it even easier for an interested party to find them. It is even more frustrating that these records can be accessed and seen even if the criminal case is dropped.
An expungement will force the destruction of all of the public records of the criminal case. An expungement will also allow you to legally deny that you were ever arrested for a criminal case. This is a great tool to erase a past mistake that resulted in a criminal case.
What is the benefit to having your record expunged? Why should you expunge your record?
As discussed above the benefit is that all of the records associated with your criminal record are destroyed. There are usually records of your criminal case with arresting police agency, the clerk of court, and at the county jail. All of these records are destroyed in an expungement. These means that anyone looking through public records will no longer be able to see your criminal record.
There is an additional benefit to having your record expunged. Once your record is expunged, you are usually legally able to deny that you were arrested for the criminal case that you expunged. This is extremely beneficial on job applications, college applications, or applications for a new residence that ask if you have ever been arrested. If you are able to deny that you were arrested, then you will be able to avoid the uncomfortable situation of attempting to explain or mitigate your criminal case.
Are you eligible to expunge your criminal record?
Just because a person has an criminal record does not mean that they are eligible to have their record expunged. First, it depends on the type of expungement you are seeking. There are several types of expungements including an administrative expungement, a court ordered expungement/sealment, juvenile diversion expungement, lawful self-defense expungement, human trafficking expungement, automatic juvenile expungement, or an early juvenile expungement. The overwhelming majority of people seek a court ordered expungement.
To qualify for a court ordered expungement you cannot have a criminal conviction on your record in Florida or in any other state. Keep in mind, that criminal case does not mean you were convicted in that case. It is possible to have prior criminal cases and still be eligible for a court ordered expungement. Additionally, to be eligible for a court ordered expungement you cannot have any previously expunged or sealed any prior case in Florida or any other state. If you are not sure whether or not you are eligible to have your record expunged, an expungement attorney will be determine if you are eligible for it.
How long does it take to expunge your record? What is the process to expunge your record?
If a you qualify to have your record expunged, then the expungement process will still take months to complete. The first step is to apply to the local State Attorney's Office that handled your criminal case. Once they approve your application, you will need to be fingerprinted and send the approved application along with certified documents from your case to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Tallahassee. If they approve your application, then they will send you a certificate of eligibility. A Petition to Expunge your record will be filed in the same court that handled your criminal case. The judge will then determine whether to grant your expungement.
What is the difference between a sealment and an expungement?
A sealment means that the criminal records are no longer able to be seen by the public, but the records are not destroyed like an expungement. In other words, if someone searched your named in a public records search, they would not be able to see your criminal case that had been sealed. Just like an expungement, a sealment will take several months to complete, but will allow you to deny that you were arrested the same as an expungement. If a person is not eligible to have their record expunged, they may be eligible to have their record sealed.
Sealing or expunging a record is a privilege that the state of Florida affords to people only once in their life. A person seeking to have their record sealed or expunged cannot have any other criminal record other that the case they are seeking to have sealed or expunged.
What is an administrative expungement?
An administrative expungement is a process that can be used to destroy nonjudicial arrest records when a person is illegally arrested or arrested by mistake. It is important to note that this process expunges only nonjudicial arrest records. This term "nonjudicial arrests records" means that only records outside of the court system would be destroyed by an administrative expungement. This is different from a court ordered expungement that destroys all the criminal records in a case. Another difference in an administrative expungement is that you can have more than one administrative expungement in your lifetime.
An administrative expungement is usually applicable when a person is arrested under the belief that they are someone else. As in, the police arrest a person under the belief that this person is someone else. Due to situations such as this, you are entitled to as many administrative expungements in your life as you need.
At Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh we have handled thousands of sealments and expungements as prosecutors and defense attorneys. We are experienced and knowledgeable about the process and procedures. Let us help you seal or expunge your case. Contact us to see if you are eligible to seal or expunge your record at (561) 295-5825.