Sealing and Expungement: Working Toward a Fresh Start

The process of sealing or expunging a criminal record in Florida is a legal pathway that offers individuals a chance to limit the impact of their past encounters with the law on their future. This process, governed by specific state laws, allows for certain criminal records to be either sealed or expunged, thereby reducing their visibility and impact on a person’s life.

Expungement and Sealing Definitions

Expungement in Florida involves the removal of a criminal record from public view. This process destroys the record, except for a confidential copy retained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). On the other hand, sealing a record does not destroy it but restricts its accessibility to the general public, thereby maintaining a level of confidentiality.

Eligibility Criteria

The eligibility for sealing or expungement in Florida is confined to certain conditions. Generally, individuals with first-time misdemeanor offenses, except DUIs, can seek expungement or sealing. However, felony convictions are not eligible for these processes. There are also specific exclusions for serious crimes, particularly those involving sexual or violent offenses such as sexual battery, child abuse, kidnapping, human trafficking, and certain drug trafficking crimes.

For juvenile records, there are distinct provisions. These records are not openly accessible and are subject to an abbreviated retention schedule, leading to their automatic expungement after a certain period.

The Procedure for Sealing and Expungement

To seal a record, an individual must first obtain a certificate of eligibility from FDLE. This involves a comprehensive application process, including fingerprinting and submission of required documents and fees. The process for expungement usually follows after a record has been sealed for a specific period, or in cases where charges were dismissed prior to trial.

Limitations and Special Provisions

There are scenarios where sealed or expunged records might need to be disclosed, such as when seeking employment with criminal justice agencies, applying for The Florida Bar, or during criminal prosecutions. Special provisions exist for victims of human trafficking, who may be eligible for expungement for certain offenses related to their victimization.

In 2019, Florida introduced an automatic sealing system for eligible non-conviction records. However, it’s important to note that Florida law typically allows for only one record to be sealed or expunged, with exceptions in cases where multiple arrests are directly related.

Federal Cases and One-Time Limitations

A key point to remember is that federal criminal cases cannot be expunged, marking a significant difference between state and federal legal systems. Additionally, the one-time limitation in Florida law underscores the importance of understanding the specifics of one’s eligibility and the implications of the sealing or expungement process.

If you are considering the sealing or expungement of a criminal record in Florida and need guidance on navigating these legal procedures, the firm of Weisberg Kainen Mark is here to assist. Our team can provide insights and support for your specific situation. Schedule a consultation today by calling (305) 374-5544 to explore your options and take a step towards a future less burdened by your past.

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Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL

As experienced trial lawyers with a passion for justice, our firm provides clients with compelling advocacy, attorney availability, and creative solutions to your tax or criminal law matters.

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