Regardless of whether you committed an unlawful act or not, if you have been accused of a crime, it is vital you hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights as soon as possible. The prosecution, State of Florida, generally seeks to bring harsh penalties in criminal cases. Florida law and the Rules of Criminal Procedure layout specific deadlines that apply to your case. If you have been arrested or accused of a crime, speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
What should I look for when hiring a criminal defense attorney?
Look for a lawyer who limits their practice exclusively to criminal law. Practicing the same kind of law day in and day out allows that attorney to develop a level of experience that surpasses those who only practice criminal work occasionally. At Tonelli Law, our lawyer is a former prosecutor who has intimate knowledge of the court system and the respect of judges and prosecutors across the Central Florida region. For an unbiased opinion, you may want to check the lawyer’s AVVO rating and online reviews. And finally, make sure your lawyer is someone you trust and feel comfortable with.
How do I have a criminal history record sealed or expunged?
Florida Statutes, s.943.0585 and s.943.059, set forth the criteria that must be met in order to be eligible to have an adult criminal history record sealed or expunged. In addition, these statutes also state that in order to have a criminal history record sealed or expunged within the State of Florida, an individual must first make application to the FDLE for a Certificate of Eligibility. Please note that the issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility does not mean that your criminal history record will be ordered sealed or expunged. It merely indicates that you are statutorily eligible for the type of relief that is being requested. The criminal history record of a minor may also be eligible for other forms of expunction.
Why do I have a criminal history record when the charges against me were dropped/dismissed?
The Florida Legislature has determined that Florida criminal history records are public unless the record is sealed or expunged. See Section 943.053(3), Florida Statutes, which provides for public access to criminal history records. The term “criminal history information” is defined, tracking the federal definition, at Section 943.045(4), Florida Statutes. A criminal history record is created when a person is arrested and fingerprinted, and includes the disposition of that arrest, whether it is a conviction, acquittal, dismissal of charges before trial, or other disposition.
What is the difference between having a criminal history record sealed vs. expunged?
When a criminal history record is sealed, the public will not have access to it. Certain governmental or related entities, primarily those listed in s. 943.059(4)(a), Florida Statutes, have access to sealed record information in its entirety.
When a record has been expunged, those entities which would have access to a sealed record will be informed that the subject of the record has had a record expunged, but would not have access to the record itself without a court order. All they would receive is a caveat statement indicating that “Criminal Information has been Expunged from this Record”.
When is my criminal history record sealed or expunged?
Once an order has been issued by the court of competent jurisdiction to seal or expunge your criminal history record and a certified copy of this order has been received by the FDLE, it will be complied with in accordance with state statutes.
How many dates of arrest can I have sealed or expunged?
The eligibility criteria for an applicant to have a record sealed or expunged include the requirement that the applicant be able to attest that he or she has never previously had a record sealed or expunged in Florida or in another jurisdiction. This means, in effect, that a person may only seal or expunge one arrest record in one proceeding. More than one record may be sealed or expunged in the same proceeding if the court, in its sole discretion, finds the arrests to be directly related.
A record that is initially ineligible for expunction (e.g., where adjudication is withheld) may become eligible after it has been sealed for 10 years. However, a person may not seal or expunge one arrest record and then, later and in a different proceeding, ask to have a different arrest record sealed or expunged. An expunction or sealing which occurs automatically or by operation of law, without any action on the part of the record subject, is not considered a prior expunction or sealing for this purpose. By law, s. 943.0582(8), Florida Statutes, a juvenile diversion expunge does not prevent the record subject from seeking a judicial expunction or sealing under s. 943.0585 or s. 943.059, Florida Statutes.
A list of charges that may not be sealed when adjudication is withheld is included with the application package, and is also enumerated in s. 943.059, Florida Statutes. (The same listing is found in s. 943.0585, because the specified offenses may not be expunged either.) In addition, if a person has been adjudicated guilty of any criminal offense in any jurisdiction (or adjudicated delinquent for any felony or for certain specified misdemeanors), whether or not related to the charge(s) that the person is applying for, the record is ineligible for sealing and the application will be denied.
The same eligibility requirements which apply to sealing also apply to expunction, with certain additional requirements. Any charge, which resulted in a withholding of adjudication or in an acquittal (not guilty verdict) after trial, may not be expunged unless and until it has first been sealed for at least 10 years. See s. 943.0585(2)(h), Florida Statutes. A charge which was dismissed before trial (e.g., no information, nolle prosequi, no bill, etc.) may be expunged immediately provided all charges related to the arrest were so disposed of, and the record is otherwise eligible.
If I receive a full pardon can I have my criminal history record sealed or expunged?
Unless the pardon indicates on its face that it entitles the record subject to seal or expunge his or her criminal history record, the granting of a full pardon does not remove any condition of ineligibility for sealing or expunging a criminal history record imposed by the disposition of the pardoned offense. See R.J.L. v. State, 887 So.2d 1268 (Fla. 2004).
If I have my civil rights restored, will my criminal history record disappear?
No. In order to have your civil rights restored you had to have been convicted (adjudicated guilty) of a felony that was the basis for your loss of civil rights. Persons who have been convicted (adjudicated guilty) of a felony are not eligible for a seal or expunge of their criminal history under Florida law, regardless of whether their civil rights have been restored.
Do I have to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility to have my juvenile criminal history record sealed or expunged?
The following considerations are relevant to the decision whether to seek the judicial sealing or expunction of a juvenile criminal history record. Prior to October 1, 1994, juvenile arrest records were not maintained by FDLE in the criminal history record system. Juvenile arrests for felonies prior to October 1, 1994, and juvenile arrests for misdemeanors prior to July 1, 1996, are not available to the general public unless the juvenile was treated as an adult. Juvenile records are subject to an abbreviated retention schedule, if certain qualifications are met, which results in the automatic expunction of the record after a specified period, under s. 943.0515, Florida Statutes. Juvenile defendants who successfully complete a qualified diversion program, as set out in s. 943.0582, Florida Statutes, may be eligible for expunction of their record as the term is defined therein. If a person wishes to pursue the judicial sealing or expunction of his or her juvenile record, the eligibility criteria and procedure, which are similar to those for adults, are found in s. 943.059 and s. 943.0585, Florida Statutes.
If I have a criminal history record sealed or expunged in another state or jurisdiction, am I still eligible to have a criminal history record sealed or expunged within the State of Florida?
Effective July 1, 2013, a previous seal or expunction of a criminal record in a jurisdiction outside the state of Florida will not disqualify an applicant to seal or expunge a Florida criminal history record.
What type of background check is conducted by FDLE to determine my eligibility to have a criminal history record sealed or expunged?
FDLE conducts criminal history record checks in Florida through the Florida Crime Information Center (FCIC), national record checks through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), local Court databases, and driving history checks through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). These databases are utilized to determine the eligibility of an individual to have a criminal history record sealed or expunged.
Why is the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles checked to determine my eligibility to have my criminal history record sealed or expunged?
A criminal offense such as DUI, Driving While License Suspended/canceled/revoked, or reckless driving may appear in the DHSMV database even though it may not be entered in the criminal history record system maintained by FDLE. Although non-criminal traffic offenses (such as careless driving) have no affect on eligibility to seal or expunge a criminal history record, an adjudication of guilty for any criminal offense renders the record ineligible for either form of relief.