How Do I Seal My Record in Florida?
- September 11th, 2023
- Bruce Denson
- Comments Off on How Do I Seal My Record in Florida?
If you have a criminal record, you may qualify to have it sealed. Getting a fresh start can make a huge difference in your future. If you’ve been wondering, “How can I seal my record in Florida?” this guide will give you the information you need about eligibility, the steps involved in the process, and the benefits of sealing one’s record.
We’ll also include recommendations on what actions you can take to move forward.
Understanding Sealed Records in Florida
Records of arrests are public information. Potential employers, landlords, and others interested in your criminal history can do a background check and see your record.
If you get a record sealed, the public cannot see it, making a difference when people make decisions about you. The intent of a sealed record is to protect you and your reputation, essentially erasing that record from public knowledge and judgment.
What is a Sealed Record?
A sealed record is a criminal record that becomes confidential. It is only accessible to a very limited audience, including certain governmental or related entities listed in Section 943.059(4)(a), F.S.
What is the Difference Between Sealed and Expunged Records?
When it comes to record sealing in Florida, you should understand the difference between sealed and expunged records.
- Similarities: Expunged and sealed records are not available to the public. An expunged or sealed case will not appear on a regular background check by an employer.
- Differences: If the charges were dismissed before the trial, you may be eligible for an expungement. You may be eligible if you were acquitted at the trial or the court withheld adjudication of your arrest.
Note: You are not eligible for either option if you have any convictions on your record, even for the most minor criminal offenses (e.g., disorderly conduct, fishing violations, criminal traffic infractions such as no valid driver’s license).
Eligibility for Record Sealing in Florida
Not everyone will qualify for record sealing in Florida. However, many people can, depending on what occurred.
As mentioned above, the first eligibility factor is that you do not have any convictions. Multiple types of arrests are eligible, such as various types of nonviolent offenses. Once you start the process, it takes about 6 months.
Who is Eligible to Seal Their Criminal Record in Florida?
People who may be eligible for sealing criminal records in Florida include those who:
- Dismissal of charges before the trial;
- Were acquitted (found “not guilty”) at trial;
- Entered a plea, and the court withheld adjudication;
- Completed a diversion program, such as PTI;
- Have no convictions; and/or
- Has not had an expungement or sealing in their lifetime.
As mentioned above, not all offenses on your record can be sealed.
What Crimes Cannot Be Sealed in Florida?
Crimes that cannot be sealed focus on violence, sexual offenses, or other crimes that cause harm to others, including, but not limited to*:
- Luring or Enticing a Child;
- Sexual Battery and related offenses;
- Lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age;
- Computer pornography(child related);
- Drug Trafficking (this does not include trafficking by possession);
- Violations of Pretrial detention or release;
- Aggravated Assault;
- Aggravated Battery;
- Child abuse or Aggravated Child Abuse;
- Burglary of a Dwelling;
- Stalking and Aggravated Stalking;
- Act of Domestic Violence (as defined in F.S. §741.28);
- Home Invasion Robbery;
- Act of terrorism (as defined by F.S. §775.30);
- Manufacturing any substances in violation of Ch. 893; and/or
- Attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above crimes.
*A complete list is included in Florida Statutes §943.0585.
How Long Must I Wait to Seal My Record in Florida?
The average wait time for record sealing in Florida is about six months, but it can take longer. Multiple government agencies are involved, and each step must be followed.
Other factors that will affect the duration of the process include:
- Obtaining all documentation and records.
- Getting copies of fingerprints.
- Submitting applications.
- Filing a petition with the court.
Steps to Sealing Your Record in Florida
Navigating the process of sealing your record in Florida requires careful attention to detail and adherence to the proper steps.
- Get a fingerprint card.
- Get certified copies of all documents relevant to the case.
- Fill out the application (it should be detailed and comprehensive).
- Submit the application to the Office of the State Attorney.
- Submit the application and the fee to the Florida Department of Law. Enforcement (FDLE).
- Obtain the Certificate of Eligibility.
- Petition the court.
- The court signs the Order.
- Copies of the Order are sent to all relevant government agencies to remove the approved case from the public.
It is recommended that you obtain legal assistance for the sealing process.
How Do I Know If My Criminal Record Is Sealed?
The application status can be checked by contacting the FDLE at [email protected]. Also, you perform a criminal records check with FDLE or a private company.
How Do I Get My Record Sealed in Florida?
Start by getting a copy of your criminal record. Then, get Certified copies of the case records, and proceed with the application process, step by step, as described above. A lawyer can assist in ensuring accuracy and that each step is conducted properly.
What Documents Do I Need to Seal My Record in Florida?
If you’re looking to seal your record in Florida, the forms utilized include the following:
- Application for Certificate of Eligibility,
- Petition to Expunge,
- Affidavit in Support of Petition to Expunge, and
- Order to Expunge (to be used by the court).
These documents can be obtained at their respective agencies, including the FDLE, State Attorney’s Office, and Clerk of Courts.
Benefits of Sealing Your Record in Florida
Sealing your record in Florida can help you obtain a job and approval for housing. It also safeguards your reputation in the community and can make personal relationships easier while positively affecting your financial future and many areas of your life.
How Can Sealing My Record Help Me?
From employment to getting a place where you really want to live, sealing records improve lives. It can also help with recidivism.
For example, the Center for American Progress reported on a study in Philadelphia that putting 100 people to work would “increase their lifetime earnings by $55 million, income tax contributions by $1.9 million, and sales tax contributions by $770,000.”
Also, the same report referenced a University of Michigan Law School study, showing that 96% of Michiganders had not committed a crime within five years of having their record sealed.
Can I Deny My Criminal Record After It Has Been Sealed?
Generally speaking, you can deny the existence of a sealed criminal record to the public.
The only times you typically would need to disclose is if you are applying for positions in law enforcement or with careers in working with the elderly or children. Law enforcement would see it if you were being investigated for a new criminal case.
Sealing Your Record in Florida
Many Floridians are eligible to seal their record. The process does take some time, but the benefits are well worth it.
The steps must be followed correctly and include all necessary documentation for each government agency. It can be daunting, but legal professionals experienced with sealing records can help. Sealing your record can be your best step to a better future.