Expunging & Sealing Criminal Records
Florida law allows for some individuals to seal and or expunge their criminal records. Doing so can prevent future employers, landlords’ banks, credit card companies, and even universities from discovering a past run-in with the law or mistake that could be a black mark on your record.
We here at TJ’s Legal Document Services, is here to assist you with the entire process. Please Keep in mind, that we are not Attorneys and will not offer any legal advice. If you prefer to seek counsel, please see our resource page.
What is the difference between Seal and expunge?
The key difference between expunge and seal stems from the access to the records: When a record is expunged, it cannot be accessed even by a court order whereas a sealed record can be unsealed by a court order.
Why should I expunge or seal my record?
Many states allow you to expunge, seal or otherwise "hide" or "destroy" your criminal record. Generally, if a criminal record is expunged or sealed, it's as though the crime never occurred and you can legally say (to a potential employer, for example) that you were never charged or convicted of a crime.
Do expunged records show on background check?
Generally, expunged records do not appear on employer background checks. An expungement effectively removes a criminal arrest, charge, and/or conviction record and seals or destroys the public record. Essentially, an expunged record technically no longer exists.
How long after you get a misdemeanor can you get it expunged?
There are certain rules pertaining to misdemeanor expungement: The petition for expungement should not be filed before the completion of 5 years after the sentence. You should also take into consideration the fact that the petition should not be filed before completing 5 years of probation.
The processing time to determine eligibility is typically 12 weeks from the date a completed application packet is received. Extensive research is required to determine eligibility and several factors contribute to the processing time of an application packet. Application packets are researched in the order received. FDLE does not expedite application packets.
Little wonder why Florida is considered top among states with the most stringent rules for record expungement and sealing. In Florida, expungement is granted only to those who were arrested but not convicted or for criminal cases sealed for at least ten years. In Florida, typically, expungement takes up to 7-8 months.
Seal and Expunge Process Application
The submission of an application for a Certificate of Eligibility is the first step in sealing or expunging a criminal history record. A record does not receive relief until a certified court order has been received by FDLE from the court of proper jurisdiction.
Several types of relief to seal or expunge criminal history records are available. The types of sealing or expungement processes authorized by statute are listed below:
- Administrative Expungement – an arrest (adult or juvenile) made contrary to law or by mistake may be expunged by applying to FDLE, in one of the ways provided in statute and rule.
(Per Section 943.0581, Florida Statutes, and Rule 11C-7.008, Florida Administrative Code)
- Court-Ordered Sealing or Expungement – a person may apply to FDLE for a Certificate of Eligibility to Seal or Expunge his/her criminal history record. This is the required first step toward obtaining the court-ordered sealing or expungement of that record. Before issuing a Certificate of Eligibility, FDLE determines if the applicant is statutorily eligible to petition the court to have his/her Florida criminal history record sealed or expunged.
(Per Sections 943.059, and 943.0585, Florida Statutes, and Rules 11C-7.006 and 11C-7.007, Florida Administrative Code)
- Juvenile Diversion Expungement – a person who has completed an authorized juvenile diversion program for a misdemeanor, may apply for a juvenile diversion expungement, as defined.
(Per Section 943.0582, Florida Statutes, and Rule 11C-7.009, Florida Administrative Code)
- Lawful Self-Defense Expungement – a person may apply for a Lawful Self-Defense Certificate of Eligibility if the appropriate state attorney or statewide prosecutor certifies that the subject acted in lawful self-defense pursuant to the provisions related to justifiable use of force in Chapter 776, Florida Statutes, and the charge(s) were not filed on, or were dismissed by the state attorney or the court.
(Per Section 943.0578, Florida Statutes)
- Human Trafficking Expungement – a person who is a victim of human trafficking (as defined in Sections 943.0583(1)(c) and 787.06, Florida Statutes) may petition for the expungement of a criminal history record resulting from the arrest or filing of charges for an offense committed or reported to have been committed as a part of the human trafficking scheme of which he/she was a victim.
Per Section 943.0583, Florida Statutes)
- Automatic Juvenile Expungement - the criminal history record of a minor maintained by FDLE will automatically be expunged (by operation of law) at the age of 21, or (if the minor was committed to a juvenile correctional facility or juvenile prison) age 26, provided certain conditions are satisfied (i.e., not having been charged with or convicted of a forcible felony as an adult or when treated as an adult). A list of charges designated as forcible felonies can be found in Section 776.08, Florida Statutes.
(Per Section 943.0515, Florida Statutes)
- Early Juvenile Expungement - a person between the ages of 18 and 21 may, under certain conditions, apply to have their juvenile criminal history record expunged by FDLE. A person may apply to the appropriate prosecuting attorney to approve the expungement of his/her FDLE juvenile criminal history record if the subject has not been charged with or found to have committed any criminal offense (including the one that you are seeking to expunge) within the preceding 5 years.
(Per Section 943.0515(1)(b)2, Florida Statutes)
- Automatic Sealing – the criminal history record maintained by FDLE will automatically be sealed (by operation of law) when the Clerk of the Court submits a qualifying certified disposition to FDLE, via electronic means. A list of qualifying dispositions can be found in Section 943.0595, Florida Statutes. A list of disqualifying offenses can be found in Section 943.0595(2)(a), Florida Statutes.
*Note- this process does not seal records at the local level.
(Per Section 943.0595, Florida Statutes)
Reasons for Denial
Pursuant to Sections 943.0585 and 943.059, Florida Statutes (F.S.), an application for a Certificate of Eligibility to seal or expunge a criminal history record will be denied under any of the following circumstances:
The criminal history record reflects you have been adjudicated guilty, as an adult, of a criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation. If applicable, the criminal history record reflects you have been adjudicated delinquent for committing any felony or a misdemeanor specified in Section 943.051(3)(b), F.S. Certain driving violations are classified as criminal, such as driving under the influence, reckless driving, and (with some exceptions) driving while license is suspended/canceled/revoked.
The criminal history record reflects you have been adjudicated guilty of or adjudicated delinquent for committing one or more of the acts stemming from the arrest or alleged criminal activity to which the application pertains.
The criminal history record reflects you have received a prior sealing or expungement of a criminal history record under Section 943.0585, Section 943.059, former Section 893.14, former Section 901.33 or former Section 943.058, F.S. NOTE: A sealing or expungement obtained under any other parts of the law, not listed here, will not count as a “prior” order.
The criminal history record to which the application pertains relates to a violation of Section 393.135, Section 394.4593, Section 787.025, Chapter 794, Section 796.03, Section 800.04, Section 810.14, Section 817.034, Section 825.1025, Section 827.071, Chapter 839, Statute 847.0133, Statute 847.0135, Statute 847.0145, Statute 893.135, Statute 916.1075, a violation enumerated pursuant to Statute 907.041, or any violation specified as a predicate offense for registration as a sexual predator pursuant to Statute 775.21, without regard to whether that offense alone is sufficient to require such registration, or for registration as a sexual offender pursuant to s. 943.0435, where the defendant was found guilty of, or pled guilty or nolo contendere to any such offense, or that the defendant as a minor, was found to have committed, or pled guilty or nolo contendere to committing, such an offense as a delinquent act, without regard to whether adjudication was withheld.
Disqualifying Charges for Sealing/Expungement
Except for certain specified offenses, the record of an arrest may be sealed when adjudication is withheld, if otherwise eligible. The offenses which may not be sealed (or expunged even if previously sealed for 10 years) when (i.e., even if) adjudication is withheld under current law are:
Offenses listed in Section 943.0584, Florida Statutes
(a) Sexual misconduct, as defined in s. 393.135, s. 3457 394.4593, or s. 916.1075;
(b) Illegal use of explosives, as defined in chapter 552;
(c) Terrorism, as defined in s. 775.30;
(d) Murder, as defined in s. 782.04, s. 782.065, or s. 782.09;
(e) Manslaughter or homicide, as defined in s. 782.07, s. 3463 782.071, or s. 782.072;
(f) Assault or battery, as defined in ss. 784.011 and 784.03, respectively, of one family or household member by another family or household member, as defined in s. 741.28(3);
(g) Aggravated assault, as defined in s. 784.021;
(h) Felony battery, domestic battery by strangulation, or aggravated battery, as defined in s. 784.03, s. 784.041, and s. 784.045, respectively;
(i) Stalking or aggravated stalking, as defined in s. 784.048;
(j) Luring or enticing a child, as defined in s. 787.025;
(k) Human trafficking, as defined in s. 787.06;
(l) Kidnapping or false imprisonment, as defined in s. 787.01 or s. 787.02;
(m) Any offense defined in chapter 794;
(n) Procuring a person less than 18 years of age for prostitution, as defined in former s. 796.03;
(o) Lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age, as defined in s. 800.04;
(p) Arson, as defined in s. 806.01;
(q) Burglary of a dwelling, as defined in s. 810.02;
(r) Voyeurism or video voyeurism, as defined in s. 810.14 and s. 810.145, respectively;
(s) Robbery or robbery by sudden snatching, as defined in s. 812.13 and s. 812.131, respectively;
(t) Carjacking, as defined in s. 812.133;
(u) Home-invasion robbery, as defined in s. 812.135;
(v) A violation of the Florida Communications Fraud Act, as provided in s. 817.034;
(w) Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, or aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, as defined in s. 825.102;
(x) Lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of an elderly person or disabled person, as defined in s. 825.1025;
(y) Child abuse or aggravated child abuse, as defined in s. 827.03;
(z) Sexual performance by a child, as defined in s. 827.071;
(aa) Any offense defined in chapter 839;
(bb) Certain acts in connection with obscenity, as defined in s. 847.0133;
(cc) Any offense defined in s. 847.0135;
(dd) Selling or buying of minors, as defined in s. 847.0145;
(ee) Aircraft piracy, as defined in s. 860.16;
(ff) Manufacturing a controlled substance in violation of chapter 893;
(gg) Drug trafficking, as defined in s. 893.135; or
(hh) Any violation specified as a predicate offense for registration as a sexual predator pursuant to s. 775.21, or sexual offender pursuant to s. 943.0435, without regard to whether that offense alone is sufficient to require such registration.