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When can I request that my criminal record be expunged in Florida?


A criminal record can have a lasting impact on a person's life, potentially affecting their ability to find a job, secure housing, or obtain credit. In Florida, the process of expungement offers a way to remove certain criminal records from public view, providing a second chance for individuals who have made mistakes in the past. However, the expungement process is not available to everyone or for all types of offenses. In this article, we will explore the requirements and limitations for requesting the expungement of a criminal record in Florida, as well as the potential benefits and drawbacks of this legal process.


Eligibility Requirements for Expunging a Criminal History Record in Court


A person is eligible to petition a court to expunge a criminal history record if:

  • An indictment, information, or other charging document was not filed or issued in the case giving rise to the criminal history record.

  • An indictment, information, or other charging document was filed or issued in the case giving rise to the criminal history record, was dismissed or nolle prosequi by the state attorney or statewide prosecutor, or was dismissed by a court of competent jurisdiction or a judgment of acquittal was rendered by a judge, or a verdict of not guilty was rendered by a judge or jury.

  • The person is not seeking to expunge a criminal history record that is ineligible for court-ordered

  • The person has never, as of the date the application for a certificate of expunction is filed, been adjudicated guilty in this state of a criminal offense or been adjudicated delinquent in this state for committing any felon, unless the record of such adjudication of delinquency has been expunged pursuant.

Steps for Obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility for Expunging a Criminal History Record


Before petitioning a court to expunge a criminal history record, a person seeking to expunge a criminal history record must apply to the department for a certificate of eligibility for expunction. The department shall adopt rules to establish procedures for applying for and issuing a certificate of eligibility for expunction.


A certificate of eligibility for expunction is valid for 12 months after the date stamped on the certificate when issued by the department. After that time, the petitioner must reapply to the department for a new certificate of eligibility. The petitioner’s status and the law in effect at the time of the renewal application determine the petitioner’s eligibility.



Mandatory Requirements Accompanying a Petition to Expunge a Criminal History Record

Each petition to expunge a criminal history record must be accompanied by:

  • A valid certificate of eligibility issued by the department.

  • The petitioner’s sworn statement that he or she:

    • Satisfies the eligibility requirements for expunction in subsection

    • Is eligible for expunction to the best of his or her knowledge and does not have any other petition to seal or expunge a criminal history record pending before any court.

A person who knowingly provides false information on such a sworn statement commits a felony of the third degree.


The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging a Criminal Record in Florida


In Florida, there are two ways to get rid of your criminal record that are similar but not the same. If your criminal record is sealed, it means that the public can no longer see any records about your case that are held by the criminal justice system or the court system.


Other than the legal exceptions listed in the section on sealing, the only way to see your criminal record is if a judge orders it to be opened, which doesn't happen very often, if at all. Expungement, which is also called "expunction," means that all of the records about your criminal case that are held by a criminal justice agency are destroyed. But it's important to know that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Clerk of the Court each keep a copy of your criminal record history. Neither of these copies is available to the public, though.


The main difference between sealing and getting rid of a record is that sealed records are kept by the courts and law enforcement agencies that have them, but they can't tell anyone about them. For expungement, on the other hand, the courts and law enforcement agencies that have your records have to destroy them. This makes it impossible for them to be accidentally shared. One copy, on the other hand, is kept secret by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.


Limitations on Sealing or Erasing Criminal Records in Florida

You can't seal your criminal record. You can only do that for one crime. So, if you have been arrested more than once, you will only be able to seal or wipe out the record of one of those arrests. There is one case where this is not true. If you pleaded guilty or "no contest" to more than one crime but the court didn't rule on all of them, you can only try to get one of the convictions sealed or erased. If this is you, you should try to get the more serious charge taken off your record.


How long does it take to seal or expunge my criminal record?


Sealing or expunging a criminal record can be a lengthy and complex process in Florida. The timeline for this process can vary depending on several factors, such as the specific type of offense, the county where the case was filed, and the backlog of cases within the court system. Generally, the sealing or expungement process can take several months to a year or more to complete, as it involves multiple steps, including filing a petition with the court, obtaining and submitting various documents, and attending a court hearing. In some cases, additional requirements may also apply, such as the completion of a pretrial diversion program or a waiting period after the case is closed. It is important to consult with an experienced attorney to understand the specific timeline and requirements for sealing or expunging your criminal record in Florida.



Procedure for Sealing or Expunging a Criminal Record in Florida

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has to say yes to your application (FDLE). If your application is accepted, they will give you a certificate of eligibility. Once I get the certificate of eligibility, I have to fill out a Petition to Seal or Expunge and send it to the court.


After the petition is filed, the court will either decide on it without a hearing or set a date for a hearing. The court will either grant the petition or turn it down. If the petition is approved, the court will issue an order to seal or erase your criminal record. The order is then sent to the agency that arrested you, any other criminal justice agency involved in your arrest, any other agency with criminal records related to your case, and the clerk of the court.


Here at the Arroyo Law Firm, we offer complete defense services and inexpensive payment plans to help offenders defend their rights. For a free case evaluation, reach out to us online or by phone at 407-770-9000. Knowing your alternatives won't cost you anything, even if you decide not to hire us.


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