Expunge Your Criminal Arrest Record –
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
If you are reading this article, you may have been arrested before. Did you know that even if you were arrested by mistake, the charges against you were dropped, or the charges against you were dismissed, you still have a criminal record in Florida? And that this criminal record will be publicly available to anyone who wants to see it, including potential employers performing a simple background check when you apply for a job or a landlord running a criminal history check when you apply for housing? Most people are not aware that in order to make an arrest record disappear, you must take action!
Administrative Expunction for Mistaken Arrest
The legal procedures for removing a mistaken arrest from your record are different from the regular record sealing or expungement process in Florida. The statute governing administrative expunctions applies to arrest contrary to law or by mistake. “Mistake” is, for example, if someone used your identity when he or she was arrested. With the correct documents, these types of errors should be easily corrected. Expunction based on the “contrary to law” standard, however, is a lot more difficult to obtain.
A Florida law enforcement agency can administratively expunge a non-judicial arrest if the agency determines, of its own volition, that it made an arrest contrary to law or by mistake. Does this actually happen, you wonder? Well, me too. I’ve not seen it yet.
If you think you’ve been arrested contrary to law or by mistake, you will have to obtain the endorsement of the head of the arresting agency, or the state attorney of the judicial circuit in which the arrest occurred, in order to have the arrest expunged administratively. Again, it is not easy to get an arresting agency to admit, in writing, that your arrest was made contrary to law.
Expunging Dropped or Dismissed Charges
If you were arrested, but the charges against you were later dropped or dismissed, then under Florida law you may be eligible to expunge your record (i.e., have your record physically destroyed). It is not necessary to have been arrested by mistake or contrary to law. Procedures and eligibility requirements for expunctions can be found in the Florida Statutes, which are public records easily accessible online.
Sealing an Arrest
If you were arrested, and you pled guilty or no contest to the charges, but received a withhold adjudication, then you may be able to seal your record (i.e., have your record placed under highly restricted access). Again, there is no mistaken arrest requirement in order to get a record sealed.
Remember, a record of your arrest (mistake or not, prosecuted or not) will remain publicly available until you take action to have it removed.