How To Seal Your Criminal Record in Florida
The first step to getting your Florida criminal record sealed is to find out if you are eligible. The law governing record sealing in Florida is primarily statutory. The statutes require that:
1. You have never been convicted of any crime, anywhere;
2. You have never sealed or expunged any other record, anywhere;
3. Your case did not go to trial, even if you were acquitted;
4. Adjudication was withheld on a guilty or no contest plea; and
5. You have finished any sentence imposed, including probation, on the charge you want to seal.
If you meet these five requirements, you must look next to see if you fall under any exceptions. There are a list of charges that you cannot seal in Florida, even if you are otherwise eligible. These charges include most sex crimes, kidnapping, and murder, to name a few. Usually, if the crime is particularly dangerous or violent, it can be found on the prohibited offenses list.
If you are eligible under the statutes, and don’t fall under an exception, you will have to get something called a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (“FDLE”). You will need to get fingerprinted, fill out an application, and send the completed materials, along with a $75.00 check to the FDLE. Then you wait…usually two or three months. The FDLE does not have an expedited service option.
Once you receive the Certificate of Eligibility (and there are remedies if you are denied, but that is a subject for another article), you must petition the court in the county of your arrest to have your record sealed. Again, there is no rushing this process. Like the FDLE, courts typically operate on a first-come first-serve basis, unless an emergency. Petitions to seal are not considered emergencies. If you are in a county where in-person hearings are still required, or if the state objects to your petition, you will have to call the Clerk of Courts and set a date for a hearing.
If the court grants your petition, either with or without a hearing, you must get a copy of the court order. It is always good to send a draft order to the court yourself, that lists all the criminal justice agencies with copies of your record on the order. The Clerk of Courts must mail a copy of the order to all agencies known to have a copy of your record. When you list these agencies, you reduce the likelihood of error and ensure that your records are properly sealed.
At the end of the record sealing process, you can lawfully say that you do not have a record when applying for jobs, housing, loans and more. Luckily, we will tell you if you are eligible to seal or expunge your record for free!