Sealing Criminal Records
First let me say that an extensive FAQ section exists on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement site. They are the agency in Florida that approves requests for sealing/expungements. That site address is www.fdle.state.fl.us
Let me answer a few questions in basic terms.
Q1) Are you eligible to have your record sealed or expunged?
A1) If you have never been adjudicated (convicted) of a crime, you are likely eligible to have your case sealed. There are certain crimes (such as many sex crimes) that cannot be sealed from your record. If you were arrested and the charge was dropped, you will be eligible to have your case expunged. If you were arrested and you got a withhold of adjudication , you will likely be eligible to have your case sealed. The physical difference between having a case expunged vs. sealed is that expunged means the records are destroyed while sealed means they ordered to be kept under seal. For your purposes, there isnt much of a difference, they still cannot be seen by employers, schools, etc.
Q2) How long does this process take?
A2) This is a hard question to answer but usually it takes between 3-6 months. There is no definite time period but lately, this is how long it has been taking.
Q3) What if they say no?
A3) As long as we know exactly what your situation is, we won't send in a request if they are going to say no. We will tell you if they are going to say no and not charge you anything for it. That is the best part about the process, you will know before you send out your request whether they are going to say yes. If not, there is no purpose in sending a request. The rules are very black and white.
Q4) Who can see 'the charge' if i get it sealed/expunged?
A4) Dont worry, employers/schools/etc cannot see it once you have had your charges sealed or expunged. Not only that, you are legally allowed to answer 'NO" to the question "have you been arrested?'. The only people who can see anything after a sealing or expungement are prosecutors in the event you get arrested again in the future. Otherwise, the background checks done by schools/employers will not show it.
Finally, and this is something I have run into a lot lately. Some people think that charges automatically come off your record after a period of time, or if you were a juvenile at the time of the offense. This is rarely the case. Some people think that just because a case was dropped, it was also expunged. This is not true. The only way to get something sealed/expunged is to go through this process.
I know this can be a bit confusing but if you have any questions at all about the process or your eligibility, please call the Law Office of Shorstein & Lee at 904-829-3035. Or you can email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.