How Does Expungement or Sealing Work in Florida?

Law Firm Newswire



Lakeland, FL (Law Firm Newswire) July 17, 2015 – Can the mistakes of the past be erased or expunged? Yes, provided it is done with the assistance of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, as the process is complicated and subject to a multitude of rules and regulations and timelines.

What may seem like a childlike prank may turn into something far more serious if the criminal justice system becomes involved. Once a young offender has a record, that record may follow him or her for the rest of their life, unless the record is sealed or expunged/expunction.
Sealing effectively conceals a criminal record from the vast majority of people, although in some instances such as for particularly serious offenses, records cannot be sealed or expunged. Serious offenses include, but are not limited to: sexual battery, terrorism, arson, homicide, kidnapping, stalking and sexual crimes against minors.

“Sealing and expunction is allowed in Florida and in fact, there are far more options per state regulations open to an offender than there are in other states,” said Lakeland criminal defense attorney, Thomas Grajek. “However, there is no one hundred percent guarantee that any sealed information never sees the light of day as Florida permits deep access to sealed records of those wishing to apply for a job in the judicial system or to become a police officer.”

Any other offenses, such as pranks gone wrong or being in the wrong place at the wrong time or with the wrong people and criminal charges resulted, would typically qualify for sealing and expungement. Any employer checking for records for a job applicant with a juvie prank record would never be able to access such information. The applicant with an expunged or sealed record also has the legal right to say they have not been accused of a crime if they are asked during an interview.

Juvenile records are usually automatically expunged by the age of 23 or 25, depending on the nature of the criminal offense for which they were convicted and whether they have a substantial criminal history. Only one record may be sealed and that depends on the nature of the offense. The courts may be petitioned for sealing if juvenile charges were dismissed or the young offender completed a diversion program successfully.

Expunction is the destruction of such records, effectively erasing an incident as if it never happened. In Florida, with the help of a criminal defense attorney, a convicted individual may apply for both processes, sealing and expungement. However, expunction may only happen 10 years after a record has been sealed. “Anyone buying a firearm or wanting to work with children or seniors goes through a record search in Florida,” said Grajek.

Adults or juveniles seeking sealing or expungement in the State of Florida need to begin the process by filing an application with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. A certified case disposition is mandatory for an adult, as is submission of fingerprints. For juveniles, they must complete a diversion program or complete a diversion program.

“It’s a complicated process,” said Grajek, “and best undertaken with the skilled assistance of a criminal defense attorney.”