In Florida, if you were arrested and the case was either dismissed or you received a withhold of adjudication, you may be eligible to have your record sealed or expunged.
To seal or expunge your arrest record, the crime you were charged with must not be included as one of the enumerated offenses in which the legislature has declared cannot be sealed or expunged at all.
You cannot have ever been adjudicated (“convicted”) of any crime at the time you file a petition to seal or expunge. This applies whether or not you were convicted of another crime either after or 20 years prior.
The process of sealing or expunging your record takes between 4 and 6 months to complete. The reason it takes time is because paperwork and documentation must be signed off by both the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office. For some of the process, we are on their timetable waiting for them to process the materials on your expungement.
The difference between sealing and expunging is that a sealing means exactly that. The record is sealed. The court file cannot be viewed by the public. In order for anyone to view it, that person would need to file a motion in court requesting to view it and they would need specific legal reasons for doing so. This is not a common occurrence.
Expunging your record is the most preferable. If the case was dismissed then you would be eligible for an expungement. Expunging your record means that the court file would actually be shredded. Thus, one could not ever look at it even with a court order because it would not exist. If one qualifies for an expungement, it is still ultimately up to the discretion of the Judge on whether to expunge or seal.
People often ask if sealing or expunging their record will keep their arrest out of the public view or off the internet. We live in a world where there is no longer any privacy. There are many investigative agencies that accumulate arrest information of individuals. These agencies are on the internet. Nonetheless, if a record is sealed or expunged the local Sheriff’s office is required to take it off of being seen by the public. Also, the clerk’s office is required to take it off of public view. By sealing or expunging your record, you will be doing all that you possibly can to take it off of public view.
If your record has been sealed or expunged and you are asked on an application of you have ever been arrested, then under many situations, depending on the type of application or the employer to which you are applying, you may be able to answer “No,” you have not ever been arrested. Contact my office to address this issue.
Finally, you are only allowed to seal or expunge your record one time in your entire life.