We all make mistakes. For some of us, those mistakes result in criminal charges that haunt us for the rest of our lives, costing us job opportunities, denying us access to public benefits or a college education, and even being used as a weapon against us in contentious family law cases.
The good news is that for certain offenses, you may be able to have your record expunged or sealed. With an expungement, your criminal record is legally removed from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) database. Moving forward, you may be able to answer “No” on any questionnaires asking you if you have a criminal record.
At Sulte Law Firm, an experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer will speak with you about the possibility of expunging or sealing your criminal record. We believe that a momentary lapse in judgment should not ruin your prospects or your reputation for life, so talk to us about how you may be able to get a fresh start.
The Florida Expungement Process Explained
There are different circumstances under which you may apply for expungement of your criminal record. In all cases, you must not have had a record expunged or sealed in the state of Florida, nor can you have a pending petition to expunge or seal your record.
In general, you may be eligible for an expungement if:
- You were arrested for a crime but not convicted.
- You were arrested by mistake or in a way contrary to law.
- Your charges were not filed on by the State or were dropped by the State.
- You acted in lawful self-defense during the incident that created the record.
- You completed an authorized adult or juvenile diversion program for a misdemeanor or felony charge.
- Your record has been sealed for 10 years.
You cannot have your record expunged or sealed if you were adjudicated guilty of any criminal offense, including but not limited to driving under the influence and driving while license suspended.
The expungement process begins by obtaining a certificate of eligibility from the FDLE. This process can take months, depending on the caseload. Once you receive it, the certificate must be filed with the court for the county that handled your case, a process that is best completed with assistance from a Tampa expungement lawyer.
It is important to note that expungement is not an immediate process. The nature of the offense generally does not determine how long you have to wait to have your record cleared. It can take around a year or possibly even longer. Your attorney will give you a reasonably accurate idea of how long you may have to wait.
Let a Tampa Expungement Attorney Clear Your Past
If you’ve ever been arrested, you know how the resulting criminal record can cause you problems in situations where background checks are carried out. You can be denied employment and housing even if the charges were dropped or the judge withheld an adjudication of guilt. Let the Sulte Law Firm help you start over. Call (813) 223-4343.
What is the Difference Between Sealing and Expunging a Record?
The main difference between sealing your record and expunging it is that a sealed record still technically exists while expungement results in a legal deletion. This is why you may be able to state on job applications that you do not have a criminal record.
In both cases, the public does not have access to your record. Certain governmental or similar entities may access a sealed record in its entirety under certain circumstances, while with an expungement, these same parties will only be informed that you have had a record expunged. They will not be able to view the information without a court order.
When Can the FDLE Reveal an Expunged Record?
No state or federal agency may ever disclose your expunged record to the public and all information will be removed from the Criminal Justice Information System, so prospective employers or landlords will not see it in any background checks. However, if you are applying for employment or licensure at one of the following entities, the FDLE may make your expunged record available. These entities are:
The Florida Bar Association
Licensees or contractors working with children
Any public or private school
The Department of Education
The Department of Juvenile Justice
Any law enforcement agency
How Can a Tampa Expungement Attorney Help?
Expungements are a process and involve many steps to obtain. Not only is there a lot of paperwork involved, but it’s easy to make mistakes, and it is important to have the experience and training to get the record expunged or sealed.
Ryan Sulte is an experienced Tampa expungement lawyer who will confirm your eligibility, prepare and file the necessary paperwork, and answer all questions about the process. You can rest assured that your case will be managed efficiently and presented to the judge in a professional manner that maximizes your chances of success.