Sealing and Expungements
If you are found guilty of a crime in the State of Florida, that offense will appear on your criminal record for the rest of your life. Even if you are simply arrested and later found not guilty, that arrest will stay on your record for life. If you are arrested and the prosecutors decide to dismiss the case before you even go to court, the arrest record will appear on your record forever. Even if you have evidence that you have been wrongfully accused, an arrest stays on your record for life unless you take action to do something about it.
Luckily, the powers that be have realized that it is not necessarily a good thing to leave every person ever arrested with a permanent arrest record. While not perfect, there is a mechanism in place to clean your prior arrest or criminal record. Under some circumstances, you may be able to seal your records from public view. Under other circumstances, you may qualify to have your records fully expunged. If you have a prior arrest record that you think should be sealed or expunged, you should contact a skilled Clearwater criminal defense lawyer right away.Sealing
The sealing of criminal records is governed by Florida Statute 934.059. Under that statute, you may qualify to have your criminal arrest record sealed from public view. Sealing means that your records will be removed from the public registry and will be invisible to most background checks. Records that have been sealed, however, can be reopened under some circumstances. Certain government agencies can have your records reopened and you yourself can have your records unsealed if you are required to do so for some reason.
You can qualify to have your records sealed under some circumstances even if you have been found guilty of a crime. So long as you have never been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense and you have never applied to have your records sealed or expunged, you likely qualify for sealing. As long as the sentencing judge on your case issued what is called a “withheld adjudication,” you will be able to have your arrest record sealed. If you have a case for which you received a withheld adjudication, you should consult with an experienced Clearwater criminal defense lawyer.Expungement
Expungement in Florida is governed by Florida Statute 943.0585. Expungement differs from sealing in that your criminal arrest records will be completely destroyed by the clerk of court and cannot be lawfully reopened, even by the government. Because the benefits of expungement are significantly greater than those of sealing, expungement can only be accomplished in a few select circumstances.
The first circumstance occurs after someone has already had their arrest records sealed. If, after 10 years, the person has not been convicted or arrested for a crime, he or she can then apply for expungement and permanent destruction of their arrest record. A person can also apply to have his or her records sealed if their case is dismissed before trial or otherwise resolved without a finding of guilt.
A skilled Clearwater criminal attorney can help to ensure that you achieve such a result. A lawyer that gets involved early can sometimes prevent criminal charges from ever being filed. It is often easier for a prosecutor to justify not filing charges than for them to dismiss a case after charges have already been filed. If they do file charges, a dedicated lawyer may be able to secure a dismissal or take your case to trial and win. Under these circumstances, you can then apply to have your criminal arrest record fully expunged and destroyed.Speak to Our Lawyers Today
The attorneys at Hanlon Law have handled thousands of sealing and expungement applications. If you think you qualify to have your records removed, call us today at 727.897.5413.