Question: What Is Expungement?
Answer: An Expungement allows you to legally deny having ever been arrested or charged with a crime, generally speaking.
A Criminal record can make it difficult to find a new job, get an apartment, or apply for school. Under Florida law, if you request that your Criminal history be Expunged or Sealed, the general public will not be able to see it under most circumstances. Most potential employers who conduct background checks, for example, are prohibited from accessing information from the Clerk of Court once your record is Expunged.
Expungement is generally available only in cases where no formal charges were filed (i.e. an Information was never filed, nor any Grand Jury Indictment), where charges were dismissed, or when the Criminal record you want expunged has been Sealed for at least 10 years. Florida law prohibits the Expungement of records for a number of Crimes. If you are found guilty—or plead guilty or nolo contendere—there is a long list of crimes that are not eligible for Expungement under Florida law, even if the adjudication was withheld. For example, you cannot have your record Expunged if you are found guilty of any Felony Child Abuse charges.
If you are seeking Expungement, you must file an application for a Certificate of Eligibility with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The application requires you to submit a certified copy of the charging document (if applicable), the final disposition of your case, as well as a full set of fingerprints, a $75.00 filing fee, and a completed Application for Certificate of Eligibility signed by the Office of the State Attorney which prosecuted the matter. After your request is filed, FDLE determines whether to grant you a Certificate of Eligibility. Once you receive the Certificate, you must then file both a Petition to Expunge as well as an Affidavit with the Court that handled your case. Such is a step in the process which makes having legal Counsel a necessity, as very few individuals know how to draft such pleadings, especially with the particulars required by local Court jurisdictions, as certain Judges require specific language in such documents.
If your Petition is granted and your record Expunged, you will not have to disclose it, with certain exceptions as outlined by Florida statutes. Remember that Expungement is not a 100% foolproof manner of preventing everyone from seeing your Criminal record. For example, third party companies will not automatically remove your mug shot or Criminal record information, as they normally continue to show your name and booking photos on their websites for everyone to see unless you present them with the Court Order and, sadly, pay their removal fees. Certain websites make money off of your mug shots, and an Expungement Order does not necessarily result in them removing your photo. Fortunately, if you have an attorney, your Counsel can assist you in explaining the process of having your information taken down by these companies.
The good news is that most agencies are required by law to destroy your Criminal record. Expunging your record can help put your past behind you and allow you to start over. If you need help Expunging your Criminal record, please contact our Panama City criminal defense lawyer at Albert J. Sauline, III – Attorney at Law today.