An expungement or sealing of your criminal records allows you to legally deny that the alleged criminal incident ever occurred. The sealing of your records effectively prevents anyone from viewing anything in the court records about the incident without a court order. Not everyone is eligible for a sealing or expungement of their court records, so it is important that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your specific situation. For instance, all misdemeanors are eligible but not all felonies. Additionally, you cannot have been adjudicated guilty by the court and you cannot have secured a prior sealing or expungement on a different case. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement determines if the criteria is met for you to receive a “Certificate of Eligibility” for a sealing or expunction of your court records. Your attorney can assist you in obtaining one. Your attorney will then petition the court to seal or expunge your court records. In addition to paying a reasonable attorney’s fee, you will be required to pay a $75.00 application fee to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and court costs between $75 to $150.00 at the end.
Keep in mind that the ability to legally deny that an alleged criminal incident ever happened by a sealing of your court records does not apply to certain types of employment.
These are set out in the statute, and typically involve employment in law enforcement, the legal profession, health care, and education. It is important to consult an attorney familiar with these exceptions before applying for employment after your records are sealed or expunged.
Ray Lopez has practiced since 1990, with prior experience as a Hillsborough County assistant State attorney and lawyer for the Tampa Police Department. He handles all criminal charges, from traffic violations and misdemeanors to serious felonies and federal drug charges. He practices in all state and federal courts of the Tampa Bay area and throughout Florida, as well as criminal appeals, juvenile court, administrative hearings, and civil forfeiture proceedings.