This page is intended to assist individuals looking to get their Florida criminal history record sealed or expunged. The following are the commonly asked Questions and Answers about the sealing and expungement process in Florida. If you have a question about whether you qualify to have your record sealed or expunged please read the information on this page.
What is the difference between sealing and expunging my Florida criminal record?
Often thought of as the same, sealing and expunging your criminal record in Florida are two entirely different things. Whether you qualify to seal or expunge your case depends on HOW YOUR CASE WAS RESOLVED. A person can only expunge their record if their case was dismissed by the Judge, dropped by the State Attorney, or never filed on by the State Attorney. A person can only seal their record if they ended up taking a plea to qualifying charge(s) and they received a “withhold of adjudication.”
Under Florida law the ‘sealing’ of your criminal record simply means that any and all record of your criminal case, including record of your arrest, held by law enforcement agencies and the Clerk of Court becomes inaccessible to the general public. Though your record still exists, once it is sealed it can only be viewed under certain exceptions under Florida law and by court order ~ this however, is rare and can be done only under very limited circumstances.
Under Florida law the ‘expungement’ of your criminal record means that any and all record of your criminal case, including the record of your arrest, held by law enforcement agencies is physically destroyed. It is important to note that though the record held by law enforcement is destroyed, confidential copies are retained by the Clerk of Court and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, both of which are inaccessible by the general public.
Can I expunge my Florida criminal record instead of sealing it?
NO, unless you qualify. Under Florida law you can only expunge your criminal record in three specific situations:
- If the State Attorney does not file an information, indictment or formal charges against you;
- If the State Attorney does file an information, indictment or formal charges against you, but later drops them;
- If the Court dismisses the charges against you.
If none of the above applies to you, but you otherwise qualify, you may still be able to seal your Florida criminal record.
I have been arrested more than once; can I seal or expunge all of my cases?
NO, under Florida law you are only permitted to SEAL or EXPUNGE a criminal record related to one criminal event. So if you have been arrested several times you are only legally able to seal or expunge the criminal record related to one of those arrests.
What if I have only been arrested once and charged with a single CASE, but they charged me with multiple CHARGES, can I seal or expunge the entire record?
YES, under Florida law you are permitted to seal or expunge multiple charges that come from one criminal event.
What if I don’t know exactly what is on my record?
You can easily get information about your criminal record by getting a copy through the State of Florida, or a national criminal record database company. I can provide you with this information, or for a fee I can obtain this information for you.
What if I had a criminal history record sealed or expunged in a different state, will I still be eligible to have my Florida criminal record sealed or expunged?
YES, but only if the criminal record was sealed or expunged by natural operation of the law.
This means that if you filed an application and petition and received a Court order sealing or expunging your record in another state you will NOT be able to do so in Florida.
How much does the Florida criminal record seal and expunge process cost?
If you are determined to be eligible, I charge a flat fee of $750.00 for most Florida seal and expunge cases. This fee includes the $75.00 application fee that must be paid to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and court costs, which range from $25 to $100. Other small fees for the initial FDLE application, such as fingerprint fees (varies from location to location, but usually $0 to $20) and certified copies of the disposition of your case (varies from Clerk to Clerk, but usually $0 to $2.00 per page), are the responsibility of the client.
Cases outside of Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Polk, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties may require an additional travel and appearance fee of $250 if the court in your county requires an appearance by an attorney at a hearing. In my experience most cases DO NOT require a court appearance by an attorney.
All work is prepared and submitted by attorney Richard C. Mendoza.
Do you have payment plans?
Yes, I offer record sealing for three payments of $250.00
How long does the Florida criminal record seal and expunge process take?
Though each case varies the process can usually be completed in about 6 to 9 months. The courts and government agencies involved work on a first-come-first-serve basis and I do everything I can to make sure the process is finished as soon as possible.
Common delays do occur with the FDLE as they process and handle many cases. Also, an expungement may take longer as the application to FDLE must be reviewed and signed by the State Attorney. Unfortunately, there is no “expedited process” available at this time. The bottom line is that the sooner you begin, the sooner it will be completed.
Do I have to go to court and will I need a hearing?
Generally, NO, for the most part you do not have to appear in court at any point during the process.
Hearings are not usually required. The Judge overseeing your case will usually make a decision in chambers (In his office without the need for a hearing). A hearing may be required if the facts of the particular case were serious in nature.
Is this something I can do myself?
Most people prefer to hire a Florida attorney experienced in sealing criminal records as this ensures that the process is done correctly. However, if you are able to dedicate some time and wish to save money you can attempt the process on your own with the aid of my attorney prepared DIY kit.
What if my request to seal my Florida criminal record is denied?
For the most part cases are not denied without reason. The most common reason for denial is that the person applying for the sealing does not meet the basic qualifications, such as: having been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, having already received a prior sealing or expungement, or having pled out to a charge that cannot be sealed or expunged.
If your case is denied I will review the application and do any necessary research to determine why the denial occurred. Once that is determined I will go over any options you might have to resolve the matter.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BENEFITS AND WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS WHEN YOUR FLORIDA CRIMINAL RECORD IS SEALED OR EXPUNGED
What are the benefits of having my Florida criminal record sealed or expunged?
If you have been carrying around a criminal record you may have experienced the negativity that comes with it. If you are eligible to seal or expunge your Florida criminal record you could enjoy benefits in the following areas:
- Employment – Been passed over for a job? Your Florida criminal record may be the problem. Once you Seal or Expunge your Florida criminal record you are legally able to deny having a criminal arrest record which may improve your chances at getting that new job.
- Housing – In this day and age many landlords and real estate companies will run criminal background checks on potential tenants and buyers. If you seal or expunge your Florida criminal record you may be able to avoid these problems.
- Loans – Lenders also run background checks and are often interested in your background. If you seal or expunge your Florida criminal record this may not be an issue.
- Insurance – Having a criminal record may cause your insurance company to raise your premiums, or even deny you coverage.
- Students – Sealing or Expunging your criminal record could make the difference when applying to a University or College.
- PEACE OF MIND – You will no longer have to worry or suffer embarrassment when your background is checked.
What actually happens when my Florida criminal record gets expunged?
Under Florida law, once you have successfully expunged your criminal record the Judge issues an order to physically destroy the record. The Court Order will direct the courts, state attorney’s office, and law enforcement agencies that possess either a physical or electronic record related to your case to physically destroy them. However, one copy of your record is retained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and that copy is CANNOT BE VIEWED by anyone without a Court Order. A criminal justice agency that does retain a copy of your record legally cannot disclose the contents of the record, cannot say that you had a record, and cannot say that you had your record sealed or expunged. Additionally, any information related to the expunged criminal event is removed from the Criminal Justice Information System so that it does not show on background checks.
In certain situations, if asked, you must acknowledge your sealed or expunged arrest or conviction. In these limited situations the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is authorized to disclose the existence, but not the contents, of a criminal history record that has been sealed or expunged if you are seeking employment, membership, or licensure with any of the following:
- A Criminal Justice Agency (police dept etc.)
- The Florida Bar (applying for admission to the Florida bar)
- The Department of Children and Family Services
- The Department of Juvenile Justice
- A contractor or licensee in a sensitive position having direct contact with children
- The Department of Education
- Any public or private school
- A local government agency that licenses child care facilities
Additionally, you may be required to divulge the information in the following situations:
- If you are attempting to purchase a firearm;
- If you are a defendant in a future criminal prosecution; and
- If you are concurrently or subsequently petitioning to have another unrelated criminal episode sealed or expunged.
If I get my Florida criminal record sealed or expunged will I be able to apply for a job as a teacher, nurse or other occupation?
A criminal record is not an automatic bar to employment, in Florida certain employers/agencies will have access to your record and it will be up them whether to offer you employment. It is better, however, to have your record show that it was sealed by the Court, than have it remain open to the public.
If I get my Florida criminal record sealed or expunged will I be able to get a job at a bank?
The FDIA (Federal Deposit Insurance Act) gives banks and other financial institutions the power to deny employment to prospective employees who have had certain “Breach of Trust” charges from jobs that they are otherwise qualified for even if they had the conviction sealed or expunged. Breach of trust of trust charges usually mean ones dealing with fraud or theft.
If you had a “breach of trust” charge and were denied a job with a financial institution because of that, there still is another possible way to obtain that job. It is important to speak with an attorney about your specific circumstances to see if you would qualify for such a waiver from the FDIC.
Sealing and Expungement Services Throughout Florida
For a FREE CONSULTATION PLEASE CALL 407-782-4638
Richard C. Mendoza, Esquire
A Florida law firm
1101 Miranda Lane, Suite 131
Kissimmee, FL 34741
My office handles cases throughout Florida, in the following counties: Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Calhoun, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, DeSoto, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Glades, Gulf, Hamilton, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Holmes, Indian River, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Lee, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Saint Johns, Saint Lucie, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Volusia, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington.