If you have been arrested in the state of Florida, you may be concerned about how your criminal record will affect your future. Fortunately, you may have the opportunity to seal or expunge your record. Doing so may have a positive effect on your chances regarding employment, housing, loans, etc.
Before you attempt to clear your record, it is important to know a few things about the process and to understand the terms that are used. It is important to note that felony offenses and convictions of driving under the influence cannot be removed from criminal records in Florida. However, if you were arrested, but not convicted of a crime your record may be eligible for sealing or expungement.
Sealing vs. Expunging
When a criminal record is expunged, physical and digital records are completely destroyed. Generally, the only things that are not destroyed are forms of identifying information. This includes fingerprints and DNA.
When a criminal record is sealed, any agency that does have records pertaining to the arrest will not be required to destroy them, but they will have to make them confidential and must not share the information with anyone. Most agencies, upon having a record sealed, will simply destroy it anyway to make space for other records.
The practical difference between having your record sealed and having it expunged is that you can deny the arrest in any situation if the record was expunged. If the record was sealed, you can deny the arrest in the vast majority of situations, but you will be required to disclose the arrest if you are attempting to purchase a firearm. In application, the most important aspect of sealing or expunging is the destruction of digital records, as they are the ones that will be sent to background checking agencies.
Filing for sealing or expungement
Before you can file to have your record sealed or expunged, you have to first get a certificate of eligibility from the state. This document simply verifies that your record qualifies for alteration. Getting a certificate of eligibility does not mean that your record will be altered; it just means that it can be. Once you have obtained this certificate, you can apply for sealing or expungement. One of the criterion for being eligible is that you have not had your record altered before and that you are not already filing to have it changed.
The continued legal process for clearing your criminal record is a complicated and potentially long one. The state of Florida has a webpage that may help you get started as well as the actual statutes regarding specific policies. If you believe that you are eligible and you want to move forward in the process, it is suggested that you seek the assistance of a legal professional who is experienced in the field of sealing and expunging. They will be able to provide assistance that will ensure the process goes as quickly and as smoothly as possible.