Columnist Shiobhan Olivero explains how to seal criminal records.
By Shiobhan Olivero
I am often asked about how to seal or expunge a criminal record in Florida.
When the record is ordered to be sealed, agencies do not have to destroy them. However, they must make the records confidential and not publicize them to anyone. It cannot be viewed by the public unless a court order to unseal the record is obtained.
An expungement is where, pursuant to the court’s order, the record must be physically destroyed or obliterated by any criminal justice agency having custody of such record. However, any identifying information, such as DNA or fingerprints, are excluded from the destruction. The only agency that will retain a record of the arrest, per statute, will be Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The process to seal or expunge a criminal record can take approximately four to six months.
You may only seal or expunge one criminal record in your lifetime. That means if you have two prior criminal charges that arose from different arrests, you would have to choose between the two records.
If you have numerous criminal cases and they each directly relate to the same original arrest, then the court may order the sealing or expunction of your criminal history record pertaining to more than one record.
There are certain crimes that can never be sealed or expunged, regardless of conviction. These charges include, but are not limited to, arson, some assault and battery charges, kidnapping, murder charges, sexual offenses, stalking offenses, robbery charges, carjacking, acts of terrorism, certain manufacturing of drug charges, offenses by public officers and employees, computer pornography and drug trafficking.
How to seal or expunge a record
The process to seal or expunge a record can be lengthy.
If your case is completed with the court and you have not have been adjudicated guilty, complete the necessary steps to obtain a certificate of eligibility from FDLE. Once the certificate is obtained from FDLE, a Petition to Seal the Record is then filed with the clerk’s office. The petition is set for hearing and then heard by a judge for final determination.
Some of the more common reasons for denial include:
- You have been convicted of a criminal offense.
- You have received a prior sealing or expunction of a criminal history record.
- The application relates to a violation of one of the criminal offenses that is not eligible for sealing/expunging.
- Your sentence is not yet completed, including any term of supervision or probation.
- Another petition for sealing or expunging exists.
Who can still see your record?
Once your criminal record is sealed or expunged, you may deny or fail to acknowledge your criminal record. However, there are a few exceptions to those who have access. Some of the most common include:
- Criminal justice agencies
- Criminal prosecutions
- Department of Children and Families and other associated agencies
- Department of Education or any district school board, university, charter, or private school or any governmental agency that licenses child care facilities
- Firearms purchases subject to a background check
Shiobhan Olivero was born and raised in Plant City. She has been practicing as an attorney since 2010 and has offices in Plant City, Tampa and Spring Hill. Her law offices can be reached at (813) 534-0393 or by email at [email protected].