What is a criminal expungement?

Florida residents who have been charged with criminal offenses may be able to have their criminal records expunged or sealed.

Being arrested on suspicion of criminal activity can be a very scary and upsetting experience for people in Florida. There are many concerning elements to a criminal arrest and one of these is the potential for a lifelong criminal history. Background checks for employment, housing and more may reveal criminal activities and potentially prevent people from making positive steps in their lives. Can a criminal history be erased to help give defendants a fresh start?

Expunging a criminal record

An expungement is the official term for essentially erasing a criminal history from record. The Florida Statutes explains that only some types of charges may be expunged. Even for qualifying charges, there are circumstances that may prevent some records from being expunged.

Seeking an expungement requires a specific process to be followed. The first step in the process is to apply for a certificate of eligibility. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, receiving an approved certificate of eligibility does not mean that a record has been expunged.

Armed with a certificate of eligibility, a defendant must then file a petition for relief with the certificate and required affidavit. The court will then determine whether or not a particular record will be expunged. It may take approximately three months before a decision is received about whether or not an expungement has been granted.

When a record may not be expunged

In some situations, a record will not be allowed to be expunged. However, it may be approved to be sealed. This would limit who would be able to have access to it. In other situations, no sealing or expunging may be allowed.

Some reasons that a request for expungement may be denied include not-yet-completed court supervision, ineligible violations, or the existence of previously sealed or expunged records. Prior guilty verdicts for similar violations to the one for which an expungement is requested may also lead to the denial of a request.

Criminal histories require special care

Some people in Florida may believe that if they receive clemency or pardon for an arrest or offense that their record is automatically expunged. This is not true. Even after a pardon or clemency, the process for requesting an expungement is still required in order to eliminate the record.

Such requests should always be filed in the county in which the arrest took place, even if the person no longer lives there. Working with an attorney is recommended as the best way to understand the requirements for seeking an expungement. This can help defendants know that the right steps are being taken to clear their records. People who have questions or concerns pertaining to expungement or record sealing should contact the Law Offices of Stanley E. Peacock, P.A. at 850-215-2112.