In Florida it is relatively simple to have an arrest or criminal charge
sealed or expunged. In fact, Longwell Lawyers has successfully helped
countless people over the years get their record sealed or expunged.
However, that is not where the conversation should end. What people usually
mean when they ask to seal or expunge their record is that they want to
make sure that the arrest will not haunt them by hurting their future
educational goals, employment opportunities, or economic security. What
people really want is to clear their name. Sealing or expunging is a big
part of doing that, but there is much more to the story… and Longwell
Lawyers knows how to help you.
The Basics on Sealing or Expunging a Record:
Sealing or expunging a record has essentially the same practical effect:
both cause a record to be unavailable to the public. In other words, the
public will not have access to the record whether you seal or expunge.
Technically, sealing a record makes it non-public only. However, the record
is still maintained and can be accessed with a court order. When a record
is expunged, an order is entered directing law enforcement and the courts
to “expunge” the record.
In order to seal or expunge a record, it is first necessary to apply and
obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law
Enforcement (FDLE). The process is similar for both sealing and expunging
a record. A case that is dismissed/dropped can be expunged. If the case
was not dismissed or dropped, but the court withheld adjudication, then
the record can be sealed. A record that has been sealed for 10 years may
be expunged. You may only apply to seal/expunge once. If you have ever
been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense, you may not be eligible
to seal or expunge a record. If you meet the eligibility requirement,
FDLE will issue a Certificate of Eligibility. This process takes about
4-6 months. For further information on eligibility requirements for sealing
or expunging a record, please go to:
After receiving the Certificate of Eligibility, a Petition to Seal/Expunge
must be filed with the court. Florida law favors the granting of properly
filed motions for eligible applicants. See,
Anderson v. State, 692 So.2d 250 (Fla. App. 1997), holding that a petitioner who satisfies
the requirements of the law is presumptively entitled to an order to expunge
or seal. However, filing a proper Petition will require the assistance
of a lawyer.
Why Sealing or Expunging Alone May
NOT Solve the Problem:
We live in the information age. The internet and datamining make the control
of information very challenging. Once a person is arrested and the information
is entered into the public record of the police agency and jail, companies
start to collect your mugshot and arrest information. That information
is then uploaded to websites and databases that will sell the information
to companies that offer background information to employers, educators
and creditors. While sealing or expunging a record will remove the damaging
information from the public record, it will not stop private entities
such as on-line mugshot websites or re-sellers of data to continue to
disseminate the information. It is analogous to putting a picture on the
internet. Even if you then remove the picture, it may continue to be re-posted
by anyone who downloaded the picture prior to its removal.
Generally, you are legally authorized not to disclose an arrest if it has
been sealed or expunged. However, a person may be required to disclose
information regarding an arrest or criminal charge when applying for various
specific positions, such as:
- Applying for a state-issued professional license.
- Applying for a law-enforcement/government job.
- Applying for a school-related job.
- Buying a firearm or applying for a concealed carry permit.
- Applying for public office.
As such, having your record sealed or expunged will cause you a problem
if you must provide the record and you don’t have it. As such,
is highly recommended that you obtain and keep a certified copy of all
pertinent documents (arrest report and disposition, order to expunge or
seal) for your records before you secure the sealing or expungement of
your criminal history record.
How to Deal with the Dilemma of Disclosure
What do you do if you are applying for a position that does not require
disclosure? You are legally authorized to deny a sealed or expunged arrest.
However, if you deny it and they discover it anyway, then you look less
than honest. If you disclose it, that may cost you the position. The best
answer is to create a comprehensive plan for addressing the troublesome
incident. Longwell Lawyers recommends customizing a plan that will work
for you. Generally, we recommend the following:
- Get and keep at least 5 sets of certified copies of your arrest report
- Seal/Expunge your record and keep a copy of the order.
- Write a letter/essay describing the arrest/criminal case and put your best
spin on it. Explain if you were wrongly accused… Most importantly,
explain why you are a better, more responsible person because of the experience.
In other words, take lemons and make lemonade. That way, you can disclose
the incident and explain that the case was dropped/you were not convicted,
and that an order was entered sealing/expunging. Although you are not
legally required to disclose, you are doing so out of an abundance of
candor. Furthermore, the experience makes you an even more qualified candidate.
If you are seeking to have your record sealed or expunged, contact Longwell
Lawyers. We will help you get your record sealed or expunged and formulate
a comprehensive plan to address your concerns about how to protect your
name and deal with future disclosure.