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Expungement/Sealing of Criminal Records

Under Florida law, a person can have only one arrest or series of arrests related to a single bad act expunged/sealed - unless he/she had a record expunged as a juvenile through a diversion program. Additionally, mistaken arrests may be administratively expunged without using your one opportunity.

All arrests that result in a dismissal or nolle prosequi' i.e., State dismissal of the case prior to the date of trial, can be expunged so long as the individual has never been adjudicated guilty or delinquent for any other arrest. This means all prior arrests must have also been dropped or had adjudication withheld. The expungement process can begin immediately after the case is closed.

Many people believe that if their case was dropped or dismissed they do not have a record. This belief is inaccurate. A criminal record begins once an individual has been formally arrested or once the Clerk creates a case file and assigns a case number. These records are public records. The case may have been dropped, dismissed, or considered nolle prosequi; however, the criminal arrest history remains. Anyone who searches the public records can discover arrest records.

Both an expungement and a sealing of records require the Courts, State Attorney's Office, and law enforcement agencies to remove all information regarding the arrest from public view. It is necessary to obtain a court order to unseal a court record after sealing of the court record or expungement has taken place. After a record has been sealed or expunged, the individual can lawfully deny the arrest occurred; however, there are several exceptions to the ability to deny the arrest:
  1. One cannot have his/her case expunged because it was not dropped or dismissed prior to trial; however, you may qualify to have your case sealed, if adjudication was withheld

  2. Arrests for specified offenses resulting in a finding of guilt by the court may be sealable under Florida Law.

  3. The court must have withheld the adjudication of guilt. In Florida, an individual can be found guilty, but not be convicted. This is known as withholding of the adjudication (see the definition of a conviction in Florida).

  4. The offense cannot be a prohibited offense by Florida Statute.
The above conditions and the requirement of never having been adjudicated guilty (convicted) of any other crime or never having any other Florida arrest sealed or expunged will qualify you to have your criminal arrest record sealed.


Frequently Asked Questions:
  1. How do I have a criminal history record sealed or expunged?

    Florida Statutes, s.943.0585 and s.943.059, set forth the criteria that must be met in order to be eligible to have an adult criminal history record sealed or expunged. In addition, these statutes also state that in order to have a criminal history record sealed or expunged within the State of Florida, an individual must first make application to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for a Certificate of Eligibility. Please note the issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility does not mean your criminal history record will be ordered sealed or expunged. It merely indicates you are statutorily eligible for the type of relief that is being requested.

  2. Why do I have a criminal history record when the charges against me were dropped/dismissed?

    The Florida Legislature has determined that Florida Criminal History Records are public records, unless the record is sealed or expunged. See Section 943.053(3), Florida Statute, which provides for public access to criminal history records. The term "criminal history information" is defined, tracking the federal definition, at Section 943.045(4), Florida Statutes. A criminal history record is created when a person is arrested and fingerprinted, and includes the disposition of that arrest, whether it is a conviction, acquittal, dismissal of charges before trial, or other disposition.

  3. What is the difference between having a criminal history record sealed vs. expunged?

    When a criminal history record is sealed, the public will not have access to the record. Certain governmental or related entities, primarily those listed in s. 943.059(4)(a), Florida Statutes, have access to sealed record information in its entirety. When a record has been expunged, those entities, which would have access to a sealed record, will be informed that the subject of the record has had a record expunged, but would not have access to the record itself, without a court order. All they receive is a caveat statement indicating that "criminal information has been expunged from this record".

  4. What do I do with my Certificate of Eligibility?

    Once the FDLE has issued the Certificate of Eligibility to seal or expunge a criminal history record, the next step is to file a petition for relief, along with the Certificate of Eligibility and the required affidavit, with the court in the county of the arrest. The issuance of the Certificate of Eligibility is not the final step in the Sealing/Expunction Process, nor does it guarantee that a criminal history record will be sealed or expunged. The final decision to seal/expunge your criminal history is, placed by law, in the sound discretion of the court.

  5. What information is required to complete the application for Certification of Eligibility?

    In order to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility to petition the court to seal or expunge a criminal history record, the following requirements must be met pursuant to s.943.0585(2) and s.943.059(2), Florida Statutes:

    1. Section A of the application must be completed and signed in the presence of a notary public.

    2. The applicant must be fingerprinted by authorized law enforcement personnel or a criminal justice agency. The fingerprint card must include the applicant's name, race, sex, date of birth, social security number, and signature, prior to submission to FDLE.

    3. The applicant must provide a certified disposition of the case that he/she is applying to have sealed or expunged.

    4. A NONREFUNDABLE money order or cashier's check for $75.00 made payable to the FDLE must accompany the application.

    5. If you are requesting an expunction of a criminal history record, the State Attorney or Statewide Prosecutor with jurisdiction over your case must complete Section B of the application. If not completed, the application will be processed as a sealing of your criminal history record.
*Special Note: All of the items listed above are required at the time that the application is submitted. If an item is missing or the application or fingerprint card is not completed, the application will be returned unprocessed.

For More Frequently Asked Questions, click HERE for the FDLE's Website.



STEPS REQUIRED TO OBTAIN SEAL/EXPUNGMENT OF CRIMINAL RECORD

If a felony charge has originated out of a misdemeanor arrest/incident or vice versa, you will need to include both case numbers on the Petition and the Order. Refer to Florida Statute s.943.0585 and s.943.059.

You will need to print and fill out the Application for Certificate of Exemption provided below.

After completing the application, have it notarized, send the Application of Certificate of Eligibility, fingerprint card, certified disposition and $75.00 money order to:

          FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT
          Attn: Quality Control Section
          2331 Phillips Road, PO Box 1489
          Tallahassee, Florida 32302-1489

If approved, you will receive a blue Certificate of Eligibility from FDLE.

BE ADVISED THIS PROCESS MAY TAKE SEVERAL MONTHS

Once you have the Certificate of Eligibility, fill out the Petition to Expunge/Seal, Affidavit, and Order. The petition and affidavit must be notarized. If you choose to write them, please make it legible!

Make two (2) copies of each document (Affidavit, Petition to Expunge/Seal, and Certificate of Eligibility). Mail or hand deliver the ORIGINAL documents to the Courthouse:

 Mailing:Physical:
  Hardee County Courthouse Hardee County Courthouse
 PO Drawer 1749 417 West Main Street, Room 214
 Wauchula Fl. 33873-1749Wauchula Fl. 33873

Mail or hand deliver the COPIES to:

 State Attorney's OfficeArresting Agency
  124 S 9th Ave #100 
 Wauchula, FL 33873 



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