Your criminal history record can cause problems for you in many ways. It can prevent you from obtaining certain jobs. Many employers run background checks on all potential employees. Some employers choose not to hire individuals if they have any criminal history at all. Other employers will not hire individuals with a criminal history of a particular nature, such as a theft, if the employee will have to deal with money for instance. Your criminal history can affect where you choose to live, as many apartment complexes and landlords run criminal history background checks on all potential tenants. They can opt to not rent to you based on your criminal history. Your record can also impair your ability to enlist in the military.
Fortunately, Florida is one of the states where the legislature has created statutes that allow individuals with a criminal history to seal or expunge their criminal record, provided that they meet certain criteria. The criteria for expunging a criminal history record is set forth in Florida Statute § 943.0585. The criteria for sealing a criminal history record is set forth in Florida Statute § 943.059.
Most people ask, “What is the difference between sealing or expunging your record?” and “How do I know which procedure is the right one for me?”
The meaning of the word “expunge” is to eliminate or erase. Therefore, when a criminal history record is expunged, that means that it is literally removed from your criminal history. Most agencies or employers will see no trace of the criminal record that is expunged. Some agencies, in rare occasions, will have access to expunged records. For instance, if you apply for a job in the military with some very high degree of security clearance, they may be able to access these records in a background check. Also, some agencies or employers, may specifically ask you if you have ever expunged a criminal record, in which case you must obviously answer truthfully and indicate that you have. It seems that this situation only arises in rare situations though for highly specialized jobs or jobs where the employee is working with a high-risk population such as children or the elderly. If you were to go to law school and become a lawyer and then apply for admittance to the Florida Bar, they would ask you for a full disclosure of your criminal history, including and not limited to any records that have been expunged. Most agencies or employers though, will not have access to expunged records.
When can you expunge a record? You can expunge a record only if the State opted to nolle prosequi the charge or the charge was dismissed. Also, in order to expunge your record, you can NEVER have been adjudicated guilty/delinquent of a crime.
What is nolle prosequi? This term indicates that the Prosecution/State of Florida/State Attorney’s Office has chosen to abandon the action against you or decided not to prosecute you.
When is a charge dismissed? Some State Attorney’s Offices have a program called PTI (Pre-Trial Intervention). If you are accepted into this program and successfully complete its requirements, the State agrees to dismiss the charges pending against you. That is one way in which charges may be dismissed. Another way is if a Motion to Dismiss is granted. Motions to Dismiss are generally brought pursuant to the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure and if granted, result in the dismissal of some or all of the charges pending against you.
When a record is sealed, that means that most agencies or employers do not have access to the records, because they have been removed from public records. If they run a criminal background check on you, they may see that you have a sealed record in your criminal history, but they will not be able to get any details about the record. Similar to with expungement, depending on the agency or employer, they may or may not have access to the record at all. Others will see that there has been a record sealed.
When can you have your record sealed? If adjudication was withheld in your case, you may be able to seal your record. You can receive a withhold of adjudication regardless of whether you pled guilty or no contest/nolo contendre to a charge. The judge in your case either adjudicated you guilty or withheld adjudication.
How Do I Get Started?
McGuire Law Offices can get started on sealing or expunging your criminal records immediately. Feel free to schedule a free consultation for more information. Although our firm is located in the Clearwater, Florida area, we may be able to seal or expunge your record regardless of where you reside in the State of Florida.