FAQ About Sealing And Expunging Criminal Records In Florida
The effects of a criminal conviction linger long after defendants serve their time and are released. About half of unemployed men have criminal convictions. Many bosses believe that misdemeanor convictions indicate poor judgment skills. They also believe that applicants who have committed felonies are bad people.
Record sealing and expunging is the most common way for a Tampa criminal defense attorney to reduce or eliminate these harsh indirect effects. If you do not qualify under the strict requirements, that’s okay. Other possibilities are available as well. Our goal is to help people move on with their lives, by providing an aggressive defense at trial and also by offering a full range of post-conviction services.
Am I Eligible for Expunction?
Maybe. You are eligible for record expunction if a charging instrument wasn’t filed or, more commonly, if the charge was “dismissed or nolle prosequi by the state attorney or statewide prosecutor.” NP usually means a dismissal due to a lack of probable cause. “Dismissed” usually means a prosecutorial discretion dismissal. In other words, for one reason or another, the state didn’t pursue charges.
Additionally, the applicant must normally have a squeaky-clean criminal history. That means no prior expungements or sealings.
What is an Expungement Certificate?
Before they petition for expunction, applicants must secure expungement certificates from the probation department or other supervising agency. This certificate basically says the applicant had a good record and qualifies for expungement. Then, a Tampa criminal defense attorney must convince the judge that expunction is in the best interests of the defendant as well as the best interests of society.
Am I Eligible for Record Sealing?
Maybe. Most people are eligible for record sealing if they were acquitted or if the judge withheld an adjudication of guilt. These outcomes mean the defendant has no criminal conviction record. However, the arrest record remains visible to everyone, unless the court seals it.
Additionally, the defendant must have no prior convictions and the requested sealing cannot be a prohibited offense. Most extremely violent crimes and sex crimes are prohibited offenses, for both sealing and expungement proceedings.
What’s the Difference Between Sealing and Expunging?
Only certain law enforcement, judicial, and licensing agencies can view sealed records. As far as everyone else is concerned, the records do not exist and these individuals can legally say they have no arrest or conviction record.
Expungement means the complete destruction of records. However, if the agencies that would have had access to sealed records perform a criminal history search, the computer-generated response is “Criminal History Record Expunged Pursuant to Florida Statutes 943.” In other words, the searcher knows there was a conviction.
Strictly speaking, it’s illegal to use that expunged conviction to deny a professional license or enhance a sentence in a subsequent criminal case. But it’s not illegal for authorities to consider the expunction note when they make their decisions.
Rely on a Diligent Hillsborough County Attorney
A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Pinellas County and nearby jurisdictions.