Getting A Second Chance In Florida
Despite “ban the box” laws and other such changes, persons with criminal records are about five times more likely to be unemployed than people without criminal records. Discrimination against people with criminal records abounds in many other areas as well, particularly against women. Florida lawmakers recently revised the state’s expungement and sealing laws, giving more people a chance to put their pasts behind them and truly move forward with their lives.
Although the opportunities are there, authorities do not hand out second chances like candy on Halloween. Instead, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer must carefully lay the groundwork for expunction or sealing. Frequently in life, people who do their homework do well on the tests. Once a proper foundation is in place, it’s easier for an attorney to obtain life-changing results in an expungement or sealing matter.
Expungement/Sealing Basic Issues
Generally, expungement means the complete destruction of law enforcement, judicial, and other criminal records. Expungement is available if:
- The petitioner has a squeaky-clean criminal record with no prior arrests or convictions,
- Prosecutors never formally filed charges in the underlying case, and
- The petitioner has never before filed an expungement or sealing petition.
Obviously, these requirements are quite strict. In fact, most people don’t qualify for expunction. However, they often qualify for record sealing. Sealed records still exist, but most people cannot view them. More significantly, if employers, landlords, or most other people ask if the person has a prior conviction record, successful sealing petitioners can legally answer “no.” The primary sealing qualifications are no:
- Prior criminal record,
- Adjudication of guilt in the underlying case,
- Prior sealing or expungement petitions, and
- Remaining probation or other obligations.
Civil court records are relatively easy to unseal. Criminal court records, on the other hand, are almost impossible to unseal.
Disqualifying offenses and multiple offenses related to the same criminal incident are the most common advanced issues that Tampa criminal defense attorneys deal with in expungement/sealing cases.
Most sex offenses and violent offenses, whether they are misdemeanors or felonies, are disqualifying offenses in Florida. A few drug crimes, not including simple possession, are on the list as well. Assault is on this list, if it was a domestic violence assault under Section 741.28. DUI is not on the prohibited list. Most other alcohol-related infractions aren’t on the list either.
Multiple offenses, like assault and resisting arrest, are somewhat common in Hillsborough County. Courts have consistently held that if the multiple offenses “stem from one activity or episode” and “the crimes must be temporally related or have a nexus between them,” the one-petition rule does not apply.
As a general rule, about one in ten pardon petitions make it to the governor’s desk, and the governor grants about one in ten of these petitions. So, a pardon petition may be a long shot, but it’s certainly not a shot in the dark.
Once again, as a rule of thumb, if the conviction is more than ten years old, the petitioner has shown clear evidence of rehabilitation, and the request jives with the governor’s political agenda, the chances of approval improve significantly.
Count 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. Virtual, home, and after-hours visits are available.