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Keeping Juvenile Criminal Records Clean


Under Florida law, adults with juvenile criminal records can petition the court for expunction. However, in most cases, former offenders must wait until they turn 26 to use the automatic expunction provision. Most people begin their adult lives much earlier than that. A criminal record often precludes military enlistment and creates other hardships. Furthermore, automatic expunction, or criminal record elimination, isn’t always automatic.

As outlined below, various record sealing options are available that bypass the waiting period rule and other cumbersome requirements. From the start, the goal of a good Tampa juvenile charges lawyer is to keep a child’s criminal record clean. Also from the start, the hill is a steep one to climb, usually because by the time prosecutors file cases, the child has already had several informal brushes with the law. Nevertheless, it’s a hill a determined attorney can climb.

Informal Sealing

The below options, which are usually available in violent and nonviolent cases alike, don’t affect the defendant’s arrest record. However, if the defendant successfully completes these programs, the incident doesn’t stain the defendant’s permanent judicial record.

Usually, military officials and other people who inquire about criminal histories only care about conviction records. So, when defendants say they don’t have a conviction record, the inquiries usually end.

In the unlikely event someone asks about an arrest record, a simple explanation like “I hired a Tampa criminal defense lawyer, and the lawyer took care of it” usually suffices. This explanation is basically true.

Pretrial Diversion

The state usually offers these programs as an alternative to court prosecution. If defendants complete all program requirements within the prescribed time period, prosecutors dismiss the case.

Program requirements, which vary in different courts, usually include positive and negative requirements. Most defendants must complete community service, pay restitution (if appropriate), complete anger management or other self-help classes, and jump through a few other hoops. Furthermore, defendants must stay out of trouble. Usually, these programs last between four and six months.

Pretrial diversion is a no-risk alternative. If the defendant doesn’t complete the program, for whatever reason, prosecutors simply pick up where they left off.

Deferred Disposition 

Prosecutors usually offer this option in nonviolent cases and some violent ones as well. If prosecutors don’t offer it during plea negotiations, the judge may unilaterally grant it in court.

Basically, deferred disposition is extended pretrial diversion. The defendant pleads guilty or no contest, and the judge places the defendant on probation. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the case.

Hillsborough County judges have considerable discretion to modify the terms of probation or even end it early. The lighter the burden and shorter the time period, the easier probation is to successfully complete.

An open plea is an option if prosecutors don’t offer deferred disposition during pretrial negotiations. In open pleas, defendants almost literally throw themselves on the mercy of the court. An open plea usually resembles a sentencing hearing. Defense attorneys call character witnesses and introduce other evidence that usually convinces judges to treat defendants leniently.

 Reach Out to a Savvy 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. After-hours, virtual, and home visits are available.


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