3 Things to Know About Getting Your Criminal Record Sealed or Expunged

A criminal record is a nuisance. It can follow you everywhere you go, show up when you least expect it, and prevent you from doing things that others may be able to do. Applying for jobs? Your criminal record may prevent you from getting hired. Adopting a child? That could be difficult, too, thanks to your criminal record. Buying a firearm? Not if your record contains certain charges. Your criminal record may dictate how you proceed throughout your life.

But these scenarios only apply to those who have been convicted of major crimes, right? No! They also apply to those who have a minor blip on their otherwise pristine record, so that seemingly harmless charge you had when you were in college can still come back to haunt you at age 45. But there may be options to prevent this from happening—you may be able to make that one minor event disappear by getting it expunged or sealed. Expunging your record means the criminal charge is removed from your record; sealing your record means your record is only accessible to government agencies, not the general public. Here are three things you need to know about the process:

  1. Qualifying to Expunge or Seal Your Record—You Have to Meet Certain Requirements.

In Florida, in order to expunge or seal your record, you cannot have any prior criminal convictions. A conviction occurs when there is an adjudication of guilt by the court. Once you determine that you have no prior convictions, you next need to consider the outcome of the charges that are on your record. If the charges were dismissed or not prosecuted, then you qualify to have your record expunged. However, if the charges were pursued but the adjudication was withheld, then you qualify to have your record sealed.

  1. Certain Criminal Offenses Cannot Be Sealed or Expunged.

While most offenses qualify, if your record involves a prohibited offense, you cannot expunge or seal your record. Although a non-exhaustive list, the prohibited offenses include:

  • Sex Offenses
  • Kidnapping or False Imprisonment
  • Crimes Against Children
  • Voyeurism
  • Fraud
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Domestic Violence
  • Acts of Terrorism
  • Dangerous Crimes as defined in 041, Florida Statutes
  1. It’s a One-Time Deal.

You can only get your record sealed or expunged once, so if you have multiple qualifying criminal charges, choose wisely. For example, if you have a prior misdemeanor offense and the adjudication was withheld, and later you were charged with a felony that was later dismissed or dropped, your best choice would be to expunge the felony charge. You cannot do both.

Having prior criminal charges on your record does not have to damage your future. If you qualify to expunge or seal your record, then it is entirely possible to move forward unaffected by a momentary lapse in judgment. For additional information regarding sealing and expunction, please click here.