Under Florida law, criminal history records are public unless sealed or expunged. A criminal history is created when a person is arrested and fingerprinted, and includes the disposition of any charges that arise from that arrest, regardless if it is an adjudication of guilt, a withhold of adjudication, acquittal, or dismissal of charges before trial. Unless you take the affirmative step of sealing or expungement the record of your arrest or criminal case will remain public.
A common misconception is if the criminal case was dropped, it is not on your record. It is. It will show up as an arrest. It is crucial that you get it sealed or expunged, depending on the outcome of the case.
Often a person who is arrested for a first-time misdemeanor offense is given the option of completing a Pre-Trial Diversion Program in an effort to dispose of the case. At the successful completion of this program, the State Attorney’s Office agrees to drop the charges against you. Even though the charges have been dismissed, you still have a criminal record!
A person may only seal or expunge one arrest record in their life time. However, under narrow circumstances, Florida law allows you to seal or expunge more than one case if the cases are related to the same arrest. What constitutes “one incident” of criminal activity is determined by the court. The test used by the court is called the “nexus” test or common thread.
Under Section 943.0585 and Section 943.059, Florida Statutes, there is certain criteria that must be met to be eligible to have your criminal history record sealed or expunged by a court. Additionally, there are certain charges that are not eligible to be sealed, even if adjudication is withheld.
A common example is when a felony is transferred to county court, meaning the state drops it to a misdemeanor, and the person enters a plea to the misdemeanor. There are two case numbers, it is essential to seal both of the case numbers, otherwise the sealing is meaningless.
The bottom line is that the sealing or expungement process is complex, and it becomes even more tricky when it involves multiple cases. The Law Offices of Kate Mesic are here to help. Contact us today!