Tampa Seal or Expunge a Criminal Record Lawyer

At the law firm of Escobar & Associates, we have helped hundreds of people throughout the state of Florida seal or expunge their criminal records. The information below will help you determine whether you are eligible to have your record sealed or expunged. We represent clients throughout the state of Florida, including, but not limited to, Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, Polk County and Manatee County.

If you have ever been arrested, you know that the arrest itself can have a huge impact on your ability to find and maintain employment. Not only can employers perform a criminal background check, in many counties, employers (or anyone else for that matter) can simply look up your name up on the Clerk of Court website and find numerous details about the arrest and prosecution of the criminal case. Many people do not even realize that they can avoid many of these problems by hiring an experienced attorney to have their record sealed or expunged. Contact us to schedule a free consultation in order to determine whether you are eligible for sealing or expunging your record.

Definition of Sealing of Criminal Records

Arrests that result in a guilty or no-contest plea or a finding of guilt but with a withhold of adjudication can be sealed unless the offense is included on the statutory list of disqualifying offenses. If the adjudication of guilt was withheld in your case, and the offense is not one of the listed disqualifying offenses, then you are probably eligible to have any record of your arrest sealed under Florida law. When a criminal history record is sealed, the public will not have access to it, although certain governmental or governmental-related entities, which are listed in Section 943.059(4)(a), Florida Statutes, will still have access to all of the information in the sealed record.

The same eligibility requirements that apply to sealing also apply to expunction, but expunction also has certain additional requirements. For example, pursuant to Section 943.0585(2)(h), Florida Statutes, any charge that resulted in a withhold of adjudication or in an acquittal ("not guilty" verdict) following trial may not be expunged unless and until it has first been sealed for at least 10 years.

Definition of Expunged Criminal Records

A charge that was dismissed before trial (e.g., no information filed, nolle prosequi, dismissed, etc.) may be expunged immediately as long as all charges related to the arrest were so disposed of, and the individual is otherwise eligible. You can apply to have the record expunged immediately after the case is dismissed. To expunge a criminal record means that the public is not allowed access to any of the records of the arrest or prosecution. When a record has been expunged, those entities that would have access to a sealed record will be informed that the subject of the record has had it expunged but would not have access to the contents of the record itself without a court order. Such entities would receive only a caveat statement indicating that criminal information has been expunged from this record.

If you are interested in having your record sealed or expunged, please contact us for a free consultation. After the consultation, if you retain the firm to handle your case, you will be required to take a fingerprint card that we will provide you with to any police station to have your fingerprints taken (this typically costs between $5-$10 dollars). You must also sign two documents that we send to you and get those documents notarized. After you return the documents to our office, we take care of everything else. Usually, your appearance is not required at the final hearing. An attorney can appear on your behalf, saving you the stress and embarrassment of a courtroom appearance. After the record is sealed or expunged, our office will also run a background check to make sure your record has been properly removed from the public access, including the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) and county websites.

Am I Eligible?

  1. Have you ever had your record sealed or expunged before?
  2. Have you ever been adjudicated delinquent of a crime as a juvenile?
  3. Have you ever been convicted or adjudicated guilty of a misdemeanor (including criminal traffic cases such as DUI, reckless driving, or driving while license suspended), a criminal ordinance violation, or a felony?
  4. Are you currently on probation, community control, or any type of court supervision, including any diversion program?
  5. If you received a withhold of adjudication in the case that you wish to have sealed or expunged, is the offense for which you received the withhold of adjudication listed as a disqualifying offense?

If you were able to answer "no" to each of these questions, then you should be eligible to have your record sealed or expunged. If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you are not eligible to have your record sealed or expunged.

What if I have more than one arrest from different dates or different incidents?

Generally, in order to have a record sealed or expunged, the applicant must be able to attest that he or she has never previously had a record sealed or expunged in Florida or in another jurisdiction. Therefore, a person may only seal or expunge one arrest record in one proceeding.

Several Offenses That Are Directly Related May All Be Sealed or Expunged

One exception to this general rule is that, depending on the facts of the case, more than one record may be sealed or expunged in the same proceeding if the court, in its sole discretion, finds the arrests to be directly related.

Once A Record Is Sealed, Generally Only That Record Can Be Expunged

A record that is initially ineligible for expunction (e.g., where adjudication is withheld) may become eligible after it has been sealed for 10 years. However, a person may not seal or expunge one arrest record and then, later and in a different proceeding, ask to have a different arrest record sealed or expunged.

Exception for Juvenile Records Sealed Automatically

An expunction or sealing which occurs automatically or by operation of law, without any action on the part of the record subject, is not considered a prior expunction or sealing for this purpose. A juvenile diversion expungement does not prevent someone from seeking a judicial expunction or sealing under Section 943.0585 or 943.059, Florida Statutes.

How Long Does It Take?

It typically takes about three to six months to have your record sealed or expunged. Several agencies are required to complete certain paperwork to complete this process, and those agencies each take a certain amount of time to do the work that is required of them. Therefore, the sooner that we are retained, the sooner your record can be sealed or expunged.

Ineligible Charges

You will not be eligible to have your record sealed or expunged even if you received a withhold of adjudication after entering a plea to or being found guilty of any of the following offenses:

  • Arson
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated battery
  • Illegal use of explosives
  • Child abuse or aggravated child abuse
  • Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, or aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Kidnapping
  • Homicide
  • Manslaughter
  • Sexual battery
  • Robbery
  • Carjacking
  • Lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault or act upon or in the presence of a child under the age of 16 years
  • Sexual activity with a child who is 12 years of age or older but less than 18 years of age by or at the solicitation of a person in familial or custodial authority
  • Burglary of a dwelling
  • Stalking or aggravated stalking
  • Act of domestic violence
  • Home-invasion robbery
  • Act of terrorism
  • Manufacturing any substances in violation of Chapter 893
  • Attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above crimes

What if I did not enter a plea, but the charges were dropped or dismissed?

Even if you were arrested for one of the offenses on the list of disqualifying offenses, you are still eligible for expungement if the charges against you were dropped or dismissed. For example, if one of the following occurred, you are still eligible for expungement:

  1. Despite the arrest, the charges against you were never formally charged by the prosecutor
  2. The charges against you were dropped by the state after you were formally charged (i.e., the state announced a nolle pross)
  3. The charges against you were dismissed by the court
  4. You were found "not guilty" after a trial

Will I Ever Have to Disclose My Record?

Generally, the fact that your record is sealed or expunged means that the records are removed from view of the general public. For example, the offense would not show up in an employer's background check or on the Clerk of Court website. The only people who would have access to the record after it has been sealed or expunged are the person who was arrested, that person's attorney, law enforcement agencies for criminal justice purposes and those entities listed below. In fact, it is a crime for someone who has access to your sealed or expunged record to divulge that the record has been sealed or expunged. Florida law provides that a person may legally deny or fail to acknowledge the arrest that has been sealed or expunged under most circumstances. However, there are certain limited circumstances in which a person may be required to divulge that their record was sealed or expunged. Those circumstances are as follows:

  1. You apply for a job with a criminal justice agency
  2. You apply for another record sealing or expungement
  3. You apply for admission to the Florida Bar
  4. You apply for a job with the Department of Family Services, Department of Juvenile Justice, or to be employed in a sensitive position having direct contact with children, the developmentally disabled, or the elderly
  5. You apply to the Office of Teacher Education, Certification, Staff Development, and Professional Practices of the Department of Education, any district school board, or local governmental entity which licenses child care facilities

If you apply for licensing or employment with any of the entities mentioned above, your record is subject to disclosure and is not protected by having it sealed or expunged. However, it would still be illegal for any of the above-mentioned entities to disclose information about your record to anyone other than you or another person having the authority to make direct employment or licensing decisions.

Some Records Can Be Expunged Administratively

Arrests by mistake can be expunged administratively pursuant to Section 943.0581, Florida Statutes. Most of the time, people expunge their prior record because they committed a mistake or committed a crime that resulted in an arrest and prosecution. However, there are cases in which the person arrested was totally innocent, i.e., the arrest was because of mistaken identity or was otherwise contrary to the law. For example, if the police serve an arrest warrant on the wrong person because his or her name is similar to the name on the warrant, then that individual may be eligible to administratively expunge the record. This administrative remedy can also be available in many other "mistaken identity" cases, in which the police mistakenly arrest the wrong individual because of an identity issue. Another increasingly common example is when someone is arrested because he or she has been the victim of identity theft by someone who has committed a crime using an innocent person's identity. Administrative expungements are not limited by a prior expungement or because of the passage of time.

Administrative expungements may require an additional attorney's fee depending on the facts of the case because they are often more complicated and require closer judicial scrutiny because mistaken identity or another similar circumstance must be established.

Having Juvenile Charges Expunged

In many jurisdictions, the State Attorney's Office has various diversion programs available for juveniles (people under the age of 18). The purpose of a diversion program is to divert the case away from the courts so that the charges can ultimately be dismissed without court intervention. Under many circumstances, a juvenile charged with a qualifying offense that has successfully completed a diversion program can request that the criminal arrest history be expunged pursuant to Section 943.0582, Florida Statutes.

In order to qualify for expungement in such cases, the application requesting expungement must be filed within six months of the completion date of the diversion program. This type of expungement does not count toward a sealing or expungement pursuant to Sections 943.0585 or 943.059, Florida Statutes, which, if needed, would still be available later in life.

Retention of Criminal History Records of Minors

Generally, juveniles will have their criminal history maintained until their 24th birthday. However, pursuant to Section 943.0515, Florida Statutes, juveniles who have been classified as serious or habitual juvenile offenders or have been committed to a juvenile correctional facility or juvenile prison will have their criminal history maintained until their 26th birthday. A juvenile record is permanently merged with an adult record only if one of the following occurs: 1) before age 18, the juvenile is adjudicated as an adult; or 2) after age 18, the juvenile commits a forcible felony.

If you are over the age for which your juvenile record should not be found in a background check, then you may need to seal or expunge your record or have the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) correct your record.

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