How Can I Have My Criminal Record Sealed or Expunged?

Many people who have a criminal record in their past wonder if there is a way to seal or expunge the record. A criminal record, also called a criminal history, is typically available to the general public. This includes potential employers, friends, and family members. Your criminal history includes police records and court records. It may include such things as your arrest record, interviews with law enforcement, criminal court cases, and any contact you may have had with the legal system, regardless of outcome. These records are maintained through local, state, and national governmental groups and may consist of both written and electronic documentation.

Criminal History Check

Your criminal history is accessible to the public through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) through an electronic system called the Criminal History Central Repository (CCH) database as well as the Florida Crime Information Center database. It is important to keep in mind that local, state, and national criminal records are not usually the same. If you have had a brush with local law enforcement, for example, it may show up on the local criminal history check but is not normally forwarded to the state or national groups unless it is specifically requested. National criminal history checks are limited to government agencies and law enforcement.

Getting Criminal Records Sealed

In some cases, you may be able to have your past criminal history sealed. A sealed record means that it is forbidden from viewing by the public. Law enforcement and the legal system will, of course, always be able to access this information. Paper records are marked to indicate a sealed record and electronic records are flagged to keep them from public view. An expungement is a way to have the records of your case destroyed, keeping them from any future viewing. After an expungement, the record is known; however, the contents are not available. If you are seeking employment or membership in the following areas the record (not the specific contents) will be available:

  • Department of Education
  • Public or Private School
  • Department of Juvenile¬†Justice
  • Florida Bar
  • A Criminal Justice Agency
  • Local Government Agency that licenses day care programs

Sealing or Expunging Criminal Records

Many offenses are ineligible to have sealed or expunged. However, if you have been charged or arrested for the crime but the charges were subsequently dropped or dismissed you may be eligible to have your records expunged. Your attorney will review your criminal record with you and determine any charges that may be able to be expunged or sealed. The legal process involves filing the necessary forms and submitting them to the appropriate offices. Your lawyer will assist you in determining the proper procedure to follow and in filing the forms required. You must qualify based on an eligibility checklist. Speak to an attorney to learn more about how to proceed.