A criminal record can be devastating to your life. You may have problems getting employment if you have been convicted of a serious crime. While you may have completed your probationary period and have paid your fines and done your time, you will still have a criminal record to deal with. Many people ask if there is a way to clear their criminal record in Florida? There are two possible ways to clear your criminal record – it may be either sealed or expunged. Criminal records are maintained through the Florida court system and are now available online.

What does it mean to Seal My Criminal Record?

Sealing a criminal record means that it is hidden from public view. A sealed record, however, will still be available to those in the court system as well as criminal justice agencies. In the past, sealed records were placed into secure envelopes and closed using a wax seal. Any records with a wax seal were not to be viewed. Today, records are red stamped to indicate that they have been sealed and are also tagged so that they are not accessible online. A sealed record is still intact but is simply closed for viewing. A sealed record is different from an expungement.

What is an Expungement?

Expungement is a court order to physically destroy all criminal records related to a particular case. If an expungement is ordered the courts and law enforcement agencies are required to destroy the records completely and they will no longer be available to anyone. This means the records are both physically and electronically eliminated. However, it is important to know that even with an expungement, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is able to retain one copy of the record. While expunged records are not available to the public or to potential employers they are still made visible under certain circumstances. If you are seeking employment, membership, or licensure with any of the following the records will be disclosed.

  • Public or private school
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Juvenile Justice
  • Florida Bar Association
  • Any criminal justice agency
  • A contractor in a sensitive position or that works with children.
  • A local government agency that provides licensing to day care facilities

 After successfully having your record expunged you can legally deny (or fail to disclose) any arrest or conviction that is covered by the expungement. There are some limitations to this right so you must take care to understand what these are.

Eligibility for Sealing or Expungement

You are eligible to have your criminal record sealed or expunged only if you meet the specific criteria.

Sealing Eligibility – You may be eligible to have your criminal record sealed if you:

  • Plead guilty or no contest and
  • Received a “withhold of adjudication” and
  • You have never been adjudicated guilty of any other crime

Expungement Eligibility – To have your record expunged you must:

  • Have the charges dismissed and
  • Were not ever adjudicated guilty of any other crime.

To learn more about whether you meet the specific guidelines for eligibility it is advisable to meet with an experienced attorney. Your attorney will review your case and determine whether you meet the criteria to move forward. If so, your lawyer will file the proper paperwork to request a court order to seal or expunge your criminal record.