Background checks in recent times are almost always conducted when you have a position whereby you need to have the trust and support of the employer, under an ethical consideration that you will be a good and trustworthy employee. If you have been charged with or found guilty of certain crimes at different periods in your life, you may be able to have that information sealed or expunged from public record access.
Florida law allows for some individuals to seal and or expunge their criminal records. Doing so can prevent future employers, potential landlords, banks, credit card companies, and higher education institutions from discovering a criminal incident representing a negative mark on your record.
Sealing Records: In Florida after a criminal history record is sealed, there will be no public access to see it, records become confidential but are not destroyed. Under Florida Statutes § 943.059 (2018) only certain law enforcement agencies and court systems will be able to access your information once it is sealed.
Expungement of Records: Florida Department of Law Enforcement must retain a copy of the record which can only be accessed in the future with a court order and will remain confidential but permits the physical destruction of the incident’s public records as if it never happened, however, fingerprints and DNA are excluded from the destruction. All other access to this record must be destroyed by criminal justice agencies. Once a record is expunged, you may legally fail to acknowledge that anything detrimental was ever filed against you. If a search is undertaken the system will generate this response: “Criminal History Record Expunged Pursuant to Florida Statutes 943.” Florida Statutes § 943.0585 (2018).
There are different types of expungements:
- Administrative Expungement: based on an erroneous arrest due to false reports, mid-identification, and warrants that have the right name but the wrong person.
- Adult Record Expungement: for criminal records based on eligibility criteria including: no previous sealing or expunging of a criminal arrest record; no prior guilty adjudication of a felony or misdemeanor; no current court-mandated supervision such as probation, house arrest or community control; and criminal record is not on the excluded list of offenses under Florida Statute 943.0585.
- Erroneous or Incorrect Criminal Record Expungement: when Florida Department of Law Enforcement makes a mistake and a person with no criminal history shows up in the legal system with a criminal record.
The legal steps required to seal or expunge records in Florida include:
- Adults seeking sealing or expungement must begin by filing an application for a certificate of eligibility with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The application requires you to submit additional items, including a certified copy of the final disposition of the case you are applying to have sealed or expunged and a full set of fingerprints. Forms and further information can be found at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Website.
- After your request is filed with the Department of Law Enforcement, the agency will determine whether to grant you a certificate of eligibility. Once you have obtained the certificate, you must file your petition to seal or expunge with the court that handled your case and present a copy to the arresting agency and the state attorney or prosecutor. (Victims of human trafficking who are seeking expungement or record sealing are not required to file the petition in the same court that originally handled the case.)
- If your petition is granted and your record is sealed or expunged, in most instances you won’t have to disclose it. However, there are a few situations when you are required to reveal your sealed or expunged record, including when applying for a job with a criminal justice agency or a state department that serves children, the disabled, or the elderly. (Florida Statutes §§ 943.0585(4)(a), 943.059(4)(a) (2018).)
The laws on expungement and sealing rules are complicated; if you have a criminal history and believe you are eligible for sealing or expungement, contact the law offices of Gabriela C. Nova, P.A. for the professional assistance she can give to you.