A lot of people wonder why they should bother sealing or expunging their criminal record. People think that if the case is no longer open or has been dismissed, then they should no longer worry about it.
While it is a good feeling when your charges have been dropped or your case has been closed, the record of that arrest will still linger until you take action to seal it or expunge it. It will not be done automatically. And just because charges are dismissed or never formally filed does not mean that the record goes away on its own.
I would like to explain three scenarios. Furthermore, I would like to explain why you should seal or expunge your record if either of the three scenarios should occur.
1) YOU ARE ARRESTED BUT NO FORMAL CHARGES ARE FILED
This is called a "no action" in Miami-Dade County, or a "no info" in Broward. This means that while the police arrested you, the State Attorney's Office did not find enough evidence in order to file formal charges.
While this is excellent news for anybody charged with a crime, the record of the arrest is still public record and can be accessed by anybody. In this situation, you may be eligible to expunge the arrest record provided you have never secured a prior sealing or expunction and you have no convictions of any kind on your record.
If you do not expunge, a record of this arrest will linger indefinitely. It will come up in background searches should you apply for a job.
2) YOU ARE FORMALLY CHARGED BUT THE CHARGES ARE LATER DROPPED
This is known as a nolle prosse. This means that while formal charges were filed against you, the State Attorney has decided not to take further action in the case.
This is a similar situation as the one stated above. In this situation, you may expunge provided you have never secured a prior sealing or expunction, and you have no convictions of any kind. If you do not expunge, the record will remain.
3) YOU RECEIVE A WITHHOLD OF ADJUDICATION FOR A QUALIFYING OFFENSE
If you plead guilty or no contest to a charge and receive a withhold of adjudication, you may be eligible to seal your record provided the charge is not a disqualifying offense, and the sentence has been completed. For instance, you cannot seal a criminal record if you are still on probation for that charge. In that situation, your probation would have to have been terminated first.
A "disqualifying offense" is a crime that the Florida Legislature has determined cannot be sealed. I cannot explain the rationale or wisdom behind this, but it is what it is. Some disqualifying offenses include: burglary of a dwelling, domestic violence charges, aggravated assault, and robbery.
A disqualifying offense cannot be sealed. But a disqualifying offense can be expunged provided it has been dismissed and you are otherwise eligible. For example, if you are charged with aggravated assault and receive a withhold of adjudication and 1 year probation, you cannot get that charge sealed. But if you are charged with aggravated assault and the charges are dismissed, you can get the arrest record expunged.
You cannot seal or expunge any record if you have previously sealed or expunged a record in any state. You also cannot seal or expunge any record if you have any convictions on your record at all, in any state, at any time.
Automatic expunctions of juvenile records do not count against your sealing or expunging an adult record.
I am a Miami-Dade County criminal attorney who handles many petitions to seal or expunge criminal records throughout Miami-Dade and Broward. I have all of the forms available so that the process is quick and easy for you. The process takes about 4-6 months, but the time can vary depending on how the volume of applications that FDLE is processing.
If you have ever been arrested and are having a hard time finding a job, this is probably why. If you seal or expunge, you may be able to legally deny your arrest to a prospective employer.
Contact me today to discuss cleaning your criminal record.