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
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
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,
charges, aggravated assault, and
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.