Like most states, Florida permits eligible applicants to seal or expunge their criminal records. This service can be provided to you by a South Florida criminal defense attorney. The greatest benefit to having your criminal record sealed or expunged is that employers or prospective employers - provided the employer is not a government agency - will not be able to see your criminal history. You will also be able to answer "no" when asked if you have ever been arrested. In today's tough job market, the existence of a criminal record can ruin your chances of gaining employment.
The process itself can be confusing, so it may be to your benefit to hire an attorney who practices in the area of sealing and expungements. In addition to the attorney's fee, the cost of the application to seal or expunge a criminal record in Miami-Dade and Broward County is $117. There is a $75 application fee to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and a $42 filing fee payable to either the Miami-Dade, or Broward Clerk of Courts. The applicant must also get their fingerprints taken, which can be done at a local police station.
It is important to understand the difference between having a record sealed, and having a record expunged. If your charges were dismissed at or before arraignment, nolle prossed (or dismissed) by the State at or before trial, your charges were nolle prossed for successful completion of Drug Court or Pre-Trial Diversion, you may be eligible to have your record expunged. If you have received a withhold of adjudication or were found "not guilty" at trial, you may be eligible to have your record sealed.
From start to finish, the process takes around 6-8 months. However, in the end, a Judge may issue an order that can literally destroy the file that contains information on your arrest and criminal charges. In today's job market, don't take chances by having to explain yourself to a prospective or current employer. If you feel you may be eligible, contact The Law Offices of Eric M. Matheny, P.A. to discuss your options.