When it comes to sealing or expunging a criminal record, the most common question I am asked is, "How long does the process take?"
I have written posts on this topic before, however I want to really explain the process in detail so that you will have an idea of how long it takes, and equally as important, why it takes that long to complete.
Click here to read the prior post on the length of time required to seal or expunge a record.
The first thing you should understand is that expunging a record and sealing a record are two different things. Click here to learn the difference.
An expungement will typically take four to six months. This is why:
When a record is expunged, the disposition (outcome) of the case must be a dismissal of the charges. This may be called a "no action," "no info," or "nolle prosse." In order to complete the application process, the State Attorney in the county in which the case originated must verify that their office did indeed dismiss the charges or decline to file charges. The application that you will fill out with the help of your criminal defense attorney will be submitted to the State Attorney's Office for approval. The application, along with a certified copy of your case disposition, will be reviewed by a prosecutor, who will verify that the case was dismissed. Then that prosecutor will sign off on the application and return it, along with the disposition, to your attorney.
This step can take anywhere from a few days to two months. For misdemeanors, I find that this process takes much longer. For felonies, the application is usually signed and returned within seven days.
2) Submission to FDLE
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is a state law enforcement agency that oversees the processing of sealing and expunction applications. When the application is approved by the State Attorney, it is sent to FDLE along with your fingerprints, a certified copy of your disposition, and a check for $75, which is the processing fee.
FDLE will run a nationwide background check to determine whether you are eligible to have your record expunged or sealed.
This process takes about 45 business days from the date of receipt of the application. This translates to two to three months.
After the application is processed, a certificate of eligibility is returned to your attorney.
Once a certificate of eligibility has been received, your attorney will file a petition asking the Court to seal or expunge the record. The certificate will be attached to the petition, along with an affidavit from the petitioner stating that they are eligible for the relief sought.
This process takes anywhere from a week to thirty days, depending on where you are. In some counties, the petitions are filed and they go right to the judge. In others, a hearing must be set.
Feel free to ask me about the different processes in each Florida county.
With sealing a record, you can skip step 1 because the application does not need to be approved by the State Attorney. I find that sealing a record takes less time than expunging. Typically, sealing takes three months on average.
I represent clients in sealing and expunging matters statewide. While I only practice in Miami-Dade and Broward for my criminal defense work, I have filed petitions in several Florida counties. If you have a case in any Florida county that you would like to seal or expunge, call me to discuss your matter.