With unemployment numbers creeping up into double digits, getting a job has never been more competititve. For every person looking for work, imagine that there are several other applicants going after the same job.
A few things may mean "the kiss of death" when applying for a job. One of those things could be a criminal record. For that reason, it is crucial that you seal or expunge your criminal record if you are eligible.
The moment you are placed under arrest or issued a written promise to appear (PTA), you have a criminal record. Whether or not formal charges are filed or whether the charges are quickly dismissed, the record of the arrest (and remember, folks, receiving a PTA is the same as being arrested) exists and is accessible to the public.
So if you are arrested, or issued a PTA, for a misdemeanor and it is dismissed at or prior to arraignment, don't go thinking that you have no criminal record. There is no automatic expungement for adult felony, criminal traffic, and misdemeanor cases in the State of Florida. You must take measures to expunge or seal your record.
As a quick review, let's touch on the differences between sealing or expunging a record. Note that I did not say "sealing and expunging." That is a misnomer because you cannot do both. You can only do one, and they are different.
Expunging a record is something that you do when your criminal charges have been dismissed. This may mean that no formal charges were filed or that the State Attorney chose to dismiss the charges after prosecution had begun (nolle prosequi).
Sealing a record is something that you do when you receive a withhold of adjudication to a qualifying offense. Some offenses do not qualify for sealing, even where adjudication is withheld. Click here to learn about offenses that are not sealable.
Expunging a record causes that record to be destroyed. Sealing a record causes all information to be removed from the public regarding the charge(s), the disposition, and all other information regarding the arrest and alleged offense. The name and date of birth of the person whom the record belonged to will remain, however nobody in the general public will know why that person's name and date of birth is in the Clerk of Courts database.
When getting a job in the private sector, a sealed or expunged record is not available during a background check. That means that if you are applying for private employment, you may legally deny your arrest if you have had the arrest record sealed or expunged.
There are some exceptions, of course. Click here to learn which agencies are permitted legal access to sealed or expunged records.
Remember - if you are applying for a job with any agency, company, or organization that is permitted access to a sealed or expunged record, you must disclose the arrest. If you are seeking to seal or expunge a Florida record but are seeking employment in another state, be sure to check the laws of your home state to see which agencies, companies, or organizations are entitled to know about a sealed or expunged record.
Also, if you are seeking a professional license, check with the regulatory agency's rules to see whether you must disclose a sealed or expunged record.
The process takes about 3-6 months, but in the end, you may be legally able to deny an arrest. If you are otherwise qualified, this may be the difference between getting a job and getting a rejection.
In tough times, companies have to be very selective. I can almost guarantee that if you have a criminal record, you will be overlooked for most employment opportunities. Even if the criminal record is for a minor offense.
If you are graduating from college or are going to be seeking new employment within the next few months, it may be wise to consider sealing or expunging your record. It doesn't matter if the arrest occurred six months ago or thirty years ago. It's time to clean your record.