While it is true that you may be able to seal your Florida criminal record so long as you are not adjudicated guilty (withhold of adjudication is imposed), and assuming that you otherwise qualify (no prior convictions in the State of Florida, no open criminal cases, never sealed or expunged a Florida criminal record before, and you've completed your sentence); not every criminal charge can be sealed.
I come across a lot of people who want to be able to clean their Florida criminal records but cannot simply because they pleaded guilty or no contest to a disqualifying offense.
And unfortunately, many of these folks pleaded guilty or no contest based upon bad advice that they could still seal their record upon completion of their sentence (usually a term of probation).
Let me be the bearer of bad news - there are MANY Florida criminal charges that do not qualify for sealing.
First and foremost, while there is a long list of ineligible offenses, let me go over some of the most common charges that cannot be sealed. NOTE: These charges can be EXPUNGED so long as they are dismissed and you are otherwise eligible.
For purposes of this post, we will only be discussing the sealing of a criminal record.
You CANNOT seal:
1) Any domestic violence charge. Even if a withhold of adjudication is imposed; even if it's a misdemeanor. If you have pleaded guilty or no contest or have been found guilty at trial (and judge imposed a withhold), you cannot seal any charge stemming from a domestic violence incident. Even if it's a simple misdemeanor battery, if domestic violence is alleged, you cannot seal.
2) A burglary of a dwelling. You cannot seal a burglary of a dwelling charge. You may seal burglary of a structure and burglary of a conveyance (car) but you cannot seal burglary of a dwelling.
3) Aggravated battery and aggravated assault, even if not crimes of domestic violence, cannot be sealed.
4) Any charge stemming from a sex offense. For instance, if you were arrested and charged with sexual battery but resolved the case to felony battery and adjudication was withheld, you cannot seal the arrest. This is because the amended charge - the felony battery - stemmed from a sexual battery.
5) Any sex offense at all. Whether sexual battery or a lewd and lascivious offense, no sexual offense can be sealed.
6) Child abuse charges cannot be sealed.
7) Organized scheme to defraud cannot be sealed. Usually this crime is charged along with a grand theft count. In order to avoid the problem of not being able to seal, make sure your attorney works to have the State Attorney dismissed the organized fraud count so that you may enter your plea to the grand theft count instead. Any and all grand theft offenses - irrespective of amount - can be sealed.
8) Insurance fraud cannot be sealed. Try to get a Pretrial Intervention program so the charge can be dismissed instead (then you may expunge).
9) Abuse of the elderly cannot be sealed.
10) Drug trafficking cannot be sealed. Possession and sale can be sealed.
11) Robbery charges of any kind - whether sudden snatch, strongarm, or armed - cannot be sealed.
12) Kidnapping cannot be sealed.
13) Stalking - whether domestic violence or not - can never be sealed.
There are other charges that cannot be sealed but these are the most common.
If charged with any of these offenses, talk to your criminal defense attorney about how you may resolve your case without being stuck with a permanent criminal record.
Please note, however, that if your charges are very serious and you are looking at substantial prison time, sealing your record may not be a luxury you are going to have. If charged with armed robbery with a firearm and the State's case is more than sufficient to prove your guilt at trial, a plea to probation may be your best option even if you are going to be stuck with the record for life. Everything must be put into perspective.
However, if you are a first-time offender, the facts of your case are not terribly egregious, and you are otherwise eligible to seal or expunge your record, it may be worthwhile to see about having the charge amended or changed so that you may clean your arrest record once the case has been resolved.
Eric Matheny is a Florida attorney who will seal and expunge criminal records in ALL 67 FLORIDA COUNTIES! Call today to discuss your case.