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The Phases of Sealing and Expungement

Florida Lawyers Helping You Pursue a Fresh Start

Many people arrested for crimes find it difficult to move forward. Landlords and employers may conduct background checks that rely on publicly available criminal records. Both record sealing and expungement may provide some relief, but these processes require fulfilling specific steps and requirements. To understand the phases of sealing and expungement, you can consult the Florida expungement lawyers at Hanlon Law. Below is an overview of the four main phases (or five, in the case of expungement) that you can expect during the process.

The Phases of Sealing and Expungement

Sealing a criminal record involves preserving the record under circumstances that leave it secure and inaccessible to anybody who does not have a legal right of access to the information inside it. The information and documents in a sealed criminal record stay on file, but they are confidential. Expungement involves the destruction of all criminal records, except for one confidential copy, which is kept with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

Phase 1: Application for a Certificate of Eligibility – 3-4 Days

Record sealing and expungement both begin with an application for a Certificate of Eligibility. You will need to apply to the FDLE for a Certificate. You will need to complete an application that provides information about your first and last name, date of birth, sex, race, permanent address, mailing address, charges, date of arrest, and arresting agency. If you were not physically arrested, but instead were given a Notice to Appear, you will need to note that date in the place where you would list the arrest date. You need to sign and date your application before a notary public or a deputy clerk of court.

Phase 2: Certified Disposition of Charge(s) – 3 Weeks

You will need to provide a certified disposition for each criminal charge or case that you list on the application for a Certificate of Eligibility. You will need to obtain this document from the clerk of court in the county where your charge originated. If you were put on probation, you will also need to provide documentation that shows the termination of probation. If you went through a diversion program, you will need to provide a copy of a pretrial completion certificate or letter of successful completion that can substitute for a certified disposition.

Phase 2A (Expungement Only): Application Approval by State Attorney – 3 Weeks

The expungement process involves an extra step of receiving approval or certification from the State Attorney’s Office prior to the FDLE processing your application. The appropriate State Attorney or statewide prosecutor must complete a written certified statement page before you can petition the court for expungement. You need to complete this additional phase for expungement because unlike record sealing, expungement results in the destruction of all public records connected with criminal charges, except for one file that is kept confidentially by the FDLE. After expungement is ordered, the clerk of court will need to execute the order, as will agencies affected by the order.

Phase 3: FDLE Processing – 7 Months

Before issuing you a Certificate of Eligibility, the FDLE will need to decide whether you are statutorily eligible to petition the court to have your Florida criminal history record sealed. Florida Statutes section 943.0585 sets forth the criteria for eligibility to expunge your records. Florida Statutes section 943.059 sets forth the criteria for eligibility to seal your records.

Phase 4: Filing Petition With Court – 2 Weeks

If you are granted a certificate of eligibility for expunging or sealing, the next step is to file a petition with the court. The filing will include a petition to expunge or seal, an affidavit in support, a notarized order, and an FDLE Certificate of Eligibility.

Get Advice from Our Criminal Defense Lawyers

Record sealing and expungement may provide you with substantial benefits, but they are different processes. You should seek legal advice and representation from an attorney who has substantial experience in obtaining these forms of relief. To find out more about the phases of sealing and expungement in Florida, you can contact the attorneys at Hanlon Law. Contact us at 813.228.7095 or via our online form.

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