Florida expungement laws outline all the rules, policies, and regulations governing the state as it relates to the provision of sealing or removing a record. Whether as a result of a lapse in judgment or youthful indiscretion, there are thousands of people within the state who would be interested in having their records removed and, as such, knowing the laws and how they relate to their individual situations is of critical importance.
What is expungement?
This refers to the removal from public viewing all the details related to a criminal offense. As a result, all physical and virtual copies of the record are to be destroyed. By having a record expunged, it essentially gives the individual a chance at a fresh start and projects the appearance that the offense never occurred. Except for government-related organizations, the individual can legally deny to any entity that the offense ever occurred.
Here are the criteria required for ex-offenders to have their records expunged:
- They have never been previously granted the provision of sealing or removing a record
- They are at the time of applying without existing charges or warrants out for their arrest
- They have completed the probationary period associated with the offense
- They have completed all the community service hours assigned and paid all the related fines as decided by the courts
- They have never been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense
- They plead guilty or no contendere (no contest) to offenses
The application can only be granted once to each individual, whether or not it was granted for juvenile records or the criminal records of an adult. Therefore, if the individual were to even cross state boundaries with a clear record, moving forward every other offense that is documented will be a permanent fixture.
Though those are major criteria for the removal process, depending on the offense committed there are still further hurdles that an applicant has to overcome. Within the state of Florida, the following are some of the offenses that cannot be removed or sealed from a record in Florida:
– Sexual assault
-Aggravated battery or assault
– Child abuse
-Murder or manslaughter
The request for the record to be expunged is made to the relating courts, that all have the ability to grant or deny the application. In instances where the application is approved the court has the ability to order all agencies that would have a copy of the record to erase it from all databases (physical and virtual). A removed record only applies to one criminal offense but in cases where subsequent arrests are all related to the original then the court has the authority to grant and subsequently order the removal of an offender’s criminal records history.
Prior to contacting the courts, the desired applicant would have to obtain a “certificate of eligibility for expunction”. If provided, this document is only valid for a period of 12 months. If not utilized within the specified time frame another certificate would have to be requested to start the process all over. A $75 processing fee is a standard requirement in executing the application and it will not be granted if either of the criteria listed above is not met (that is, the criteria for eligibility and not having committed any of the offenses that cannot be removed).
Upon receiving the “certificate of eligibility for expunction” then all the requisite steps and procedures can be followed. It is always advised that the individual request a copy of their arrest or criminal record before applying for the removal of the record. In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act every United States citizen is able to request a copy of his/her records. This is so as to ensure that all the relevant details are outlined and they and they courts are fully aware of what exactly is being applied for. Additionally, any falsification or misrepresentation could face some serious repercussions as such an act classified as a felony to the third degree.
It is recommended that offenders have their records expunged as this will open (or re-open as the case may be) doors to opportunities such as employment, housing, loan acquisitions, federal assistance and insurance. With a criminal record in place there is a high level of risk as it relates to the opportunities listed above and a few others given the possible implications of character and trustworthiness. When contacting any organization that falls within the categories listed above, performing a background check is essentially a compulsory course of action for the ruling executives. Get personal access to records in Florida in order to understand the history and charges in your arrest record.
It cannot be emphasized enough the importance of knowing and understanding Florida expungement laws. This not only applies to those who have existing records but also those who are interested in helping someone else to execute the process. Once eligible on all fronts, having the records expunged is certainly a provision that should be explored by ex-offenders.
Having said all of this, expunging the record in Florida does not mean that it is removed from private or federal databases also. Being public records, various websites will go about accumulating the information on posting them online. While the courts do not order these entities to remove the records from their databases, the successful candidates can request of the administrators that they do so as the records could continue to perpetuate the tarnished reputation you acquired.
Whether through hard copy or a virtual database, the criminal records of an offender can be viewed. Therefore, all ex-offenders interested in being given a clean slate to evaluate their eligibility and take the requisite steps to have the records expunged.