Spring Cleaning (Your Florida Criminal Record)
I get calls all the time from people who applied for a job, only to miss out on it because of an old arrest that shows up on their Florida criminal record from high school, college, or some other time in the distant or not so distant past. They often want to know how long an arrest stays on your Florida Criminal record. The short answer is forever, unless you do something about it. And some charges will stay on forever no matter what.Well, what can you do to fix that? It depends. According to Florida Law, as long as you have never been adjudicated guilty of anything, you have the ability to Petition the Court in the jurisdiction you were arrested to Seal or Expunge ONE INCIDENT in your lifetime from your Florida Criminal Record. It is rare, however possible, to seal or expunge two or more incidents if they are all inter-related in some way on your Florida Criminal Record. There are several exceptions and clarifications to this law.
First of all, sealing your Florida criminal record is basically just how it sounds. The Florida criminal record is sealed and only a very limited number of people and/or agencies have access to the information within the file. Expunging your Florida criminal record is theoretically like putting it through a shredder, although again, a limited number of people and/or agencies will have access to the fact that it existed. A Florida criminal record may be sealed if you are sentenced, but the Court withholds adjudication of guilt. If you are put on probation, you must wait an allotted period of time from the date probation ends until you are eligible. You may Petition to expunge your Florida criminal record if the charges are dropped or you are found Not Guilty at trial.
So, who are those limited people and/or agencies that will still have access to a sealed or expunged Florida criminal record? Well, law enforcement is supposed to have access to the information. Should you get arrested again, they will know that it is not the first time. Also industries who’s primary focus is working directly with children or the elderly will also have access to a sealed or expunged Florida criminal record. I think that this exception has been generally limited to schools and hospitals. Also, if you apply to the Florida Bar for a license to practice law, they will find out about your Florida criminal record – regardless of whether it has been sealed or expunged. There are a few other exceptions which can be found directly in the Florida Statutes. Unless the job you apply for falls under one of these exceptions, they will not have knowledge or access to a sealed or expunged Florida criminal record and you are not required to disclose.
There are certain crimes that are not eligible to be sealed or expunged. DUI is one of those charges. It will be on your record forever, no matter what – even if you are found Not Guilty at trial.
A lot of times, people don’t really think it is necessary to hire a lawyer for a simple misdemeanor charge like possession of alcohol under age, or criminal mischief. But if you are not careful and knowledgeable of the law, you may end up with a result that lasts forever.
In this day and age when jobs are scarce, it is probably a good idea to cleanse your record to put yourself in the best light possible. But remember to keep a copy of the file for yourself because if you need it for some reason in the future, you won’t be able to get it once it’s sealed or expunged.