Below are some frequently asked questions and answers to further assist you.
What does a criminal record consist of?
Can a criminal record be cleared, sealed, destroyed or expunged?
What does sealing criminal records accomplish?
How is sealing my record different from expungement?
How does my arrest affect me?
Can all criminal charges be sealed or expunged?
How does the sealing or expungement process work?
How long will the sealing or expungement process take?
How do I start the process?
WHAT DOES A CRIMINAL RECORD CONSIST OF?
A criminal record is a history of the arrest, arraignment, pleading (claims of not-guilty or no contest), criminal charging affidavit and all documentation that is held in any clerk’s office, judicial branch or law enforcement agency’s files regarding the matter.
CAN A CRIMINAL RECORD BE CLEARED, SEALED DESTROYED OR EXPUNGED?
Yes. Certain convictions can be cleared or cleansed from one’s criminal record through the legal process known as sealing or expungement. Arrests that result in an adjudication of guilt withheld, nolle prosequi, no information filed, or dismissal can be sealed and thus removed from public records. (Subject to certain statutory exceptions.)
In any arrest that results in a dismissal or nolle prosequi, wherein the State has dropped the case, the record can be expunged as long as you have never been adjudicated guilty or delinquent for another charge.
WHAT DOES SEALING CRIMINAL RECORDS ACCOMPLISH?
The process of sealing one’s criminal records is not a complete erasure of the files but, rather, seals or closes the file from public view.
HOW IS SEALING MY RECORD DIFFERENT FROM EXPUNGEMENT?
The process of expungement of criminal records removes the arrest record from being a public record. An expunged record is no longer visible when a background check is done. Expungement is usually the best way to guarantee that a past mistake does not come back to haunt you.
HOW DOES MY ARREST AFFECT ME?
A single charge or arrest can have a devastating impact to your career and future, especially if you are between jobs, seeking a promotion at your job, applying for new employment, applying for colleges, universities and/or post-graduate schools.
A potential employer, college/university, credit company, etc., can easily obtain your criminal record or history held by law enforcement agencies, i.e., police, county, court, clerk’s offices, prosecutorial agencies, and the FBI. Additionally, many of these records are now available to the general public, via the internet. If your criminal record is sealed or expunged, then you may be legally allowed to say that the conviction or arrest never occurred on job applications, rental applications, or for many other purposes.
CAN ALL CRIMINAL CHARGES BE SEALED OR EXPUNGED?
No. Not all criminal charges can be sealed or expunged. Most misdemeanors and some felonies can be sealed or expunged. Please contact our office at (727) 528-1114 to discuss whether or not your charges are eligible to be sealed or expunged.
HOW DOES THE SEALING OR EXPUNGEMENT PROCESS WORK?
After we determine that your charges qualify for sealing or expungement, our office prepares an application, which is presented to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), along with your fingerprint card. The FDLE will review your request and run a background check prior to making a determination that you qualify for a sealing or expungement.
Once they have determined you qualify, the FDLE will prepare a Certificate of Eligibility, and send it to us. Upon receipt, our office will prepare a Petition or Motion to file with the court, with copies going to the appropriate prosecutor’s office, along with copies to the other law enforcement agencies that maintain your criminal history record information.
In many instances, the judge will grant the Motion or Petition without scheduling a hearing requiring you to appear in court. In some instances, however, the judge may require a hearing, and a date is scheduled to appear before the judge. At the hearing, the judge will consider the specific facts and circumstances of your case, and in your life, review your record to insure you have successfully completed your sentence, and investigate as to whether or not any new arrests or criminal convictions have been added to your record.
The judge will also listen to both the prosecutor’s position and your attorney’s arguments, before deciding whether or not to grant the sealing or expungement petition.
HOW LONG WILL THE SEALING OR EXPUNGEMENT PROCESS TAKE?
The sealing or expungement process can take, on average, anywhere from two (2) to nine (9) months to complete. It is not possible to give an exact or definite time, as the process is dependent upon several factors. Please contact us at (727) 528-1114 so that we can further assist you.
HOW DO I START THE PROCESS?
Simply contact the Law Office of Frank DiCosola, P.A. to discuss your matter, and to schedule an appointment for a free consultation to determine whether you qualify for a sealing or expungement. If you qualify, we can assist you in sealing or expunging your criminal record, and you may not even have to make a court appearance.
Call us at (727) 528-1114 for your free consultation. Our office is experienced in the sealing and expungement of criminal records and we are available to speak with you to answer any specific questions you might have.
If you prefer, you may email us or fill out the free consultation form, and our office will be in touch with you as soon as possible.