What Is Expungement?

The act of expungement (also known as “expunction” under statutory language) of criminal records involves destroying or deleting such records to prevent the public from accessing them. Expungement can be significant when seeking employment, obtaining credit, or leasing rental property.

A court-ordered expunction requires the physical destruction or obliteration of the criminal history record by the involved criminal justice agencies, except for records retained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Expunged records retained by the FDLE are confidential. The person with an expunged record can lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests covered by the expunged record in various circumstances.

Expunged records are confidential and exempt from public disclosure laws. The person with an expunged record cannot be held liable for giving a false statement because of the failure to acknowledge an expunged criminal history record. Information about the existence of an expunged record is confidential, with limited disclosure exceptions for licensing, access authorization, employment purposes, and criminal justice agencies. Unauthorized disclosure is a misdemeanor.

Expungement Requirements

Florida Statute § 943.0585 outlines the process for the court-ordered expungement of criminal history records. To be eligible, a person must meet several criteria, including having no official charges filed, having charges dismissed, adherence to specific rules about offenses, no past guilty judgments for particular crimes, completion of court supervision, and adherence to any prior sealing or expunction conditions.

Courts have jurisdiction over their procedures regarding the expunction process. A court may order the expunction of records related to one arrest or incident, with exceptions for directly related arrests. Compliance with the expunction order by criminal justice agencies is mandatory.

In general, a person who was convicted of a crime generally does not qualify for an expungement. However, first-time offenders of non-violent crimes may expunge their criminal record in accordance with a plea or sentencing agreement. It is important to note that certain crimes are not eligible for expungement.

Pursuant to Florida Statute § 943.0584, the following crimes are not eligible for expunction:

  • Arson
  • Assault and battery
  • Burglary
  • Carjacking
  • Child pornography
  • Domestic battery
  • Drug trafficking and manufacturing
  • Elder abuse
  • False imprisonment
  • Fraud
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Lewd and lascivious offenses
  • Manslaughter
  • Robbery
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Terrorism
  • Violation of the Florida Communications Fraud Act

Before petitioning for expunction, an individual must apply to the FDLE for a certificate of eligibility, demonstrating satisfaction with the eligibility criteria. The FDLE issues the certificate if the applicant meets the specified conditions and pays a processing fee.

A valid certificate of eligibility must accompany a petition to expunge a criminal history record. The petitioner must submit a sworn statement confirming eligibility and no pending petitions for sealing or expunction. Knowingly providing false information is a felony.

Other Types of Expungements

Depending on the situation, individuals may be entitled to expungement for different reasons. The following are examples of other methods of expungement under Florida law.

Administrative Expungement

Florida Statute § 943.0581 allows for the administrative expunction (removal) of nonjudicial records of arrests made contrary to the law or by mistake. Law enforcement agencies, individuals, or legal guardians can apply for an expunction, and the application should include specific details about the arrest.

Juvenile Diversion Expungement

Florida Statute § 943.0582 mandates the FDLE to expunge nonjudicial records of arrests for minors who have successfully completed a diversion program. A diversion program, as defined, includes specific juvenile programs or those referred by a state attorney. The expunction process involves the minor submitting an application, endorsed by the parent or legal guardian if the minor is underage, along with a statement from the relevant state attorney confirming program completion and eligibility criteria.

Lawful Self-Defense Expungement

Florida Statute § 943.0578 provides for the expunction of a person’s criminal history record if they have acted in lawful self-defense, as determined by the state attorney or statewide prosecutor. To be eligible, the person must obtain a certified statement from the relevant authority confirming the absence of charges or the dismissal of charges due to lawful self-defense. The expunction process involves submitting this statement, along with a valid certificate of eligibility issued by the FDLE and a sworn statement from the petitioner confirming their eligibility.

Human Trafficking Expungement

Florida Statute § 943.0583 addresses the expunction of criminal history records for victims of human trafficking. A victim of human trafficking, defined as a person subjected to coercion for trafficking purposes, a minor victim of trafficking, or an individual trafficked as per federal law, can petition any court in the relevant circuit for expunction. The court may order the expunction of records related to offenses committed during the trafficking period, excluding specific offenses. The process involves filing a petition, and a presumption is created if official documentation of the victim’s status is provided. The petition must be initiated diligently after the victim ceases to be trafficked or seeks services. The court, state attorney, and arresting agency are involved in the process, and if relief is granted, the criminal history records are physically destroyed, with limited exceptions.

Automatic Juvenile Expungement

Florida Statute § 943.0515 outlines the retention and expunction of criminal history records for minors. For serious or habitual juvenile offenders or those committed to a juvenile correctional facility, records are retained until the individual reaches 21 years of age, after which they are expunged, unless certain criteria are met. For minors not falling into these categories, records are retained until the age of 19 and then expunged, unless the criteria for retention are met.

Automatic Sealing

Florida Statute § 943.0595 establishes rules for the automatic sealing of criminal history records for minors or adults meeting specific criteria. Eligibility for automatic sealing includes cases where no charging document was filed, where the document was dismissed, or where a not-guilty verdict or judgment of acquittal was rendered for all counts. There is no limit on the number of times a person can obtain automatic sealing.

Experienced Criminal Defense Advocacy in Tampa

Facing criminal proceedings, even if such proceedings do not result in formal charges or convictions, can have far-reaching consequences. Such collateral consequences have the potential to harm a person’s employment prospects and negatively impact their reputation. To make sure your best interests are properly safeguarded, you should seek legal representation from a skilled criminal defense lawyer in Tampa. Call Patrick B. Courtney at (813) 252-1529 for a consultation about your legal rights and interests today.