Expunction of Records

Under Section 943.045(16), Florida Statutes, the expunction of a criminal history record is defined as a ‘court-ordered physical destruction…of a record by any criminal justice agency’ that is in possession of such information.

Thus, an expunction involves the elimination of documents and information pertaining to a past criminal incident.  A confidential record will remain with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for limited purposes outlined by statute.

Eligibility Requirements

The eligibility criteria to expunge a record are as follows:

  • No indictment, Information, or other charging document was filed in the case that is the subject of the expunction, or the case was later dismissed or the subject of a nolle pros;
  • No prior adjudications of guilt for any criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation, and no prior adjudications of delinquency (juvenile cases) for any criminal act outlined in Florida Statutes Section 943.051(3)(b);
  • No adjudication of guilt or delinquency in the case that is the subject of the expunction;
  • No prior sealed or expunged cases;
  • No other seal or expunge petitions pending before any court.

Sealing of Records

Under Section 943.045, Florida Statutes, the sealing of a criminal history record is defined as the ‘preservation of a record under such circumstances that it is secure and inaccessible to any person not having a legal right of access to the information contained…therein.”

In practical terms, ‘sealing’ is the placement of a criminal record under court-ordered protection, which bars public disclosure of or access to the record.  Information and documents related to the incident remain on file with the criminal justice agency, but the record is confidential.

Eligibility Requirements

To seal a record in Florida, an applicant must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • No prior adjudications of guilt for any criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation, and no prior adjudications of delinquency (juvenile cases) for any criminal act outlined in Florida Statutes Section 943.051(3)(b);
  • No adjudication of guilt or delinquency in the case that is the subject of the sealing;
  • No prior sealing or expunction of a criminal history record anywhere else;
  • No other petition to seal or any petition to expunge pending before any court;
  • The charge to which the applicant pled is not a “disqualifying” offense (see below);
  • The charge at issue does not fall under the Related Offenses Exclusion;
  • If placed on probation or community control for the offense, the probation or community control must be completed and all court supervision otherwise terminated.

Disqualifying Offenses

Under Sections 943.0585 and 943.059, Florida Statutes, certain offenses are not eligible to be sealed or expunged, regardless of whether adjudication was withheld.  These offenses are disqualifying in all cases where a plea or verdict is entered to such a charge.  If the charges were dropped or otherwise dismissed, an applicant will remain eligible to seal or expunge.

  • Section 393.135- sexual misconduct with developmentally disabled person);
  • Section 394.4593- sexual misconduct between an employee and a mentally ill patient;
  • Section 787.025- luring or enticing a child;
  • Chapter 794- sexual battery;
  • Section 796.03- procuring a minor for prostitution;
  • Section 800.04- lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age;
  • Section 810.14- voyeurism;
  • Section 817.034- Florida Communications Fraud Act;
  • Section 825.1025- lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of an elderly person or disabled person;
  • Section 827.071- sexual performance by a child;
  • Chapter 839- criminal conduct by public employees and officials;
  • Section 847.0133- providing obscene material to minors;
  • Section 847.0135- computer pornography; traveling to meet minor;
  • Section 847.0145- selling or buying of minors;
  • Section 893.135- drug trafficking (controlled substances, including cannabis);
  • Any violation specified as a predicate offense for registration as a sexual predator pursuant to Section 775.21;
  • Offenses specified in Section 907.041, including:
    • Arson;
    • Aggravated assault;
    • Aggravated battery;
    • Illegal use of explosives;
    • Child abuse or aggravated child abuse;
    • Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult;
    • Aircraft piracy;
    • Kidnapping;
    • Homicide;
    • Manslaughter;
    • Sexual battery;
    • Robbery;
    • Carjacking;
    • Lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault upon or in presence of a child under 16;
    • Sexual activity with a child, who is 12 years of age or older but less than 18;
    • Burglary of a dwelling;
    • Stalking and aggravated stalking;
    • Act of domestic violence as defined in Section 741.28, Florida Statutes (including assault, aggravated assault, domestic battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member);
    • Home invasion robbery;
    • Act of terrorism as defined in s. 775.30;
    • Manufacturing any substances in violation of Chapter 893, Florida Statutes; and
    • Attempting or conspiring to commit any such crime.

Benefits of Expunging and Sealing

There are many legal and practical benefits to expunging or sealing a criminal history record.  These include:

  • Protecting a person’s criminal past from public view;
  • Avoiding discovery of a criminal incident by employers;
  • Avoiding discovery of a criminal incident by colleges and universities;
  • Protecting a person from having to disclose an arrest or charge to employers and other interested persons;
  • Preventing a record from being found on background checks;
  • Circumventing workplace policies that prevent advancement for employees with criminal histories;
  • Protection of reputation in the community;
  • Peace of mind and closure.

Disclosure Protections

Generally speaking, the beneficiary of a sealing or expunction is legally protected from having to disclose or acknowledge the subject criminal history. This disclosure protection applies in virtually all scenarios, except those enumerated by statute.

Exceptions to Non-Disclosure

There are multiple exceptions to the non-disclosure protections offered by Florida’s seal and expunge statutes.  Under Sections 943.0585(4)(a) and 943.059(4)(a), a person must must make a truthful disclosure of the record if he or she:

  1. Is a candidate for employment with law enforcement;
  2. Is a defendant in a criminal prosecution;
  3. Is seeking admission to The Florida Bar;
  4. Is seeking employment/licensing/contracting with the Department of Children and Family Services, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, or the Department of Juvenile Justice;
  5. Is seeking to be employed or licensed by the Department of Education, any district school board, any university laboratory school, any charter school, any private or parochial school, or any local governmental entity that licenses child care facilities;
  6. Is attempting to purchase a firearm from a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer and is subject to a criminal history check under state or federal law (this applies only to the sealing of records);
  7. Is seeking authorization from a Florida seaport identified in Section 311.09, Florida Statutes, for employment within or access to one or more of such seaports pursuant to Section 311.12, Florida Statutes;
  8. Is seeking to be appointed as a guardian;
  9. Is seeking a concealed carry license.

Expunging More Than One Record

Florida law permits the sealing or expunging of only one criminal history in a lifetime. For persons who have multiple arrests or cases, this means that only one of the records will be affected by a sealing or expunction order (assuming all eligibility requirements are met).

Exception: ‘Directly Related’ Records

Under Sections 943.059 and 943.0585, the trial court “may, at its sole discretion, order the sealing of a criminal history record pertaining to more than one arrest if the additional arrests directly relate to the original arrest.”

For this exception to apply, the offenses or cases at issue must derive from single criminal episode or incident.  State v. ABM, 742 So.2d 818, 820 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999) (construing the exception “to apply to additional arrests or charges that stem from one criminal activity or episode where the additional offenses are temporally related or there is some nexus between the offenses”); State v. Dinkins, 794 So. 2d 736, 738 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001) (holding that “the offenses must stem from one activity or episode, and in addition, the crimes must be temporally related or have a nexus between them”).

If the additional offenses or arrests at issue do not derive from one criminal activity or episode and are not temporally related, then the trial court lacks authority to seal or expunge more than one record. State v. C.B., 117 So. 3d 844 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013) (reversing a trial court order sealing two arrest records where “the offenses did not stem from one criminal activity or episode and were not temporally related”).

Other Seal/Expunge Topics

HOW TO SEAL OR EXPUNGE A RECORD

Step 1: Prepare FDLE Application

Sealing or expunging begins with the preparation of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Application for Certification of Eligibility.   The application must be signed in front of a notary.

Step 2: Fingerprints

Obtain fingerprints from a law enforcement or other criminal justice agency.  The prints must be taken on an approved Florida Department of Law Enforcement fingerprint form.

Step 3: Copy of Case Disposition

All applicants must request a certified copy of the case disposition from the Clerk of Courts located in the jurisdiction where the criminal history record arose.  If a defendant was placed on probation or other court supervision, he or she should also request certified a certified copy of the court order terminating probation or supervision.

Step 4: ‘Section B’

For expunctions, the completed Application for Certification of Eligibility, along with the certified case disposition, must be submitted to the local State Attorney’s Office for completion of Section B.  This portion of the application asks the State to verify that a case was dismissed, nolle prossed, or dropped as a prerequisite to expunge a record.

Step 5: Submission of Application

Upon completion of Steps 1-4, the signed/notarized application, fingerprints, Section B, certified case disposition, cover letter, and a cashier’s check or money for $75.00 are submitted to FDLE for processing.

Step 6: Wait for Processing

The time required for FDLE to process a seal/expunge applications has grown exponentially over the past three years.  It is a first come, first-served system, and there is no expedited processing track.  Current processing times are around 9 months, and this time frame can lengthen or shorten, depending on the backlog of applications.

Step 7: Filing the Petition

If an application is approved, FDLE will issue a Certificate of Eligibility to Seal or Expunge.  The Certificate is a statutory prerequisite for an applicant to file a Petition to Seal or Expunge the presiding court.  The petition must be drafted in accordance with Chapter 943, Florida Statutes, and must be filed along with the original Certificate and an affidavit attesting to the defendant’s eligibility.

Step 8: Proposed Order

Simultaneously with the Petition to Seal or Expunge (see Step 7), an applicant must submit to the Court a proposed order sealing or expunging the applicants record.  The proposed order, along with all other court filings, must be served on the Office of the State Attorney.

Step 9: Serve Arresting Agency

At the time of filing the Petition, an applicant must serve a copy on the law enforcement agency involved in the criminal incident at issue.

Step 10: Hearing

If the State Attorney opposes the Petition, a seal/expunge hearing will be required where the court will decide whether relief should be granted or denied.

Step 11: Await Order

If the Petition is approved, the Court will enter an order directing the clerk and all criminal justice agencies to seal or expunge the subject record.  Copies of the order will be provided to the defendant, State, and all involved departments and agencies.

COSTS AND FEES

Costs

  1. A $75.00 application fee for obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE);
  2. A filing fee ranging from $59 to $75 paid to the clerk of courts where the petition to expunge or seal is filed;
  3. Costs for obtaining certified copies of the case disposition ($3-$5); and
  4. The costs of a notary (although most major banks offer free notary services).

Attorney Fees

Our attorneys charge a flat rate of $750.00 for most applications in Northeast and Central Florida.  The fees may vary where a State objection is anticipated, or where the application would involve contested issues with FDLE.

SEAL & EXPUNGE FAQ

If I have a record sealed or expunged in another state, can I also have a Florida record sealed or expunged?

No. If the record was sealed or expunged because you petitioned to have it done by court order, you will not be eligible.

If I have an out of state criminal conviction, will that prevent me from having my Florida record sealed or expunged?

Yes. Any criminal conviction (adjudication of guilt) will prevent a person from having a record sealed or expunged within Florida. The conviction does not have to be on the arrest they are requesting.

I pled to Battery-Domestic Violence, but received a withhold of adjudication (not convicted). Can I still seal or expunge?

No. Battery Domestic violence is a disqualifying offense and renders the accused ineligible for sealing or expungement, even if adjudication was withheld.

My case was dismissed. Does this mean that I have no record, or that my record was automatically expunged?

No. There is a still a record of the arrest and prosecution. This record must still be expunged by following the procedures outlined above.

The FDLE has approved my application and I received my Certificate of Eligibility. Does this mean my record is sealed or expunged?

No. A Certificate of Eligibility is just that- an official statement that you are eligible to seek a sealing or expunction. You must still petition to court and comply with all procedures mandated by Chapter 943, Florida Statutes.

How long will it take for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to process my application?

Current processing times are 9-10 months.

Can I pay to have FDLE expedite the processing of my application to seal or expunge?

No. Upon the filing of your application, you will be given a priority date based on the date of submission. The application will be processed in the order it was received- first come first served. There is no expedited track, and any attorney or “legal clinic” promising otherwise is lying to you.

Who is entitled to receive “sealed” information?

There are several agencies entitled to receive sealed information under Florida law. These include law enforcement, the Florida Bar, entities presiding over teacher certification, Agency for Healthcare Administration, and the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Once my record is sealed or expunged, will I receive written confirmation from the various agencies or departments stating that they have complied with the Court’s order to seal or expunge?

No. In Florida, there is no requirement that each agency or department send confirmation of their compliance with the Court’s orders. The only writing you will receive is the Court’s Order to Seal or Order to Expunge.