Former State Prosecutor
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Concerned about an old arrest that is lurking in your past? Worried it will prevent you from a job opportunity? Constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure no one finds out about your past? A criminal arrest record (police and court) arising from your arrest can cause you problems in employment, housing, and other situations when a Florida criminal background check is performed. The Morris Law Firm, P.A. has the ability to help you clear your name by sealing or expunging your criminal record.
The Florida Legislature has determined that Florida criminal history records are public unless the record is sealed or expunged. A criminal history record is created when a person is arrested and fingerprinted and includes the disposition of that arrest, whether it is a conviction, acquittal, dismissal of charges before trial, or other disposition.
In this age of modern technology, anyone with a computer can pull up your arrest record, booking photo and information. Law enforcement agencies are increasing the length of time these criminal records remain in their databases and online, and in some jurisdictions, your criminal record can be traced back over a ten year period. One unfortunate mistake that led to an arrest or plea with a withholding of adjudication can now come back to haunt you years later.
Once the sealing or expungement of your Florida criminal record is granted by the court, the withhold of adjudication or dismissal of your felony, misdemeanor, or other criminal charge will no longer be available as a public record as it will be sealed or expunged. Additionally, if you seal or expunge the Florida criminal record, you gain the legal right to deny or fail to acknowledge anything to do with the arrest and the legal proceedings from the case itself.
Sealing your record means that your record (police, state attorney, other agencies, and court records) are physically sealed and put away in a vault so that no one without court order may have access to them. Your information regarding the charge is removed from the Criminal Information Justice System (CJIS) and the record won't show up in any background check relating to you. After 10 years of having your record sealed, you may ask the Court to expunge (destroy) the record. If you took a plea and received a withhold of adjudication you can only seal your record assuming you qualify.
Expunging a record means that the record which is expunged is physically destroyed. Only one copy of your record is retained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and that copy is not viewable by anyone without Court order. No agency is allowed to say that you even had a record sealed or expunged or the person divulging the information may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. Also, information regarding the charge expunged is removed from CJIS (Criminal Justice Information System) so that it doesn't come up on any background checks.
Once an order has been issued by the court to Seal or Expunge your criminal history record and a certified copy has been received by Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), they will then seal or expunge the criminal history record. Once the FDLE Seals or Expunges the criminal history record, a notification letter will be sent by the FDLE to the arresting agency involved with your case. The notification letter informs the arresting agency that FDLE received and complied with the order in accordance with the Seal or Expunge statutes.
Once the court grants an order to Seal or Expunge your criminal history record, the Clerk of the Court certifies a copy of the court order to the State Attorney’s Office and the arresting agency. The arresting agency is then responsible for sending a certified copy of the court order to all agencies that are known to have received the criminal history information. In addition to the FDLE, these agencies may include the Department of Corrections, Teen Courts, Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
|Can I seal my entire criminal record?|
|You can only seal a charge from one incident or multiple charges if all the charges stem from the same incident.|
|I was arrested by mistake (mistaken identity), what can I do?|
|You do not have to use your one-time statutory privilege to seal or expunge a mistaken arrest. A mistaken arrest can be sealed administratively and you can save your one-time seal or expunge privilege should you ever need it in the future.|
|I was charged with a felony, can that offense be sealed or expunged|
|Yes, both misdemeanors and felonies can be sealed or expunged. Juvenile records can also be sealed or expunged.|
|I had multiple charges in one arrest, can I seal or expunge them all?|
|Yes, you can seal or expunge multiple charges if they stem from the same incident. If you have multiple charges that you were arrested for on different days, but the charges stem from the same incident, that may also be sealed or expunged.|
|Why can't I just expunge my record instead of sealing it?|
|You can only have your record immediately expunged if you were: arrested but never charged by the State Attorney (referred to as a "no action" or "no file"), the State Attorney later nolle prossed (dismissed) the case or the Court dismissed the case. You can apply to have your record expunged after it has been sealed for 10 years.|
|Do I have to appear in court?|
|Your appearance in court is rarely necessary, so you won't have to take any time from your busy schedule to attend court. The Morris Law Firm will appear in court on your behalf. Only in extremely rare cases will a judge request for you to appear.|
Contact us to start the process of clearing your criminal record. The Morris Law Firm, P.A. is experienced in sealing or expunging your criminal records for clients so they don’t appear on criminal background checks. This includes adults and youth in St. Petersburg, Dunedin, Clearwater, Bradenton, Largo, and surrounding areas. Benefits of working with the Morris Law Firm, P.A. include:
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