Always Obtain Certified Copies of Court Documents Before Your Record is Sealed or Expunged
Main point of this article – if you have ever been arrested you should obtain certified copies of the pertinent paperwork from your court file.
- You have been arrested once in your life.
- You are eligible to seal/expunge the record.
- You want to expunge or seal your arrest record.
Everyone who is eligible should get this done.
- You’re a student who plans to go to law school one day, or
- You’re a non-citizen that wants to extend your status, change your status, or become a citizen some day, or
- You are anybody else.
Key Issue You Cannot Overlook When Expunging or Sealing Your Record
Expunging or sealing a criminal arrest record is a legal opportunity that everyone eligible should take. Currently, Florida law allows you to either seal or expunge one criminal arrest record in your lifetime. There have been efforts to expand this but this is the present state of the law.
The key issue is that if you plan on sealing or expunging your record you need to obtain certified copies of the pertinent documents found in the court file. Not just regular copies but certified copies. And you need to obtain those certified copies of all the pertinent paperwork before the process is completed. The absolute minimum certified copies you need are:
- The charging document.
- The police report.
- The final disposition.
There may be other documents you should have that are unique to your case. Make sure you discuss this with your attorney.
KEY TAKE-AWAY: Obtain certified copies of the pertinent records in your court file
Those certified documents should be kept in a secure place. They may be needed in certain situations such as applying to the Florida Bar or if you are not a United States citizen (see below).
What if the Clerk of Court has purged the file and these documents no longer exist? This is a very real possibility, especially with older cases. Today, many Clerk’s of Court scan all their files – so those records will be around for a long time. However, older files were not scanned. Some may be on microfiche or some other medium or just in their original paper form. If you have an older case you need to try and secure these documents as soon as possible – even if you do not qualify to have the record sealed or expunged.
People that should be thinking about obtaining certified copies.
Non-citizens: Not all arrests are going to get you deported. Which ones that will, however, are changing everyday. You cannot change the fact that you have been arrested. You can try to expunge or seal that arrest record. Before you do or when you are consulting with a lawyer to expunge your record make sure you understand the following:
- Sealing or Expunging your record will not hide it from United States Immigration or Customs.
- Obtain certified copies of your court record. You will need them in the future if your goal is to become a citizen or re-apply for a visa.
Wannabe Lawyers: Despite the fact that the Florida Bar is the one mandatory “association” every Florida Lawyer must be a member of – and – that the lawyer you hire to seal or expunge your record is suppose to know the law, it doesn’t mean he or she knows all of the law. So you should know this:
- The Florida Bar will want to see the court documents of any arrest you were involved in when you apply for membership.
- The law requires you to disclose any expunged arrest to the Florida Bar.
- The Florida Bar will not understand what it means when you tell them your record was expunged.
Wannabe Law Enforcement and Caregivers: People who want to become law enforcement officers (including firemen) or work in the healthcare industry will also want these documents.
I could go on and on, or simply say “everyone” ever charged with a crime should have certified copies of these documents in a secure place. However, I wanted to stress this point with the ones I have listed. It is much easier just to have those certified documents handy now, than to wait and hope they still exist later.
This was rewritten from a post I wrote on ejdirgapa/Blogspot.com on April 8, 2016.
Please note the date this article was published. The information listed above is subject to change as changes are made to the laws. The information written above is meant only to be for Informational Purposes Only and is not legal advice.
If any corrections or errors are found please notify me as soon as possible.
Eric Dirga has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1995. His office is Eric J. Dirga, PA, located online in Orlando, FL. He provides representation for sealing and expunging criminal records throughout the state of Florida.