One of the most often asked questions regarding a Florida expungement or sealing is “how long does it take to complete?” The quick answer today is anywhere between 10-12 months or longer, and I’ll explain why below.
What you need to know, as a person searching for a lawyer to seal or expunge your record, is that any lawyer who promises a faster time than what is discussed below is lying to you. He or she is only telling you what you want to hear in order to get your business.
How Long Does It Take (Record Expungement) in Florida Varies
First, I will explain all the things that can affect the time it takes to complete a Florida expungement or sealing and, then, I’ll tell you what you can do to help speed this process up. You will learn that there is no set time for this process and a general idea of what needs to occur will help you estimate how long this can take.
Time Variables That Everyone Has to Deal With
The first thing we have to understand is that we are dealing with several government agencies when we are sealing or expunging your record. These include:
- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement [FDLE]
- The State Attorney’s Office [SAO]
- The Clerk of Court
- The Sheriff’s Office
- The arresting agency
- The Court
Government agencies tend to work at their own pace. There is not a lot we can do to speed them up but we can overlap the things we need to do with each of these agencies/offices. For example, we try to request documents from the Clerk of Court at the same time we send our clients the application to fill out. We need both before we can send the application off to FDLE. By overlapping, we usually receive both back at the same time. Overlapping also works when we are in the petition phase and it always saves time.
How Long Does It Take the Clerk of Court
One of the first things we do, when we represent someone to seal or expunge a record, is obtain the required certified copies of court documents. Typically, we mail the request the same day we are hired. Most Clerk’s of Court are very responsive and we get back the documents requested within a couple weeks.
However, there have been times when the Clerk of Court simply drops the ball. Our request goes out and we do not hear back from them. For whatever reason this occurs, we then need to reach out to the Clerk’s Office and find out what has happened. Often times we will have to resend the request. This can add to the overall time to complete the process.
How Long Does It Take the State Attorney’s Office
Florida law requires that an application for a record “expungement” be signed by a representative of the SAO. Before we can send the application to the SAO we need the certified disposition from the Clerk of Court and the application back from the client.
All applications are mailed to the SAO. Their response times vary, however they generally return the application within 30 days.
Delays can occur when the SAO signs off indicating the client is not eligible to have their record expunged (when they actually are). Other delays have occurred when the SAO does not return the application timely and we are again forced to track down the assistant state attorney [ASA] assigned for this task. This can occur when ASA’s are reassigned while the application is pending.
How Long Does It Take the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
After we have obtained the needed documents from the Clerk of Court, received the application back from the client, and then sent and received it back from the SAO (for expungements), we are then ready to send it to FDLE.
FDLE processes the applications and issues a Certificate of Eligibility, which is needed before we can file the petition to seal a record or expunge a record. The processing time with FDLE over the years has varied. Currently it is taking about 8 to 9 -months. To get an idea of how long they are currently taking, you can visit FDLE’s website where they conveniently post what applications they are currently working on.
Check FDLE’s Website
This is a good way to check if a lawyer is telling you the truth about how fast he or she can get this done. I still see many lawyer websites saying that the entire process takes 6 to 7-months when it is currently taking FDLE that long just to return the Certificate of Eligibility.
How Long Does It Take the Sheriff’s Office and the Arresting Agency
The Sheriff’s Office and the arresting agency both have to be notified that you are petitioning the court to have your record sealed or expunged. There is no timeframe for them to respond and, in fact, most do not unless they object. Most courts, when they receive a petition to seal or expunge wait about 30-days so that any notified agencies (SAO, Sheriff, Arresting) have time to respond.
How Long Does It Take the Court
The court that receives the petition usually waits about 30-days to see if any agency is going to object. If there is no objection the court may grant it without a hearing or will require a hearing. If there is an objection, we have to schedule a hearing.
Scheduling a hearing can take weeks or months depending on the court’s schedule and the SAO’s response to requested court dates. Both the court and the prosecutors are busy, so some of the delay in scheduling a hearing is trying to coordinate all of the parties to a specific date. As this time goes by, court availability may change. This is one reason why scheduling a hearing takes this much time.
How You Can Speed Up The Process
There are ways that you, the client, can speed up the process. Although we try and make this entire process as easy for our client’s as possible, there are still some things that the client must do.
Return All Documents You Receive From Us Promptly
There are three documents we need to have our client’s notarize and we need fingerprints of our client taken by a law enforcement agency. All of these must be returned using the United States Postal Service or other carrier (since we need the originals). Our clients receive these documents in the form of an expungement or sealing packet.
Once we have been hired, we try and send out the Expungement or Sealing Packet, typically by email, as soon as possible. The speed in which we can do this depends on how quickly we receive the information needed to complete the packet. Very often, we can send out the packet on the same day we are hired. However, sometimes we have to obtain the documents from the Clerk’s Office first.
You, as our client, can speed this process up by looking for the packet in your email daily. Once received, have all three documents notarized (or those specified) as quickly as possible. Immediately schedule an appointment to have your fingerprints taken by a law enforcement agency. Once these are done, mail the originals to our office.
Make Payments of Fees and Costs As Soon As Possible When Due
We try to have the most competitive fee for expungement and sealings of criminal arrest records in Florida. We break our fee down into two payments. The first payment gets us started. The second payment is not due until we receive the Certificate of Eligibility from FDLE.
Once we receive the Certificate of Eligibility, we notify our client immediately. The second payment is due at that time. The sooner it is received the sooner the petition is filed with the Clerk of Court. From the point of filing the petition we are looking at about 45 days (average) until the process is completed.
To speed this up, we suggest that our clients begin saving for this payment immediately after they hire us. As of now, FDLE is taking about 8-9 months to return the Certificate of Eligibility after the application is filed. This should give everyone the time necessary to save and be ready once notified.
Although a lot of attorney websites list how long it takes to complete a Florida record expungement or sealing, the reality is that the time will always vary. There are ways that the attorney can speed up the process (by overlapping) and there are ways that the client can help.
What you, as a person who wants a record expunged or sealed, need to take away from this is simple. Do not wait to have your record sealed or expunged. Start it before you need it. As we have shown above, the process to get this done is lengthy and there are time frames that we cannot control except by when we start.
For More Information About Florida Record Expungements
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 in Orlando, FL. He provides legal representation for expungement and sealing of records throughout the state of Florida.
If you found this information useful, please click the [★ Like ] button below