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 8-12 months or longer*, and I’ll explain why below.
*As of August 2020, FDLE has caught up and is roughly only taking 5 months to process an application. Thus, the overall time to completion is approximately 7-10 months without any delays.
COVID-19 has also slowed down this process. I will not know the effect of the delay for a few more months but there are hurdles that my clients have to overcome today due to the pandemic. Number one is obtaining fingerprints. Fingerprints have to be taken by a law enforcement agency. Many have suspended this service for the time being.
Know 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 a Florida Record Expungement Take?
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 All Attorneys Have 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 Expungement 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
Once the application is prepared with all supporting documentation, it is ready to be sent to FDLE.
FDLE processes the applications and issues a Certificate of Eligibility. The processing time with FDLE over the years has varied. Currently it is taking about 8 to 9 months.
Screenshot of FDLE’s website taken on August 15, 2020, indicating current applications being processed.
You can check where FDLE is on the processing of applications by visiting the website expunge section.
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.
Scheduling a hearing, if necessary, can take weeks or months depending on the court’s schedule and the SAO’s response to requested court dates.
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
Once we have been hired, we send out the Expungement or Sealing Packet, as soon as possible. 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, complete the packet as quickly as possible and return the documents 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 second payment is due once we are ready to petition the court. The sooner it is received the sooner the petition is filed. From the point of filing the petition we are looking at about 45 days (average) until the process is completed. Often a lot sooner.
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.
See our fee details below.
⚠ WARNING: Some Law Firms Will Tell You They Can Do This Faster
Some lawyers and some law firms advertise that they can complete a record expungement or sealing within 6 or 7 months. They do this because they know “time” matters to you. However, they are not telling you the truth.
Don’t Hire an Attorney Because They Say They Can Do This Faster.
As pointed out above, FDLE alone takes 5-7 months just to process the application. Be careful on who you hire. If they are not telling you the truth on how long it takes, don’t hire them.
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 Emailed to You
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.
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