ERIC J DIRGA, PA

Florida’s Lawful Self-Defense Expungement

In recent years, Florida has added a couple more types of expungements to the current laws. These are the Human Trafficking Expungement, meant to address crimes committed by people who were being “trafficked” against their will, and the Lawful Self-Defense Expungement. This article addresses the Lawful Self-Defense Expungement. The Human Trafficking Expungement will be addressed in a later article.

Exception for Lawful Self-Defense

Tucked away in section 943.0585, Florida Statutes (the expungement statute), is the exception for the strict eligibility requirements for a record expungement. It is specifically for those people whose charges were dropped or never filed on because the prosecuting authority determined (“found”) that the defendant acted in “lawful” self-defense. The pertinent part of the statute is located in subsection (5) of the statute:

(5) EXCEPTION FOR LAWFUL SELF-DEFENSE.—Notwithstanding the eligibility requirements prescribed in paragraph (1)(b) and subsection (2), the department shall issue a certificate of eligibility for expunction under this subsection to a person who is the subject of a criminal history record if that person:
(a) Has obtained, and submitted to the department, on a form provided by the department, a written, certified statement from the appropriate state attorney or statewide prosecutor which states whether an information, indictment, or other charging document was not filed or was dismissed by the state attorney, or dismissed by the court, because it was found that the person acted in lawful self-defense pursuant to the provisions related to justifiable use of force in chapter 776.
(b) . . .
(c) This subsection does not confer any right to the expunction of a criminal history record, and any request for expunction of a criminal history record may be denied at the discretion of the court.
(d) Subsections (3) and (4) shall apply to expunction ordered under this subsection.
(e) . . . [.]

This form of expungement grants all the same benefits as the standard expungement. See, section 943.0585, Florida Statutes.

Analysis of Section (5)

The first paragraph of this section states that the normal eligibility requirements for a “Lawful Self-Defense” expungement do not apply. “Notwithstanding” sections (1)(b) and (2), which require that the petitioner have (1) never been previously adjudicated guilty (convicted) or adjudicated delinquent (as a minor) and (2) that he or she has never secured a prior expungement or sealing under Florida law. This means that a person is eligible to have their arrest record expunged if it derives from an act of “lawful” self-defense.

What is Lawful Self-Defense

⛔ WARNING: The use of violent force against another, even if you believe it is self-defense can result in criminal charges against you. These laws change. Below is an overview of the law at the time this article was written and is included only to give context to the “Lawful Self-Defense” expungement law.

What is “lawful self-defense?” Florida law breaks this down into three categories; defense of person, defense of home, and defense of property.

Common Characteristics

In each of these defenses the person acting in self-defense does not have a duty to retreat. Further, the person must:

  • Not be engaged in any criminal activity, and
  • Must be in a place he or she has a right to be.

Defense of Person

Section 776.012, Florida Statutes, sets out the conditions required for the legal use or threatened use of deadly or non-deadly force in the defense of oneself or another. 

The use or threatened use of non-deadly force against another is legal if you “reasonably [believe] that such conduct is necessary to defend [yourself] or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”

The use or threatened use of deadly force against another is legal if you “reasonably [believe] that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to [yourself] or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

⚠ “Forcible felony” means treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual. Section 776.08, Florida Statutes.


Defense of Home

Section 776.013, Florida Statutes, sets out the conditions required for the legal use or threatened use of deadly or non-deadly force in the defense of your home. A person who is in his or her dwelling or residence has the right to stand his or her ground and use or threaten to use:

(a) Non-deadly force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force; or
(b) Deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

There is a legal presumption in subsection (2) in regards to the protection of the home:

(2) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using or threatening to use defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used or threatened was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

and a presumption in subsection (4):

(4) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

There are exceptions to this section which include:

(3) The presumption set forth in subsection (2) does not apply if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person; or
(b) The person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened; or
(c) The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force is engaged in a criminal activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further a criminal activity; or
(d) The person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using or threatening to use force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.


Defense of Property

Defense of “property’ includes real property other than a dwelling or personal property lawfully in your possession or the possession of an immediate family or household member or property you have a legal duty to protect.

Non-deadly force can be used to the extent that you reasonably believe that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on or tortious or criminal interference with said property.

Deadly force can only be used in the self-defense of property if you reasonably believe that such conduct is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

⚠ Note that the use of deadly force for the defense of property can only be used to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. If someone is running off with your Rolex watch you cannot use deadly force to stop him.

For more information on self-defense in Florida, see:Katz, Phillips. Florida Gun Law, Armed and Educated, 2019-2019 Ed. U. S. Law Shield, LLP, 2018.
Gutmacher. Florida Firearms:Law, Use & Ownership, 9th Ed. Warlord Publishing, 2018.

Criminal Charges Dropped Under Self-Defense Conditions

The Office of the State Attorney can review an arrest affidavit and refuse to file formal charges. They declare this to the court by filing a form commonly called a “no file,” “no information,” or “no bill.” Once filed, the arrestee is free.

After formal charges have been filed, the Office of the State Attorney can drop those charges by filing a document known as a “nolle prosequi.” This means the state is no longer pursuing the charges and the arrestee is free.

The Court can only dismiss the charges when legal argument is sufficiently made at hearing or trial to support such action. 

If the reason for any of the above actions is based on the finding that the arrestee acted in lawful self-defense, the Office of the State Attorney or the Court must note this in their respective records. See, section 776.09, Florida Statutes.

⚠ Note: The Office of the State Attorney can issue a No Information or a Nolle Prosequi without any reason given. It has complete discretion over the filing decisions in the prosecution of criminal cases.


Prerequisite 1: The Finding of Lawful Self-Defense

A prerequisite to a Lawful Self-Defense Expungement is the requirement that the charges were not filed on, dropped, or dismissed based on a finding that the arrestee acted in Lawful Self-Defense. As noted above, section 776.09, Florida Statutes, states that if a decision to not file on or to drop criminal charges against the arrestee is based on the finding that he or she acted in lawful self-defense, the Office of the State Attorney must annotate their file indicating as much.

However, the State Attorney is not required to disclose the reason for such action and may not annotate their file at all. However, if they do annotate, it will probably be located either on the No Information notice or the Nolle Prosequi

If neither of these notices indicates the reason for not pursuing the charges, you will need to check the court file. It may have been a court decision that prompted the dropping of charges by the prosecutor.

Finally, if nothing is found in the court file, a public records request to the Office of the State Attorney will be required. This should be specifically for information regarding the decision to not file on or  to drop charges against the defendant. An explanation for the request should include that you are trying to determine if the defendant qualifies for a subsection (5) expungement.

Lack of Notation that Lawful Self Defense was Found

The lack of a notation that a No Information or Nolle Prosequi was due to finding lawful self-defense may be a bar to pursuing this form of expungement. Subsection (5) specifically indicates that:

“. . . an information, indictment, or other charging document was not filed or was dismissed by the state attorney, or dismissed by the court, because it was found that the person acted in lawful self-defense pursuant to the provisions related to justifiable use of force in chapter 776.”

However, there is also a lack of case law on this matter. If the facts surrounding the arrest correspond to the requirements of lawful self-defense and a No Information or Nolle Prosequi was issued without notation or explanation, the argument could be made that it was, in fact, the reason.

In the above situation, the defendant/petitioner had better be prepared for the legal cost of an appeal. It is doubtful that, even if a Certificate of Eligibility is issued for Lawful Self-Defense Expungement, the Office of the State Attorney would not object to the petition that is filed.

Does Lawful Self-Defense Expungement Count Towards the One Lifetime Expungement

The Lawful Self-Defense Expungement waives the requirements typically needed to obtain a standard expungement. Those requirements are 1) the defendant has never in the past been convicted and 2) has never secured a previous record expungement or sealing.

Unfortunately, a plain reading of the statute would suggest that the use of the Lawful Self-Defense Expungement would preclude the use of the standard expungement or sealing at a later time. Each of those require that the defendant has not secured a prior sealing or expungement (without regard to type).  The only exception to that is the Diversion Expungement for juveniles found in section 943.0582, Florida Statutes, where it explicitly states that an:

“[e]xpunction or sealing granted under this section does not prevent the minor who receives such relief from petitioning for the expunction or sealing of a later criminal history record as provided for in ss. 943.0583, 943.0585, and 943.059[.]”

The lack of any similar language within subsection (5) would indicate that the use of the Lawful Self-Defense Expungement would be treated as a previously secured record expungement or sealing within the requirements of the standard expungement.


For More Information About Florida Record Expungements

You can submit your information below and we will email you information about our record expungement and sealing services and representation. You can also go to our ⚖ Florida Expungement webpage for more details.

 

You will not be placed on a mailing list and we share your information with NO ONE. For more information, see our privacy policy.


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.

Criminal Records Do Not Go Away On Their Own

There is a misconception that Florida criminal records go away after a specific time. This is incorrect. This belief is based, not on the fact that the record has disappeared – which it hasn’t, but that certain employment background checks only search back a specific number of years. However, the record remains a public record and is accessible forever unless the record has been sealed or expunged under Florida Law.

How Long Does A Misdemeanor or Felony Remain On My Record?

A common question concerns how long an arrest stays on a person’s record. People are confused by this because:

  1. They do not realize that a “criminal” record is actually an “arrest” record.
  2. They believe that dropped criminal cases are not on their record.
  3. They believe that the record mysteriously goes away after a number of years.

These are misconceptions that are based on misunderstanding the terminology and/or the common beliefs that exist.

A “Criminal Record” is Actually an “Arrest Record”

One of the biggest misconceptions about a criminal record is when it actually starts. A criminal record is the record people want removed so it does not affect them in the future. Most people believe that if their criminal case gets dropped, dismissed, or they are found Not Guilty after a trial, the “record” goes away or never exists.

This is incorrect. A criminal record is the recording of events that happen once a person is arrested. It begins from the moment of arrest (the term “arrest” includes a “Notice to Appear”). From that point, everything that happens to the person in relation to that arrest is recorded and made a public record.

A Criminal Record is Not Affected by the Outcome of the Court Case

The public recording of everything from the moment of arrest is a protection for the people. It is suppose to prevent the government from making arrests and “disappearing” people, and it works. The one bad side-effect is that the record can haunt a person long after the case has been concluded. This includes cases that result in the dismissal of the charges.

A common example today is the overbroad crime of domestic violence. Easily 75% of all domestic violence arrests are never even charged by the prosecuting authority. However, the person arrested will have a criminal record indicating an arrest for domestic violence, and with it will be all the stigmas associated with it.

A Criminal Record Does Not Disappear Automatically After a Specific Time

Public records laws are used to make government more transparent. They are a protection for the people. We want to be able to scrutinize the activities of government. Therefore, public records remain public. This includes criminal records.

Some people believe that criminal records disappear after a specific period of time. This is incorrect. The cause for this misconception is probably due to the method by which records are made available or the policy of the employer.

Government Records (Distribution)

Government will sometimes provide public records in various formats in order to better serve the people. An example of this are records held by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles [DMV]. Driver’s records are made available in three formats; 3-year, 7-year, and lifetime.

➠ Example: When a person with an arrest that occurred 8-years ago reviews his or her criminal history, that only shows the public records for the past 7-years, may believe that his or her record is no longer available.

Employer Standard Practices

Employers may decide that they will check the criminal background of a potential employee but only consider arrests that happened within a specified time frame. Everything before that time frame will be ignored.

➠ Example: An employer asks a potential employee if they have been arrested within the last 7-years. If the arrest occurred 8-years ago, the potential employee answers no. The record is still there but it may leave the impression on the applicant that the record “disappears” after 7-years.

These arbitrary time frames created by either government of employer policy has lead many people to believe that the record is gone when it has not.

A Public Record Is Forever, unless…

A public record is forever. In the history of all great societies, the bureaucracies that arose kept detailed records of government. The bureaucracies here in the United States are massive, and today we have huge amounts of electronic storage to manage it all. And most of this is accessible on the internet.

For all those things we can search for on the internet, the last thing we want public is our criminal history. This is especially true if we have a single arrest back when we were young. In Florida, if the record is not a public record – you will not find it on any government website.

A Florida Expungement or Sealing Makes the Record Non-Public

Both the Florida expungement and sealing statutes specifically make expunged and sealed records non-public. This is the only way to make these records “disappear” from your criminal history (arrest record). If you qualify to have this done, it should be the first thing you do.


For More Information About Florida Record Expungements

You can submit your information below and we will email you information about our record expungement and sealing services and representation. You can also go to our ⚖ Florida Expungement webpage for more details.

You will not be placed on a mailing list and we share your information with NO ONE. For more information, see our privacy policy.


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.

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.

Arrested When Visiting Florida

florida visitors florida arrests

Florida had over 113 million visitors in 2016. That’s a lot (considering the state’s population is just under 21 million). Unfortunately, not everyone who visited returned home without first being arrested. We can help Florida visitors who have a Florida arrest for their criminal defense and for their record expungement.

An Arrest in Florida

Traveling is fun but it can often be stressful too. Money issues are often a cause for stress and the cost of traveling can add to that. Stress can cause us to act irrationally and before we know it, we have done something we regret. Florida visitors need to understand the rights that apply to them in when they are arrested in Florida.

  • Right to be represented by counsel (Hire an Attorney)
  • Right to a Trial (means you can enter a plea of Not Guilty)
  • Right to Confront Witnesses Against You

What Visitors Get Arrested For

Florida visitors who get arrested in Florida typically get charged with domestic violence, theft (shoplifting), or DUI/drugs (marijuana still not legal in Florida). Sometimes it is for more serious offenses or the occasional criminal mischief (destruction of property) or the over charged Resisting Law Enforcement Without Violence.

⚖ Contact Us for Criminal Defense

We even handle the traffic tickets you may get while in Florida. This is a little off-topic but a traffic ticket received in Florida can cause problems in the state you are from if not handled properly.

⚖ Traffic Ticket Defense

Making a Decision after the Arrest

The critical juncture after a Florida arrest – to hire a criminal attorney or to enter a plea. The false belief that because you live out-of-state you cannot hire a lawyer AND go back home often leads to an ill advised plea. In most cases, you can enter a plea of NOT GUILTY ( this is a Right, by the way) and go home (wherever that may be).

You will then have the time to contact and hire a lawyer to handle your case. This is a routine practice with Central Florida criminal defense lawyers.

Most criminal cases can be handled by an attorney while you are back home. And most cases do not require you to return in order to resolve the case.

Resolving a Florida Arrest for Florida Visitors

The critical issue will always be how to resolve your case. Your attorney can advise you of the best course of action. Keep in mind the following factors:

  • Will I be convicted of a crime, permanently marking my criminal history?
  • Will this affect my ability to re-enter the United States (if from another country?
  • Will the disposition of my case affect anything in my life now?

These are important issues to consider when deciding the best course of action. Understand that despite these issues, there may be no alternative than to accept responsibility and deal with the consequences.

Expunging or Sealing Your Criminal Record After Resolving Your Florida Arrest

One of the important considerations you must discuss with your attorney is whether or not the resolution of your case will allow you to seal or expunge the record. Sealing or expunging your record is the first step to keeping this out of the public’s eye. This also means keeping from your employer, family and friends, off job applications, etc.

⚖ Florida Record Expungements

How Can You Expunge Your Florida Record (From Far Away)

Even though you may live in another State or even another country, you can still have an arrest sealed or expunged so long as you qualify. Florida visitors can take advantage of the same laws as Florida residents. Although people try to do this themselves, attempting to do this from a distance can be daunting.

Lawyers can handle everything today with email, phone, text, and skype technology. I have built my practice around the use of technology to make it as easy for my clients as possible. My clients only have to do four things, obtain a copy of their fingerprints from a law enforcement agency and notarize 3 documents. We take care of everything else.

⚖ Florida Expungement Packet

Will You Have to Travel Back to Florida

People who live out-of-state rarely have to return to Florida to complete this process. In the last 20 years, I have never had to have someone travel from outside of Florida. That does not mean it will never happen. If the Court requires a hearing and your presence, then arrangements will have to be made. Of course, all f that would be told to you well in advance.

Will The Distance Cause Unnecessary Delays

As noted above, the use of technology mitigates any delays due to distance. The only possible slow-down may occur due to postal services when you return the originals (fingerprints and three notarized documents).

⚖ How Long It takes To Expunge/Seal Your Record

How Much Will It Cost

The cost of sealing or expunging a criminal record for a person who lives out-of-state is exactly the same for a person who lives locally. Keeping the cost down for everyone is our goal and made much easier with today’s technology.

⚖ How Much Does a Florida Expungement/Sealing Cost


For More Information About Florida Record Expungements

You can submit your information below and we will email you information about our record expungement and sealing services and representation. You can also go to our ⚖ Florida Expungement webpage for more details.

You will not be placed on a mailing list and we share your information with NO ONE. For more information, see our privacy policy.


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.

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.

How Long Does a Florida Expungement Take

how long does it take to get a record expunged in florida

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.

See, Responsibilities of the SAO with Expungement Applications.

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 Screenshot

FDLE’s website indicating what applications are currently being processed. This screenshot, taken on November 6, 2018, shows applications received in February were being processed.

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.

See Our Expungement and Sealing Fees.

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.

⚠ 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. As pointed out above, FDLE alone takes 8 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, what else are they not being truthful about?

Conclusion

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

You can submit your information below and we will email you information about our record expungement and sealing services and representation. You can also go to our Florida Expungement webpage for more details.


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.

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.