ERIC J DIRGA, PA

Record Expungement and Firearm Purchasing Restriction

firearm purchasing restriction

People often ask if a Record Sealing can help them get out from under the temporary restriction on purchasing firearms after they have been found guilty of certain offenses. Under certain conditions, even a withhold of adjudication can result in a firearm purchasing restriction.

A review of the pertinent statute indicates that relief from the firearm purchasing restriction may be found with the occurrence of an expunction. It is unclear if the legislature was referencing only the expungement statute or was including the sealing statute with the use of the term expunction.

A plain reading of the statute would mean that a record would have to be expunged for any benefit to apply*. However, such a reading would make that portion of the statute meaningless, leaving open the possibility of review.

*A disposition with the finding of guilt and a withhold of the adjudication is ineligible for immediate expungement. The one exception would be the Early Automatic Expungement for juveniles.

Effect of Record Sealing on Temporary Firearm Purchasing Restriction

It is important to note that a withhold of adjudication on a felony charge does not rescind any civil rights but it does act as a temporary loss of your ability to purchase a firearm. This same firearm purchasing restriction applies to misdemeanor domestic violence charges where the adjudication was withheld*. This prohibition lasts for three years after all conditions of the court have been fulfilled or an “expunction” has occurred.

*A conviction for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge is a permanent restriction.

Section 790.065, Florida Statutes

Section 790.065, Florida Statutes, deals strictly with the sale of firearms by licensed dealers to the public. It lists what a licensed dealer must do before a sale can be concluded, including a required background check. It also lists the disqualifying criteria for the sale of a firearm which includes the temporary firearm purchasing restriction.

The pertinent parts of the section follow:

790.065 Sale and delivery of firearms.—
(1)(a) A licensed . . . dealer may not sell or deliver from [his] inventory or [his] licensed premises any firearm to another person . . . until [he] has:
1. Obtained a completed form from the potential buyer . . . which shall include the name, date of birth, gender, race, and social security number or other [photo] identification number of such potential buyer[.]
2. Collected a fee from the potential buyer for processing the criminal history check[.] . . . [.]
3. Requested, by means of a toll-free telephone call or other electronic means, the Department of Law Enforcement to conduct a check of the information as reported and reflected in the Florida Crime Information Center and National Crime Information Center systems as of the date of the request.
4. . . .
(b) . . .
(c) . . .
(2) Upon receipt of a request for a criminal history record check, the Department of Law Enforcement shall, during the licensee’s call or by return call, forthwith:
(a) Review any records available to determine if the potential buyer or transferee:
1. Has been convicted of a felony and is prohibited from receipt or possession of a firearm pursuant to s. 790.23;
2. Has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, and therefore is prohibited from purchasing a firearm;
3. Has had adjudication of guilt withheld or imposition of sentence suspended on any felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence unless 3 years have elapsed since probation or any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled or expunction has occurred; or
4. Has been adjudicated mentally defective or has been committed to a mental institution by a court or as provided in sub-sub-subparagraph b.(II), and as a result is prohibited by state or federal law from purchasing a firearm.
. . .
(b) . . .
(c)1. Review any records available to it to determine whether the potential buyer or transferee has been indicted or has had an information filed against her or him for an offense that is a felony under either state or federal law, or, as mandated by federal law, has had an injunction for protection against domestic violence entered against the potential buyer or transferee under s. 741.30, has had an injunction for protection against repeat violence entered against the potential buyer or transferee under s. 784.046, or has been arrested for a dangerous crime as specified in s. 907.041(4)(a) or for any of the following enumerated offenses:
a. Criminal anarchy under ss. 876.01 and 876.02.
b. Extortion under s. 836.05.
c. Explosives violations under s. 552.22(1) and (2).
d. Controlled substances violations under chapter 893.
e. Resisting an officer with violence under s. 843.01.
f. Weapons and firearms violations under this chapter.
g. Treason under s. 876.32.
h. Assisting self-murder under s. 782.08.
i. Sabotage under s. 876.38.
j. Stalking or aggravated stalking under s. 784.048.
If the review indicates any such indictment, information, or arrest, the department shall provide to the licensee a conditional nonapproval number.
. . .

-Emphasis added

Subsection (2)(a)3. seems to suggest that the 3-year firearm purchasing restriction period, after all the conditions of the court have been met, could be shortened if an intervening expunction has occurred.

Definition

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Expunction as “the act of expunging, the state of being expunged, erasure.” The wording or expunction has occurred, by a plain reading of the statute, seems to suggest that the authors did not include the act of Sealing the record, which is the only relief a person would qualify for under these conditions and the only relief that could be done within the 3-year period.

Current Florida Law

Under current Florida law a person who has had a withhold of adjudication on a felony is not immediately eligible to Expunge (§ 943.0585, Fla. Stat.) his or her record. They may qualify to Seal (§ 943.059, Fla. Stat.) their record. In order to immediately Expunge a record, all of the charges must have been dropped, dismissed, or acquitted by a jury (in which case the firearm purchasing restriction would not exist).

Expunging a Withhold of Adjudication

A person may Expunge a criminal record where the adjudication of guilt has been withheld only after it has been Sealed for 10-years (see, Expunging a Sealed Record). In order to qualify to seal a record, all the conditions of the court have to be completed. For example:

John is arrested for grand theft, a felony. The day the State Attorney’s Office files an Information charging him with the offense he is conditionally restricted from purchasing a firearm. On “day 1” he enters a plea and the court withholds the adjudication on the condition that he successfully complete 2-years of probation and pay restitution. On day 1 the firearm purchase restriction is in full effect. At “day 1 plus 2-years” he has finished his obligation to the court. He must now wait the additional 3-years to be able to legally purchase a firearm. He immediately precedes to start the Sealing process (he is not eligible to expunge his record at this point). His record is sealed on “day 1 plus 2-years plus 10 months.” Is the firearm purchasing restriction now removed before the expiration of the 3-years or does he now have to wait 10-years and then expunge his record?

If the language or expunction has occurred excludes Sealing the record, then that language is superfluous. It would take almost 12-years (to seal the record, wait 10-years, then expunge the record) for a record Expungement to occur – well outside of the 3-year restriction.

Statutory Construction

Statutory construction goes beyond just a plain reading of the statute. There is a presumption that the legislature meant to write the laws as they did and that the wording of the law should have meaning. It must also make sense. The Florida Supreme Court, in Metropolitan Casualty Insurance v. Tepper, 2 So.3d 209 (Fla. 2009), explains how courts are to interpret the statutory laws.

We have recognized that “the Legislature does not intend to enact useless provisions, and courts should avoid readings that would render part of a statute meaningless.” State v. Goode, 830 So.2d 817, 824 (Fla.2002); see also Martinez v. State, 981 So.2d 449, 452 (Fla.2008)(repeating this quote). “[W]ords in a statute are not to be construed as superfluous if a reasonable construction exists that gives effect to all words.” State v. Bodden, 877 So.2d 680, 686 (Fla.2004).

A reasonable construction of or expunction has occurred must be read to encompass the Sealing of the record for it to have any meaning with regard to the 3-year firearm purchasing restriction. Sections 943.0585 (expungement) and 943.059 (sealing) are almost identical statutes. At one point in time they we both encompassed in section 943.058, Florida Statutes (since replaced).

The expungement statute and the sealing statute provide the same benefits. The main difference between the sections are the restrictions on what charges can be Sealed where a person was actually found guilty. The expungement statute does not have that restriction because all charges must have been dropped, dismissed, or acquitted by a jury.

Since section 790.065(2)(a)3. deals directly with a finding of guilt and a 3-year time frame, it only makes sense that the term “expunction” that the legislature uses is referencing section 943.059 – the Sealing statute.


Conclusion

Therefore, in order for the phrase or expunction has occurred to have meaning and not be superfluous it must include the term Sealing. This would mean that sealing a record immediately upon the completion of the court’s conditions can reduce the 3-year firearm purchasing restriction.


For More Information Emailed to You

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.

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.

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.”

There are many reasons why a State Attorney may not annotate there files to indicate lawful self-defense. The main reason today would be to avoid the deceased’s relatives outcries and the media storm that would follow under specific circumstances. The Jorge Zimmerman/Trevon Martin case is a classic example.

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 for the lack of prosecution.

In the above situation, the defendant/petitioner had better be prepared for the legal cost of an appeal. It is probable that the Office of the State Attorney would object to a lawful self-defense expungement petition under those circumstances.

The required notation (finding) for this type of expungement gives the State Attorney an easy method of discouraging it (by not notating it). We can hope, however, that the 20 Offices do the right thing.

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 Emailed to You

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

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. Public records are public forever unless you have your arrest record expunged or sealed.

Technology Makes It Easy

Not only are arrest records public records, technology today allows anyone with a computer or smartphone to look these up over the internet. Now you can not only find the case, you can search the actual documents and download them. Want to read your police report? It’s all there, online.

Orange County, Florida, Clerk of Court Record Search

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.

Records Do Not Go Away Because Charges Were Dropped

It is an incorrect belief that a record goes away because the charges were dropped. 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.

BackgroundChecks.com (a private company that sells arrest records).

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.

Chapter 119, Florida Statutes: Public Records

Some people believe that criminal records disappear after a specific period of time. This is also 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, they may believe that their record is no longer available (that it no longer exists).

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. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening.

Today, courts and Clerk’s convert every document into a PDF and post it online. There are some restrictions but for criminal cases – those deal with the victims, not the defendant.

You have to make your arrest record a non-public document. In Florida, if the record is not a public record – you will not find it on any government website. The only way to do this with a criminal record is by expunging or sealing the record.

A Florida Expungement or Sealing Turns a Public Record into a Confidential Record

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 have been arrested, your case is now closed, and you qualify to have this done, it should be the first thing you do.

Start Your Expungement

Expunging your record actually makes certain government agencies destroy those records. Sealing your record makes all agencies treat your record as confidential – not a public record.

You have to qualify to have your record either expunged or sealed. Once you know which one you qualify for, you should get it done immediately.


For More Information Emailed to You

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.

Getting Arrested 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 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 (Hire a Lawyer)

Entering a Plea of Not Guilty

You may have done something wrong and you may think the best way to deal with it is to just admit it. However, this can be a huge mistake. Entering a plea (other than Not Guilty) without advice from counsel can lead to irreparable harm that can last a lifetime.

You Just Need More Time, Say Not Guilty

Entering a plea of Not Guilty is not the same as telling the court “I didn’t do anything wrong and I am going to fight this all the way.” Neither the court, the prosecutor, or anyone else sees it that way. A plea of Not Guilty is simply telling the court you have not yet decided what you are going to do. It is a Right, and you should use it.

What Visitors Get Arrested For

Florida visitors who get arrested in Florida typically get charged with minor offenses such as domestic arguing (violence), theft (shoplifting), or DUI/drugs (marijuana 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.

Most of these type of cases (except domestic violence) will result in pretrial release. A bond (security release) or conditional release (usually prohibiting you from contacting a victim) would indicate a more serious offense.

After You Get Released, Understand What is Happening

Any arrest will be very stressful. The first thing you should do is read all the paperwork you received from the Court. Understand what just happened and what the next step is. The next step is typically a date for your arraignment set off two to four weeks away. This is a good time to contact a Criminal Attorney.

Contacting A Lawyer

After your release, you will then have the time to contact and hire a lawyer to handle your case. Representing out-of-state clients is a routine practice for us. We make contacting us easy.

Call or Text Us at 407-434-1858 to get started.

When you contact us, let us know your are a visitor and you were arrested. We will explain your situation, clear away the fog, and help you navigate through your next steps.

⚖ Criminal Defense

If the arraignment is scheduled for after you were suppose to return home, we can waive your appearance. You won’t have to be there and, so long as there is no restriction on travel, you will be able to return home.

The Court Process Takes Months

When you hire us to handle your criminal case, we deal with all the court matters. This can take months. There are many things that have to happen and no one seems to be in a rush to get it done. On top of that, you are not alone. There are many other cases that the prosecutor and the court have to deal with.

Most criminal cases can be handled while you are back home. And most cases do not require you to return in order to resolve the case unless it goes to trial.

Resolving a Florida Arrest for Florida Visitors

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

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

These are important issues to consider when deciding the best course of action.

We Also Handle Traffic Tickets

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

Expunging or Sealing Your Criminal Record After Resolving Your Florida Arrest

One of the important considerations you must understand 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 it from your employer, family and friends, off job applications, etc.

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.

We have been doing this for over 20 years. We handle everything today with email, phone, text, and skype technology. We have built our practice around the use of technology to make it as easy for our clients as possible.

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, we 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.

Will The Distance Cause Unnecessary Delays

As noted above, the use of technology mitigates any delays due to distance. Our experience also reduces most delays.

⚖ 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.

⚖ Expungement Cost


For More Information Emailed to You

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.