Many people believe that if their criminal case was dismissed or they had adjudication withheld they do not have an arrest record. Another common belief is if they did not go to jail they weren’t arrested. These two misconceptions come back to haunt people everyday. The Courts may also be part of the problem. I hear too often from too many different people that they were told they did not have a record because they received a withhold.
I Wasn’t Arrested – Misconception #1
If you ever had to go to court to answer to a criminal charge you were arrested. This can be confusing because most of us believe being arrested means going to jail. This is not true. All criminal cases must start with an arrest. For many minor offenses you may not go to jail. You may simply be given a Notice to Appear [NOA]. A NOA directs you to appear before a court for an arraignment. The date you receive the NOA is your arrest date. The NOA is technically an arrest.
My Case Was Dismissed – Misconception #2
You were arrested (or received a NOA) but my case was dismissed. The prosecutor dumped it and you did not have to do anything. Therefore you have no record.
Well, not so fast. Actually, you do not have any criminal charges proved against you but you still have a date in your life on which you were arrested. That does not go away with the case. You have to remember that once you are arrested a record is being made regarding that arrest. This record follows you through your case and if you do get it dismissed it will say the case was dismissed. It will also start off with the arrest.
The good news is that if you had the charge dropped or dismissed you may be eligible to have that record expunged. If you are eligible you definitely want to have this done.
People See What You Were Arrested For – Not The End Result
When people look at your record the first thing they see is what you were originally arrested for. This is not good because typically law enforcement initially overcharge you. For example, if the police catch you in someone else’s house you will probably be charged with burglary. When the State Attorney gets the case they may only officially charge you with trespass. But when someone searches your arrest record they see Burglary. Why? Because it is an arrest record and you were initially arrested for burglary.
The Judge Withheld The Adjudication Of Guilt – Misconception #3
The judge withheld the adjudication of guilt and you think that means you do not have an arrest record. Go back and read #2 above. An adjudication of guilt is a strange concept. It means the court found you guilty but did not convict you. This can be very confusing especially because this concept is very rare. Florida has it. Most states do not. People in other states will see that you were found guilty and consider you convicted. Good luck trying to explain the “withhold.”
If you had adjudication withheld you still have an arrest record- you were still found guilty – you just weren’t convicted. Better – you may be eligible to have your arrest record sealed. If you qualify you should do this immediately.
Why Does Something That Was Never Proven Punish Me For Life?
Think about this – let’s say you were arrested and the charges are dropped or you were arrested and punished for your bad deeds. Why do you still pay the price because of your record?
The answer is your state and local government are making money selling public records. This includes the record of your arrest. The government is so damn greedy they won’t even wait to see if you actually had the charges proved against you. Add to this the fact that times have seriously changed. We live in an information age where the government simply shakes off disclosures that point out how they spy on all of us (and apparently, we don’t care). We don’t care unless it affects us personally.
Florida Expungement And Sealing Of Criminal Records
Fortunately, Florida has a process to remove an arrest record. It is limited, you have to qualify, and it is a pretty strong law. Take advantage of it. Waiting just means more private companies will have your information.