ERIC J DIRGA, PA

Expungements: No Prior Adjudication Exception

adjudication exception

It is accepted that the Florida Law of sealing or expunging a criminal record requires that the person seeking such relief has never been convicted of committing a crime. In legal terms this means you can never have been adjudicated guilty or adjudicated delinquent of a criminal act. This can be confusing because in Florida you can be “found” guilty but not convicted (see, what does convicted mean in Florida). Here we are only addressing “convictions” (adjudicated guilty as an adult or adjudicated delinquent as a child) and the adjudication exception to this blanket rule of no prior convictions. The rule is consistent regarding convictions as an adult. However, there are some adjudication exceptions for some “convictions” (adjudications of delinquency) as a juvenile.

When Being Adjudicated (Delinquent) is Not a Bar

The terminology for a conviction as a juvenile is “adjudicated delinquent” or “adjudication of delinquency.” In sections 943.0585(2)(d) (pertaining to expungements) and 943.059(2)(c) (pertaining to sealings), Florida Statutes, there is an exception for juvenile convictions being a bar to qualifying for a record expungement or sealing. Specifically, each section states that the person seeking such relief has “never been adjudicated guilty (as an adult) or been adjudicated delinquent (as a juvenile) for committing any felony or a misdemeanor specified in s. 943.051(3)(b).”

A Misdemeanor Specified in Section 943.051(3)(b)

As written, sections 943.0585(2)(d) and 943.059(2)(c), Florida Statutes, would allow a person with an adjudication of delinquency for a misdemeanor, not found in s. 943.051(3)(b), Fla. Stat., to still qualify to have a criminal arrest record sealed or expunged. The list of misdemeanor offenses found in this section are:

  1. Assault, as defined in s. 784.011.
  2. Battery, as defined in s. 784.03.
  3. Carrying a concealed weapon, as defined in s. 790.01(1).
  4. Unlawful use of destructive devices or bombs, as defined in s. 790.1615(1).
  5. Neglect of a child, as defined in s. 827.03(1)(e).
  6. Assault or battery on a law enforcement officer, a firefighter, or other specified officers, as defined in s. 784.07(2)(a) and (b).
  7. Open carrying of a weapon, as defined in s. 790.053.
  8. Exposure of sexual organs, as defined in s. 800.03.
  9. Unlawful possession of a firearm, as defined in s. 790.22(5).
  10. Petit theft, as defined in s. 812.014(3).
  11. Cruelty to animals, as defined in s. 828.12(1).
  12. Arson, as defined in s. 806.031(1).
  13. Unlawful possession or discharge of a weapon or firearm at a school-sponsored event or on school property, as provided in s. 790.115.

Any other misdemeanor offense would fall under the adjudication exception.

Non-Specified Misdemeanors Adjudication Exception

Offenses often charged against juveniles, that are not on this list, include criminal mischief, graffiti, and trespass, just to name a few. Typically, the Juvenile Justice System does not adjudicate children for these offenses to begin with, so applying this section would be rare. However, for the practitioner and the person seeking relief, this adjudication exception exists.

Although the adjudication of delinquency may not be a bar to qualifying, the person seeking relief still cannot seal or expunge any arrest that resulted in the adjudication of delinquency. It is simply not a bar for qualifying to seal or expunge a different arrest.

Sealing Record With Adjudication of Delinquency: Possible Scenario

A possible scenario could be as follows:

An adult wants to seal a petit theft charge he received at age 23. He had the adjudication withheld. His prior history includes an adjudication of delinquency for criminal mischief (misdemeanor) when he was 13 years of age. He could apply to FDLE and should obtain a Certificate of Eligibility to seal the petit theft arrest.

This would be rare, as mentioned above, since most juvenile courts would not have adjudicated a 13 year old of misdemeanor criminal mischief without a prolonged history. However, the possibility of this adjudication exception should be investigated in order to assist a person who wants to seal or expunge a criminal arrest record.


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 online in Orlando, FL. He provides representation for sealing and expunging criminal records throughout the state of Florida.

Domestic Violence Arrests Need to Be Expunged

Domestic Violence arrests are up. They have been rising for about 20 years. Not because man has decided to batter his wife more – because the legal definition has been expanded. Two siblings that get in a fight (say age 8 and 10) are now committing domestic violence. What use to be Spouse Abuse is now generically called domestic violence and that can include siblings, parent and child, ex-lovers, and even roommates. But that is not the worst of it. Get arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence and you immediately lose your Second Amendment right to bear arms. Poof – like that.

Most Domestic Violence Arrests Result in Dropped Charges

There is good news. Probably over (way over) 75% of domestic violence arrests result in the State Attorney dropping the charges. Sounds great but the problem with arrests is that even if the charges are dropped they stay on your background. This means when you apply for a job, apartment, or want to volunteer, the odds are that this arrest will show up.

Dropped Charges Remain on Your Record

You must remember that your record is one of arrests not convictions. This means that, even if the case is dropped or you are acquitted after a trial, you still have a record of the arrest. These records are public – anyone can looked them up on the Clerk of Court’s website.

Background Checks Show Dropped Charges

Today, just about everything we want to do requires a background check. We don’t want people to see charges that were dropped or dismissed. We shouldn’t be punished for things we have never be found guilty of – should we?

Expunge Your Domestic Violence Arrest

Florida law allows for anyone who has been arrested but had the charges dropped, dismissed, or not even filed on, to have that arrest expunged (so long as that person has never been convicted of a criminal offense). An acquittal can be sealed.

An expunged or sealed record removes the arrest from all government agencies including the Clerk of Court, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, State Attorneys Office, and the Sheriff and arresting agency. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also makes such information confidential from the public.

Find out more information on my website about expungement (and sealings), how to qualify, how much it costs, and other questions and answers. Don’t let a domestic violence charge punish you for life. Have it expunged today.


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 online in Orlando, FL. He provides representation for sealing and expunging criminal records throughout the state of Florida.

Arrested? Adjudication Withheld

Overcoming An Arrest and Moving On

Every day people are arrested. For some it is a way of life, for others it is a horrible one-time experience. Those that cannot learn from these experiences, well, I have no advice for you …maybe “dream small.” But the majority of you that feel like your world is crashing down because of this first time mistake – relax, take a deep breath, and have hope. You can get past this and move on with your life. Just remember the words “adjudication withheld.”

Getting Back On Your Feet

The first thing you must do is stop all the spinning going on in your head. Contacting a lawyer may help and you should seek legal advice but you should also have a grasp of what is going on. You don’t want to go through this in a fog.

The Process

The first thing you need to understand is the procedure. You were arrested, you may have had your initial or first appearance, but that is just the beginning. The arraignment is the next hearing. This is the first court date you have to go to unless you hire a lawyer to represent you for your case (and you should hire a lawyer if you can). The only things that happen at an arraignment are:

  • The Court tells you what the State Attorney’s Office has charged you with.
  • The Court will see if you qualify for the Public Defender to represent you.
  • The Court asks you how you want to plea.
    • Guilty
    • No Contest (think of it as the same as Guilty)
    • Not Guilty
  • The prosecutor (or judge) may make a offer to settle the case.

If you enter a plea of Guilty or No Contest the court will most probably resolve the case right then and there. Unless the prosecutor or the judge told you in advance what the sanctions would be, you should not blindly accept responsibility for whatever it is you have been charged with. There is no penalty for entering a plea of not guilty and changing your mind later. IMPORTANT: Read next paragraph.

Do Not Be Adjudicated Guilty – Magic Words are “Adjudication Withheld”

If you are going to enter a plea of Guilty or No Contest, remember if the offer includes an “Adjudication of Guilt” you will be convicted and this will never come off your public arrest record.

You want the judge to “withhold” the adjudication of guilt. That keeps you from being convicted and may allow you to seal your public arrest record in the future.

The magic word is “withhold” or any form of it. Remember that – think “Adjudication Withheld.”

After You Enter a Not Guilty Plea

After your Not Guilty plea has been entered, your case will be set for a another hearing date. If you have hired an attorney he or she will probably waive your appearance to this hearing. If you don’t have a lawyer or you have the public defender, you must go to this hearing.

At this point the Court only wants to know:

  • Will you plead guilty or No Contest?
  • Do you need a continuance?
  • Do you want to go to trial?

There may be other things such as requesting time for motions to be heard but that is usually entailed with a continuance.

IMPORTANT: If you have a lawyer or the public defender, they will probably convey to you an offer and explain the pros and cons with it. Many first offense offers are pretty standard. Listen carefully to what the offer is. Remember – you need to have the adjudication of guilt “withheld” by the court. Otherwise the offer is a life sentence (the arrest will be seen by the public for the rest of your life*).

The Resolution of the Case – Adjudication Withheld

How you decide to resolve your case is up to you. No one can force you into entering a plea against your will. However, it is quite usual for a first offender to obtain a withhold of adjudication – so ask for it. “Your Honor, can I have adjudication withheld.” Even if the offer from the prosecutor is to adjudicate you guilty – ask the judge for adjudication withheld.

Pretrial Diversion

Many first offenders are offered “diversion.” These are programs set up by the State Attorneys Office. The basic concept is you do the sanctions (fines, classes, community service) you would have done if you entered a plea of “guilty” but, once completed, the charges are dismissed. This is a win and if offered you should accept it and complete it. If you do this, you can expunge the arrest.

Once the Case is Closed

Once the case is closed and you have completed any sanctions required by the court and paid all fees – you have one more thing to do. Because all arrests and everything that flows from an arrest is a public record – you need to make that record a non-public record.

How to Make Your Case Non-Public

If you entered a plea of no contest or guilty and had the adjudication of guilt withheld, you can now seal the record. If your case was dismissed because you had a great attorney or completed pretrial diversion, you can now expunge the record. Both accomplish the same goal.

Once your case is no longer a public record you can move on with your life and leave this bad moment in the past.


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 online in Orlando, FL. He provides representation for sealing and expunging criminal records throughout the state of Florida.

*That is the current law. If it changes, this may change.

Can You Teach With A Record

Teacher With Criminal Record

Becoming a Teacher in Florida

Many people who contact me about an expungement are concerned about their ability to be a teacher in the public school system of Florida. In this post I try to explain what the Florida law states regarding the employment of teachers as it relates to past criminal records.

Prerequisites to Teach

The State Board of Education requires that, to be eligible for employment, the following positions hold a Certificate:

  • School Supervisor
  • School Principal
  • Teacher
  • Library Media Specialist
  • School Counselor
  • Athletic Coach
  • Other position in which the employee serves in an instructional capacity.

There may be differences in the educational background needed for each of those positions (see, section 1012.55, Florida Statutes) and no one seeking a certificate can have a conviction for certain specified crimes. See, section 1012.315, Florida Statutes.

Once You Have a Teaching Certificate

Even if you have a teaching certificate, there are qualifications that are required to be employed. These can be found under section 1012.32, Florida Statutes (Qualifications of personnel). These include:

  • Be of good moral character
  • Be 18 years of age
  • Cannot be ineligible under s. 1012.315, Fla. Stat.
  • Hold a Certificate
  • Pass a Level 2 background screening (repeated every 5-years)
  • Cannot have been convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude”

Note that some of these requirements can be interpreted broadly.

What Convictions Can Prohibit a Certificate

The list of crimes that can prohibit a person from receiving any teaching certification is listed in section 1012.315, Florida Statutes.

Good Moral Character; Moral Turpitude

As noted above, some qualifications can be broadly interpreted. What is considered “good moral character” may be subject to local rules and appellate decisions. Moral turpitude typically includes a finding that actions taken by a person involved baseness, vileness, or depravity. An example of a crime of moral turpitude is prostitution. Note that the crimes listed in section 1012.315 are mostly serious offenses. However, violating “good moral character” or being involved in acts of “moral turpitude” need not be as serious an offense.

Can an Expungement or Sealing of a Criminal Record Help

The disqualifying criteria regarding crimes listed above all require that the person have been “convicted” of the offense. It is not clear whether convicted includes offenses where a person was found guilty but had the adjudication of guilt “withheld.” (See, differences between a conviction and a withhold). The qualification requiring that the person “be of good moral character” may envelope any finding of guilt.

A sealed record or an expunged record is no longer a public record. The sealing and expungement laws also allow you to deny that the arrest ever occurred (or that it was not you). There are exceptions to this “deniability” benefit. Even if a record has been sealed or expunged, the law requires that a person seeking employment as a teacher disclose the the arrest (even if dropped).

Expunging the Record

Expunging a criminal record requires that the charges have been dropped. Since a case where the charges have been dropped would not be a finding of guilt, it seems this would not affect employment or the obtaining of a certificate. However, it would seem advantageous to have the record expunged. Although disclosure to the school is required, it would stop parents and other individuals from seeing the arrest.

Sealing the Record

A person can seal a criminal record if found guilty of a criminal offense and the adjudication has been “withheld.” However, certain offenses, even if the adjudication has been withheld, are prohibited from sealing. Moreover, disclosure to the school is still required. If the offense is not one found in section 1012.315 and is eligible to be sealed it is always better to have it sealed even though it won’t prevent the school from knowing of it.

Should You Seek Being a Teacher With a Record

If you have been arrested, regardless of the outcome, and you are considering teaching as a career you should first talk with your school/college Guidance Counselor and check with the local School Board in your county. If you decide to seal or expunge the record, be sure to obtain certified copies of the important case documents. You may need to provide them to future potential employers.


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 online in Orlando, FL. He provides representation for sealing and expunging criminal records throughout the state of Florida.