Pardons and Expungements
The Effect of a Pardon on the Ability to Expunge an Arrest Record; Case Law
This page provides links to Florida Case Law regarding sealing and expungements and what the effect of a pardon has on a person’s ability to obtain relief. The cases are list below from the most recent to the earliest. A brief description follows. Citations were removed. Please refer to actual case for complete understanding.
Florida Seal and Expunge Case Law – The Pardon Effect
The effect of a pardon on someone’s past is confusing. Many people think that a pardon will make their criminal record disappear. This is incorrect. The statute regarding making criminal records no longer public resides in the sealing and expungement statutes. People who receive pardons often try to take the extra step and seal or expunge their pardoned criminal record. Unfortunately, a person with a pardoned offense must still comply with the requirements of qualification set forth in the the seal and expunge statutes.
R.J.L. v. State, 887 So.2d 1268 (Fla. 2004): Resolving conflict between Doe and Randall. It is uncontested that a pardon has the effect of removing punishment and disabilities, and restoring civil rights. However, the denial of records expunction does not constitute a punishment. The Court held that a records expunction is a right, which, pursuant to the expunction statute, is lost when a person is convicted of a criminal offense. However, eligibility for records expunction is not a civil right restored by the grant of a gubernatorial pardon. A pardon does not eliminate the adjudication of guilt, creating a fiction that the crime never occurred. Pursuant to the current expunction statute, a person will only qualify for a certificate of eligibility if he [h]as not been adjudicated guilty of, or adjudicated delinquent for committing, any of the acts stemming from the arrest or alleged criminal activity to which the petition to expunge pertains. § 943.0585(2)(e), Fla. Stat. (2002). The petitioner argues that, because of his pardon, he satisfies this condition. This argument is misplaced, and confuses a pardon with expunction. A pardon is the equivalent of forgiveness for a crime, it does not declare the pardoned individual innocent of the crime. While a pardon removes the legal consequences of a crime, it does not remove the historical fact that the conviction occurred; a pardon does not mean that the conviction is gone. Today, we hold that a pardon does not have the effect of erasing guilt so that a conviction is treated as though it had never occurred. A pardoned individual can therefore not satisfy the requirements of section 943.0585(2)(e), and cannot qualify for a certificate of eligibility. See also my post on Can a Pardon Make You Eligible to Expunge.
Roberto v. State, 853 So.2d 582 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003): Petitioner was convicted of trafficking and received a pardon. The pardon specifically indicated that it did not allow the record to be sealed or expunged. The instant case was distinguished from Doe and Randall in that petitioner’s pardon specifically precludes it from being construed to allow for expunction of his conviction. That being so, this court does not need to reconsider Doe in light of the additional analysis in Randall, and the constitutional issue alluded to in Doe does not obtain in the instant case because it is the pardon itself which circumscribes the petitioner’s rights.
Randall v. Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 791 So.2d 1238 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001): The Court concluded that our supreme court has adopted the position that, while a full pardon has the effect of removing all legal punishment for the offense and restoring one’s civil rights, it does not wipe out either guilt or the fact of conviction. The Doe court failed to consider the impact of these decisions on its analysis. As a result, we believe that the Doe court misinterpreted the state of Florida law on the issue, and arrived at an erroneous conclusion. Accordingly, we decline to follow Doe, with which we note direct conflict. Instead, because the retention of Randall’s criminal history record does not constitute punishment of any sort but, rather, merely accurately reflects the historical fact of his arrest and subsequent conviction, we hold that the trial court did not depart from the essential requirements of law when it denied Randall’s petition seeking a writ of mandamus.
Doe v. State, 595 So.2d 212 (Fla. 5th DCA 1992): Petitioner after being convicted received full pardon. This court decided that the power of the full pardon allowed the petitioner to expunge record. This has subsequently been overturned by executive order stating that a pardon does not remove the barriers to a sealing or expungement found in the statute. Case does set forth the standard for opening a sealed or expunged record:
the standard of review applicable to the opening of a sealed or expunged criminal history record is not one of discretion but one of good cause shown to open it under conditions wherein the ends of justice require it.
Questions; Suggestions; Representation
If you have a question or can suggest additional case law, or you need representation to help you seal or expunge your record, please contact me here.