Before You Try – Do You Qualify
Eric J. Dirga, P.A., Office Orlando
Florida law allows you to seal or expunge a criminal arrest record if you qualify. If your case has been dismissed, dropped, or no-billed (no information or not filed on) it is eligible to be expunged. If your case resulted in a withhold of adjudication you may be eligible to have it sealed. There are several other factors to determine eligibility that we can discuss when you are ready.
Below I have posed several questions you can ask yourself to see if you qualify. If you get confused it is not a problem – just give me a call and we can determine if you qualify together.
STARTING THE EXPUNGEMENT PROCESS
STEP ONE – What Type of Record Expungement Do You Need
First, determine what type of record expungement (sealing) you really need.
- INACCURATE CRIMINAL RECORD: If you have never been arrested but have an arrest or arrests appearing on your criminal background, or your arrest and case information is inaccurate then go to the Correct Your Criminal Record page.
- MISTAKEN ARREST: If you were arrested due to a mistake (for example, arrested on a warrant for a person with the same name as you) then go to Administrative Expungements page. Caution: This is not just because you think it was a mistake.
- JUVENILE ARREST RECORDS: If you are a juvenile (under 18 years of age) and you are in or just completed a pretrial diversion program please go to the Juvenile Seal and Expunge page first. This is time sensitive.
- CRIMINAL RECORD YOU WANT REMOVED: If you were arrested for any other reason please continue on to Step Two.
STEP TWO – Do You Qualify for an Expungement or Sealing
THIS IS IMPORTANT: The next thing you need to do is to ask yourself these three questions:
1. How many times in your entire life (from the time you were born) have you been arrested?
2. Have any of those arrests resulted in the Court
Adjudicating you guilty or delinquent?
3. Have you ever sealed or expunged a prior arrest record in the State of Florida before today?
How Many Times Were You Arrested?
You need to remember how many times you have been arrested (or given a notice to appear in court) for a criminal offense. We need to know the dispositions (how the case was resolved by the court) for all of your cases.
If you do not know this information you can run a pre-screening background check on yourself.
Were You Ever Convicted?
Question 2 is very important. A conviction (when the court adjudicates you guilty or delinquent) in any criminal case (including from other states) will make you ineligible to seal or expunge a criminal record. It does not matter that the record you want sealed or expunged was not a conviction – any conviction will disqualify you.
You Can Be Found Guilty AND NOT CONVICTED in Florida
This can be confusing. In Florida you can be found guilty BUT NOT CONVICTED. This means that you may still qualify even if you were found guilty or pled no contest to a criminal charge. See our What is a Conviction page to learn more.
Finding Out If You Have Been Convicted
If you answered “no” to numbers 2 and 3 you’re in good shape. If you are not sure you can search your records by going to the Clerk of Court in the county where you were arrested. Most Clerk’s websites have a search function for criminal records. Unfortunately, these are often hard to find. If you can’t find it give them a call.
HINT: If you contact the Clerk you want to find out if your case resulted in an adjudication of guilt or if the adjudication was withheld.
If you were adjudicated guilty you would not qualify to have any record sealed or expunged under current Florida law. If your case was relatively recent (within the last two years) there may be hope but you need to act fast. There may be a reason to withdraw your plea and remove the adjudication of guilt. This is difficult and you will need an attorney. Please call. (The reason to withdraw your plea cannot be simply because you want your adjudication withheld.)
State v. Cousins, 62 So.3d 677 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011): The trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to modify Cousins’ completed sentence to reflect a withhold of adjudication. As a general matter, a trial court loses jurisdiction to modify or change a sentence 60 days after the sentence is imposed or becomes final. See State v. Nichols, 629 So. 2d 970, 972 (Fla. 5th DCA 1993); cf. Schlabach v. State, 37 So. 3d 230 (Fla. 2010); Davis v. State, 887 So. 2d 1286 (Fla. 2004). Certainly, a trial court lacks jurisdiction to modify a legal sentence several years after it has been completed by the defendant. The State’s petition for a writ of certiorari is granted and the order of the trial court modifying Cousins’ judgment and sentence is quashed.
If you are unsure of your juvenile records you must contact the clerk and find out what the outcome of those cases were. We do not have access to your juvenile records and they are not maintained online by the Clerks.
If You Were Found Guilty And Had The Adjudication Withheld
If the case you want to try to clear resulted in a withholding of the adjudication of guilt you need to make sure it does not involve a charge that is prohibited from being sealed. You can find this out by going to the link on my Prohibited Offenses page.
REMEMBER: This list addresses only what you were eventually found guilty for not the charge for which you were originally arrested.
STEP THREE – Getting Started
If it looks like you qualify go to the START YOUR EXPUNGEMENT OR SEALING TODAY page and fill out the form. Be specific and do not guess (leave blank if you don’t know). This will complete the information we require to begin the process of sealing or expunging your Florida criminal record. Do not worry. after you submit the information we still have to contact you, double check that you qualify, and only then start with the initial payment.
STEP FOUR – The Cost
There is a legal fee portion for my services and a costs portion that goes towards costs. My billing structure to seal or expunge a criminal record can be found at the How Much Does It Cost page. Please review my fee structure before continuing. If you have a question about a legal fee or cost please contact us and ask.
STEP FIVE – Sit Back And Relax
Here is the easy part. After you hire us we will be sending you some documents. These include three documents that you need to notarize and a fingerprint card. Follow the instructions and return the completed forms. After that sit back and relax, we will take care of everything else.
The Final Step – After Your Criminal Record is Sealed Or Expunged
We offer counseling on how to maximize the benefits of your court ordered expungement or sealing. Additionally, we are working on a process to notify private background check companies so that the wait for those companies to update their records is considerably shortened.