Florida law allows you to seal or expunge a criminal arrest record if you qualify. Record expungement qualification and sealing qualification are very similar and easy to determine. If you qualify, you can contact me about representation. The legal fees and costs are located here. Or if you are ambitious, you can buy my book to help you seal or expunge your Florida record yourself. Regardless, qualifying is the first step.
Qualifying for Record Expungement – Step by Step
Qualifying to have your criminal arrest record either sealed or expunged is a matter of fact. Either you qualify or you do not. The specific disposition of your case determines if it qualifies to be sealed or expunged.
Record Expungement Qualification
If your case has been:
- no-billed (no information or not filed on), or
- you were acquitted after a trial
it is eligible to be expunged.*
Record Sealing Qualification
If your case was resolved in any of the following manners it is eligible to be sealed:
- You entered a plea of “Guilty” or “No Contest” and the Court “Withheld” the adjudication of guilt.
- You were found guilty after a trial and the Court “Withheld” the adjudication of guilt.
In either instance (above), you were not found guilty of a prohibited offense.*
*IMPORTANT: In addition, you can never have been convicted (adjudicated guilty in Florida) of any criminal offense or have been adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile of any criminal offense (juvenile offense exceptions) in your entire life.
Expungement Qualifying is the First Step
Record expungement qualification is only the first step in the sealing or expungement process. 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 contact me and we can determine if you qualify together. Remember, qualifying is the biggest hurdle.
STARTING THE EXPUNGEMENT (and Sealing) PROCESS – Qualifying
Follow the steps spelled out below to see if you qualify to have your Florida arrest record sealed or expunged. Never pay an attorney to seal or expunge your record before you know if you qualify.
STEP ONE – Qualifying for the Type of Help You Need
First, determine what type of record expungement (sealing) you really need. Record expungement qualification is very similar to that of a record sealing, however there are also other types that are less used.
- 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: Record expungement qualification requires answering just three simple questions (same for sealings). 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?
#1-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 to determine your criminal record expungement qualification.
If you do not know this information you can run a pre-screening background check on yourself.
#2-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 (there are some juvenile conviction exceptions to this but they are very limited). It does not matter that the record you want sealed or expunged was not a conviction – I need to know if you were ever convicted to determine your criminal record expungement qualification. (If you have a pending criminal case, see Criminal Case Resolutions.)
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 to have your record sealed even if you were found guilty or pled “no contest” or “guilty” 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 1) an adjudication of guilt or 2) if the adjudication was withheld.
If you were adjudicated guilty (convicted) 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 the disposition of your juvenile records, you must contact the clerk yourself and find out what the outcome of each of those cases were. I 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. (See also, FDLE Reasons for denial.)
REMEMBER: This list addresses what you were found guilty of – not the charge you were arrested for. This is a big difference.
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
I continue to find ways to reduce my legal fees as much as possible to help you afford my services. I am one of the most experienced lawyers that focuses on expunging records and you will also see that I am one of the least expensive. 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 we determine your expungement qualification and 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
THIS IS IMPORTANT: I have a page specifically 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.