A criminal record will follow you for years, even if your case was dismissed. Criminal charges can show up on background checks when you apply for jobs or try to rent an apartment. You could face all kinds of problems if you have to answer “yes” to the question, “have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense.” You can do something about it though. The state of Florida understands that good people make mistakes and will let you seal or expunge one criminal charge, if you qualify.
What is Sealing and Expunging a Criminal Record?
Sealing and expunging are both legal tools that allow you to make a criminal record no longer available to the public. That means it won’t show up on a criminal background check. There is a difference between the two though:
Sealing a Criminal Record: When your record is sealed, it is no longer available to the public. That record does still exist, but it is only available to you, your lawyer, the courts (with a judge’s order) or on a criminal background check for firearms purchases. When your record is sealed, you do not have to disclose that arrest on applications for employment or on rental applications. However, some exceptions include applying for a job in law enforcement, applying to work with children, or if you are the defendant in a new criminal prosecution.
Expunging a Criminal Record: When your record is expunged, by law that record must be physically destroyed at the courthouse so it will no longer be available to the public. The FDLE does keep a copy of all criminal records, but those records are confidential, and can only be released with a judge’s order. When your record is expunged, you do not have to disclose that arrest on applications for employment etc., with some exceptions. Those exceptions are similar to the exceptions for sealed records.
How Do I Qualify to Have My Record Sealed or Expunged?
You should talk to a board certified criminal defense lawyer, like Mark Zimmerman, to find out if your record can be sealed or expunged, and which option is best for you. Here are some of the criteria to see if you qualify to have your records sealed or expunged:
1. You are allowed to seal or expunge only one criminal record in Florida. If you have never had anything sealed or expunged, you may qualify.
2. You have never been convicted (found guilty) of a crime.
3. You are not on probation, house arrest, or court ordered supervision for a criminal charge.
There are some crimes that are ineligible for sealing or expungement. That’s why it’s important to speak with a board certified criminal defense lawyer before you plead on any charge to make sure you preserve the right to seal or expunge your record. If you don’t make the right decisions up front, it can cause you problems in the future.
How can Zimmerman and Zimmerman Help?
Yes. Mark Zimmerman is an experienced, board certified criminal defense attorney who can help you get qualifying records sealed or expunged. Contact Mark at (941) 364-8503 for a free consultation to find out if you qualify. Don’t let a past mistake ruin your future.