Expunction of a Criminal Record
A court may order a criminal history record of a minor or an adult to be expunged. As provided in Section 943.0585, F.S., a person can only obtain one court-ordered expunction in their lifetime.
To qualify for a court-ordered expunction, a person must first obtain a certificate of eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) pursuant to requirements outlined in ss. 943.0585(2) or 943.0585(5), F.S.
Many people ask us whether they need a lawyer to expunge their records. Although the FDLE website explains how to expunge your record in Florida without needing an attorney, many people decide to hire an attorney to help them through the process.
The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, can prepare all the paperwork for you and show you where to sign.
In fact, the entire process can be completed in our office in about 45 minutes, or we can email you all the forms, and you can send them back to us if you live outside of the Tampa Bay area.
Attorney for the Expunction of a Criminal Record in Tampa, FL
The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, charge a flat fee of $950 to expunge a criminal record in Florida.
After the record is expunged, we also contact third-party data mining companies to request that they take the records off their website.
Never allow these third-party sites to extort money from you. Once you pay to remove a record from one website, it will often pop up on one of its sister sites.
We take cases to expunge criminal records throughout the State of Florida. Our main office is located in downtown Tampa, a few blocks from the courthouse. Our second office is located in New Port Richey, FL, directly across from the West Pasco Judicial Center.
Contact us to find out if you are eligible and start the process today.
Qualifying for a Court-Ordered Expunction in Florida
To obtain a certificate of eligibility for expunction, your attorney in Tampa, FL, will submit the following documents to the FDLE:
- Obtain a written, certified statement from the appropriate state attorney or statewide prosecutor which indicates:
- an indictment, information, or other charging document was not filed or issued in the case;
- an indictment, information, or other charging document, if filed or issued in the case, was dismissed or nolle prosequi (a formal entry upon the record that declares that the case will not be further prosecuted) by the state attorney or statewide prosecutor;
- the case went to trial and resulted in a judgment of acquittal or “not guilty” verdict;
- The criminal history record does not relate to certain violations, including:
- violation of pretrial detention;
- drug trafficking;
- violations of the Florida Communications Fraud Act
- sexual misconduct
- any violation specified as a predicated offense for registration as a sexual predator pursuant to the Florida Sexual Predators Act. Section 943.0585(2)(a)3., F.S.;
- lewd or lascivious offenses committed in front of a minor, an elderly person, or a disabled person;
- sexual battery
- luring or enticing a child
- procuring a person under 18 for prostitution;
- selling or buying of minors;
- child pornography;
- acts in connection with obscenity and minors;
- offenses by public officers and employees; or
- sexual abuse of a child.
- Pay a $75 processing fee, unless the executive director waives it.
- Obtain a certified copy of the disposition of the charge.
Other Issues that Make a Person Ineligible to Expunge a Florida Criminal Record
The other issues that might make the applicant ineligible to expunge a criminal record before the date of the application for a certificate of eligibility are filed include:
- Have 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;
- Be under court supervision for the arrest or alleged criminal activity to which the petition pertains; and
- Have secured a prior expunction or sealing of a criminal history record, unless the expunction sought is of a criminal history record previously sealed for ten (10) years pursuant to s. 943.0585(2)(h), F.S.17
- Having been adjudicated delinquent for committing any felony or a misdemeanor specified in s. 943.051(3)(b), F.S. including:
- petit theft;
- assault on a law enforcement officer, a firefighter, or other specified officer;
- animal cruelty;
- child neglect;
- indecent exposure;
- open carrying of a weapon;
- unlawful possession of a firearm;
- carrying a concealed weapon;
- unlawful use of destructive devices or bombs; or
- unlawful possession or discharge of a weapon or firearm at a school-sponsored event or on school property.
FDLE’s Certificate of Eligibility for Expunction
In its sole discretion, a court may order a criminal justice agency to expunge a person’s criminal history record if the Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) issues the person a certificate of eligibility for expunction.
FDLE must issue the certificate to a person meeting all eligibility criteria, including that:
- The person has never had a record sealed or expunged previously;
- The person has never been adjudicated guilty as an adult for any offense or adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile for certain enumerated offenses;
- The person was not adjudicated guilty or delinquent for any acts stemming from the same arrest which the person seeks to expunge; and
- The case he or she seeks to have expunged:
- Was dismissed by a no action, nolle prosequi, court dismissal, a judgment of acquittal or a “not guilty” verdict; and
- Does not relate to one of several enumerated offenses, which generally include violent and sexual crimes.
Before October 1, 2018, Florida’s law prohibited an expunction if the person was acquitted at trial, whether by a judge or the jury unless the person first has the record sealed for ten years.
In other words, if a person was acquitted either by a judgment of acquittal or a not-guilty verdict, then the person could not expunge the record but had to first seal the record and wait ten years.
A judgment of acquittal results when, at the close of evidence in the case, a court believes that the evidence is insufficient to warrant a conviction.
A not-guilty verdict results when the factfinder (the judge during a bench trial or the jury during a jury trial) determines that the prosecution did not prove the person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The problem with this rule was that it unfairly punished a person who exercised their right to a trial by barring them from the possibility of expunction for a minimum of ten years.
On the other hand, a person whose case was dismissed for other reasons could immediately begin the expunction process if they were otherwise eligible.
Those other ways of the case being dismissed might result from uncooperative witnesses, lack of evidence, or participation in a diversion program.
Effective October 1, 2018, CS/HB 1065 expanded eligibility for court-ordered expunction to include a person whose case resulted in a judgment of acquittal or a not guilty verdict, whether by judge or jury.
A person who has had a judgment of acquittal or a not guilty verdict may apply to have their record expunged without the prerequisite of first sealing the record for ten years.
Filling the Sworn Statement Attesting to the Petition to Expunge
Upon receipt of a certificate of eligibility for expunction, the person must petition the court to expunge the criminal history record. Along with the certificate of eligibility, the petition must include a sworn statement attesting that the petitioner:
- Is eligible for such an expunction and has no other petition to expunge or seal pending before any court.
- Has never secured a prior sealing or expunction of a criminal history record unless the expunction is sought for a criminal history record previously sealed for ten (10) years pursuant to s. 943.0585(2)(h), F.S., and the record is otherwise eligible for expunction;
- Has 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 pertains; and
- Has never been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation or been adjudicated delinquent for committing any felony or a specified misdemeanor.
A copy of the completed petition to expunge is then served upon the appropriate state attorney or the statewide prosecutor and the arresting agency, any of which may respond to the court regarding the petition.
Under Florida law, there is no statutory right to a court-ordered expunction and any request for expunction of a criminal history record may be denied at the sole discretion of the court. In most cases, the court will quickly grant the motion when the paperwork is in order.
Effect of Expunction of Criminal History Record
If the court grants a petition to expunge, the clerk of the court then certifies copies of the order to the appropriate state attorney and the arresting agency and any other agency that has received the criminal history record from the court.
The arresting agency must provide the expunction order to any agencies that received the criminal history record information from the arresting agency. The FDLE must provide the expunction order to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Any record that the court grants the expunction of must be physically destroyed or obliterated by any criminal justice agency having such a record. The FDLE, however, is required to maintain the record.
That record is confidential and exempt from disclosure requirements under the public records laws. Only a court order would make the record available to an otherwise excluded person or entity.
The person who has their criminal history record expunged may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the records that were expunged, subject to several exceptions explained in Section 943.0585(4), F.S., including:
- Being a defendant in a criminal prosecution;
- Petitioning to have a court-ordered criminal history record expunged or sealed or petitioning for relief under s. 943.0583, F.S.; or
- Seeking appointment as a guardian, a position with a criminal justice agency, a license by the Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services within the Department of Financial Services, or a position with an agency that is responsible for the protection of vulnerable persons, including children, the disabled, or the elderly;
- Being a candidate for admission to The Florida Bar.
Other Types of Expunctions in Florida
As discussed above, the main type of expunction in Florida is the court-ordered expunction as provided in Section 943.0585, F.S.
The court may, in its discretion, order a criminal justice agency to expunge a person’s criminal history record if FDLE issues the person a certificate of eligibility for expunction as provided in Section 943.0585(1), F.S.
Florida law provides for other types of expunctions, including:
- the lawful self-defense expunction under Section 943.0585(5), F.S.;
- the administrative expunction under Section 943.0581, F.S.;
- the prearrest, postarrest, or teen court diversion under Section 943.0582, F.S.;
- human trafficking victim expunction under Section 943.0583, F.S.; or
- automatic juvenile expunction under Section 943.0515, F.S.
What is a criminal history record?
A criminal history record includes any nonjudicial record maintained by a criminal justice agency that contains criminal history information.
Under Section 943.045(11), F.S., criminal justice agencies include governmental agencies that administrate criminal justice, including the court, the Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), components of the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
The criminal history record under Section 943.045(5), F.S., includes the information collected by these criminal justice agencies. That information can include:
- identifiable descriptions of individuals and notations of arrests;
- other types of formal criminal charges; and
- criminal dispositions.
The State Attorney’s Answer to Petition to Expunge Record
If you file a petition to expunge a record ten (10) years after the record was sealed, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s office might file an answer that provides:
ANSWER TO PETITION TO EXPUNGE RECORD
COMES NOW the State of Florida, by and through the undersigned Assistant State Attorney, and hereby responds to the Defendant’s Petition to Expunge.
On or about [date], the Court entered an Order which sealed the records hereby sought to be expunged.
More than ten (10) years have elapsed since the sealing of said records, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has issued a Certificate of Eligibility for the expunction of said records, and Defendant has met the qualifications for expunction pursuant to Fla. Stat. s. 943.0585.
THEREFORE, the State of Florida has no objection to the Defendant’s Petition to Expunge. Furthermore, the State has no objection to the Defendant’s proposed Order provided to the State.
How to Expunge Your Record in Florida for Free – Visit the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website to learn more about the process to seal or expunge a criminal history record in Florida. The process is free except for the application fee and costs if you do it yourself. The FDLE website contains the expungement packet so that you can do it yourself and eliminate any money paid for attorney fees. Florida law allows FDLE to collect a $75 processing fee to complete the certificate of eligibility for expunction as provided in Section 943.0585(2)(b), F.S.
Expungement and Sealing in Hillsborough County, FL – Visit the website of the Clerk of Court in Hillsborough County to learn more about the process to seal or expunge a criminal history record and mugshot. The Expungement and Sealing Unit (ESU) at the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court handles the request to seal or expunge a criminal record. The website for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit encourages you to contact an attorney to find out more about the forms, instructions, or your legal rights. Find information on the fees for expungement at $42, document copies per page at $1 each, and certified copies per document certification at $2. The clerk’s office in Tampa, FL, also provides information about the total amount due for processing fees and any outstanding fines or court costs.
This article was last updated on Monday, March 27, 2023.