Private Counsel LLC attorneys handle petitions to have a person's past criminal record sealed or expunged.   

In certain circumstances, records of past criminal charges can be sealed or expunged (destroyed).

Because it can be a complicated process, and involves numerous steps, you may wish to consult an attorney regarding the circumstances of your case.  Also, remember that just because you qualify, that does not mean the Court will automatically grant your request.  You may want to have an attorney present your case to the court for you to minimize the risks of having a judge deny your request to have your records sealed or expunged.




How does the process work?

1.  The  first step is to determine whether you are eligible for expungement or sealing.  This involves an analysis of your criminal history, the outcome of any case(s), and the nature of the charges you are seeking to have sealed or expunged. ANY of the following will make you ineligible for

You were adjudicated guilty of certain criminal offenses.
You received a prior sealing or expungement either in Florida
or any other jurisdiction outside the State.
You have another petition to seal or expunge pending.
You are still being supervised on the offense you are seeking
to have sealed or expunged (i.e., still on probation, community
control, etc.).
Some of the charges related to the criminal charge were not
dismissed prior to trial, adjudication, or the withholding of
adjudication. In this case, the record may be eligible to be
sealed but not expunged.
If you were found guilty or pled nolo contendere ("no
contest"), even if adjudication of guilt was withheld, to certain
offenses, the charges are not able to be sealed or expunged.
See below for list of these offenses.

A charge which was dismissed before trial (e.g., no information, nolle prosequi, no bill, etc.) may be expunged immediately if person is otherwise eligible.  Any charge which resulted in a withholding of adjudication or in an acquittal (a verdict of "not guilty") after trial must first be sealed for at least 10 years before it can be expunged.

2.  You will need to complete an application and other  documents which have to be submitted to various agencies.    Papers must then be filed with the court, and the judge will  decide whether to grant the sealing or expungement.  

3.  If the judge grants the sealing or expungement, the agencies with the records must be notified to seal or expunge  the appropriate criminal history record in accordance with the court order.

4.  Once a person has had records sealed or expunged, he or  she may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the cases that  have been sealed or expunged (except for several exceptions, which are discussed below).

What is the difference between sealing and expungement?

When a criminal history record is sealed, the public will not have access  to it.  However, certain entities have access to sealed record information  (see below).

When a record has been
expunged, it is physically destroyed.  As  discussed below, certain entities will still be told that the person has had a record expunged, but would not have access to the record itself without  a court  order.  Such entities would receive only a statement saying that "Criminal Information has been Expunged from  this Record".

Can records still be obtained once they have been sealed or expunged?

Normally, once a person has had records sealed or expunged, he or she may lawfully deny or fail to
acknowledge the cases that have been sealed or expunged.  However,
in the following situations a person
may NOT lawfully deny the existence of those arrests:  

Is a candidate for employment with a criminal justice agency;

Is a defendant in a criminal prosecution;

Concurrently or subsequently petitions for expungement or sealing of other records;

Is a candidate for admission to The Florida Bar;

Is seeking to be employed or licensed by or to contract with the Department of Children and Family Services or the Department of Juvenile Justice or to be employed or used by such contractor or licensee in a sensitive position having direct contact with children, the developmentally disabled, the aged, or the elderly; or

Is seeking to be employed or licensed by the Department of Education, any district school board, any university laboratory school, any charter school, any private or parochial school or any local governmental entity that licenses child care facilities.

When the record is expunged, the agency will only receive the subject's demographic information and a statement stating that criminal history information has been expunged, but will not receive the details.

How many cases can a person have sealed or expunged?

To qualify for sealing or expungement, a person may never have previously had a record sealed or expunged in Florida or in another jurisdiction.  Consequently, a person may only seal or expunge one arrest record in one
proceeding.  More than one record may be sealed or expunged in the same proceeding if the court finds the arrests to be directly related.

In some situations, a record that is initially ineligible for expunction (e.g., where adjudication is withheld) may become eligible after it has been sealed for 10 years. However, a person may not seal or expunge one arrest
record and then, later and in a different proceeding, ask to have a different arrest record sealed or expunged.

Are there certain charges that do not qualify for sealing or expungement?

Yes.  If the defendant was found guilty or pled nolo contendere ("no contest")--even if adjudication of guilt was withheld--to any of the following offenses, the charges are not able to be sealed or expunged:

Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, or aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult*

Act of Terrorism*

Aircraft piracy *

Arson *

Aggravated Assault *

Aggravated Battery *

Burglary of a dwelling *

Carjacking *

Child abuse or Aggravated Child Abuse *

Computer pornography

Domestic Violence*

Home-invasion Robbery *

Homicide *

Illegal use of explosives *

Kidnapping *

Lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault or act upon or in the presence of a child under the age of 16 years *

Lewd or lascivious offense upon or in presence of elderly person or disabled person

Lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age

Luring or enticing a child

Manslaughter *

Offenses By Public Officers and Employees

Procuring person under 18 for prostitution

Robbery *

Scheme to Defraud or Organized Fraud/Florida Communication Fraud Act

Selling or buying of minors

Sexual activity with a child, who is 12 years of age or older but less than 18 years of age, by or at solicitation of a person in familial or custodial authority*

Sexual Battery and related offenses*

Sexual misconduct with developmentally disabled person and related offenses

Sexual misconduct with mental health patient and related offenses (F.S. 394.4593)

Sexual misconduct with mentally deficient or mentally ill defendant and related offenses (F.S 916.1075)

Sexual performance by a child

Showing, selling, etc., obscene literature to minor

Stalking and Aggravated Stalking *

Trafficking in controlled substances

* Indicates the offense is also ineligible for attempting or conspiring to
commit the listed crimes

How long does it take?
Normally it will take 6 months.  However, because paperwork must be submitted to several agencies, and a hearing may have to be scheduled before the court, it can be longer or shorter.  Because it is a lengthy and complicated process, you should contact an attorney to evaluate your case and begin your application.