Sealing & Expunging
The taint of an arrest record can be costly and embarrassing. Employers see it, potential landlords and even banks can inquire into your arrest history.
Beginning the process of sealing or expunging your record is quick and easy. Rebecca reviews your information, free of charge, to determine whether you are eligible. Once she determines you are eligible, she prepares and files all of the paperwork for you, with your minimal involvement, including having you notarize and return a few documents, along with getting your fingerprints taken.
You pay your fee in two payments. The first half gets you the Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). This enables Rebecca to take the Certificate to the Courts to have your record sealed or expunged. The Certificate takes about 3 months or so to get, so you make your second payment a few months after the first. This makes the process more affordable and ensures you don’t overpay should you be ineligible for the certificate.
It is fairly simple to find out if your charge is eligible to be sealed or expunged. If you were not convicted of a crime, chances are you are eligible. A convicted on a minor charge such as a traffic misdemeanor (usually driving on a suspended license charge) or ordinance violation may prevent a charge from being sealed or expunged. Rebecca has had several of these minor convictions reversed however, allowing a person to then seal or expunge a more serious charge. Ask Rebecca today if you feel this may describe your situation.
What is the difference between Sealing and Expunging a Record?
An expungement can only occur if you were arrested but the charge was not prosecuted. It either concluded with a “No Information” being filed or “nol prossed.” An “Information” is a charging document alleging a crime has been committed. A “No Information” means the State Attorney decided not to file a charge against you after their investigation was completed. Sometimes after an Information is filed, the State Attorney decides to drop the case. They then file what is commonly called a nol pros, or Nolle Prosequi, Latin for “will not prosecute.” In conclusion, people eligible for expungement did not have to defend an arrest because the State Attorney’s Office didn’t pursue a charge, or dropped it later.
A sealing on the other hand, can occur even if you were charged, as long as the charge resulted in a withhold of adjudication or dismissal. “Withhold Adjudication” means a conviction was withheld. In other words, you were not convicted. Rebecca can search local court records to verify whether or not you received a withhold of adjudication or a conviction.
A typical scenario here is when you were charged with a misdemeanor or felony and because you did not have a criminal record to speak of, you were offered a withhold of adjudication, with or without probation. Once your probation is successfully terminated, you are eligible to apply for a certificate to seal your record. You may have had no prior record or a very minor criminal record and been offered PTI (Pre Trial Intervention). If you elected to do this, once your case has been dismissed by the Court, you are eligible to apply for a certificate to seal.
Other than those distinctions, there really aren’t a lot of practical differences between sealing and expunging a record. They both allow the very wonderful benefit of being able to lawfully deny ever being arrested on the charge, in most instances. Also, your arrest record is taken off of local sheriff office and clerk’s office websites. In addition, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is given an Order by the court to seal or expunge your record, so if you potential employer or landlord goes to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for a background check, the arrest will not appear.
There are a few exceptions to the ability to deny or conceal the arrest. If you are a candidate for admission to the Florida Bar (to become a lawyer), for instance, or if you are looking to be employed with the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Health or the Department of Elderly Affairs, you must disclose the arrest.
Even if you find yourself in a situation where you would be required to report a record that has been sealed or expunged, remember: the record is still sealed from general public view.
There are a few crimes that can never be sealed or expunged and include: Offenses listed in Florida Statute section 907.041 and any first or second degree felony charges. These are mostly more serious offenses such as Robbery and/or Aggravated Assault, to name a very few. Do not assume that you are ineligible however, simply because you may have pled to a third degree felony. Third degree felonies are charges like possession of cocaine or child abuse, and would be eligible for sealing as long as it didn’t result in a conviction. Also remember, if you were convicted of a minor offense and wish to have a more serious offense sealed or expunged, have Rebecca look into the possibility of moving the court to reconsider that conviction on the less serious charge.
Whatever your arrest situation is, if you feel that you may be eligible for this service, do not hesitate to call, as this process takes quite a few months to complete. You will be glad you got the process started and can now move on with your life.
Call the office of Hamilton Law Service at 727-471-3555 or contact us today for a free case evaluation.
I was very pleased with Hamilton Law. Rebecca Hamilton and her staff were very professional. She dealt with my case in a timely manner. When other lawyers said that my record could not be sealed or expunged due to a traffic violation, she got it cleared. Even though I moved from Florida, Ms. Hamilton took time out for me and when I could not get her on the phone she called me back the same day. I know if I ever need a lawyer Ms. Hamilton is the one for me and she is very reasonable too. ~ MJ, Sealing Client
Case Summary & Outcome
Client had a conviction in 2004 of Driving while License Suspended or Revoked (DWLSR). She was told by other lawyers that because of this conviction, her Felony Possession of Cocaine charge could not be sealed. Rebecca Hamilton filed a Motion to Reconsider sentence in traffic court and had her old conviction on the DWLSR reversed to a withhold of adjudication. The Possession of Cocaine charge was then eligible to be sealed.