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Do you need an expungement lawyer in Vero Beach, FL?

To promote open government, Florida enacted the Sunshine Law in 1995 – a series of laws that guarantee public access to all non-sensitive records. While the law can be useful for citizens wanting to get information on state or local government or obtaining necessary information, it can be a hurdle for those who made a legal misstep or were wrongly accused of a crime.

A criminal record can impede an individual’s access to employment, education, housing, civic engagement, and public assistance. To resolve this issue, Florida enacted laws allowing for the sealing and expunging of criminal history records to prevent widespread public access to criminal records and give individuals the option of non-disclosure.

The process to seal or expunge one’s record in Florida typically takes 9 – 12 months and may require a court hearing after receiving a certificate of eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Sealing and Expunging – What’s the Difference?

Expunging and sealing are very similar in purpose – to prevent the public from gaining access to other people’s criminal records. However, there are some notable differences:

  • Expungement means to delete and destroy all records. However, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) will retain a confidential record for minimal purposes.
  • Sealing does not delete or destroy the information but instead places it under government protection. While there is no public disclosure of the record, the Florida courts and criminal justice system will still have access to the records.

Some criminal charges are not eligible for sealing and expungement in Florida. A case can only be expunged if it was dismissed, there was no related indictment, information, or charging document, or it has been sealed for 10 years. Individuals seeking a “sealing” of their record must have had their adjudication withheld and have completed all probation or community control requirements (including court supervision) before becoming eligible.

Florida Procedure for Record Sealing and Expungement

Several types of sealing or expungement processes are available in Florida, such as:

  • Administrative Expungement – An adult or juvenile arrest made by mistake or contrary to the law can be expunged by applying to the FDLE.
  • Automatic Juvenile Expungement – the criminal record of a minor is expunged at the age of 21, or 26 if the minor was committed to a juvenile correctional facility or prison, as long as a forcible felony was not committed. A juvenile between the ages of 18 and 21 may apply for an early juvenile expungement if they were not charged with any criminal offense (including the one they want to be expunged) in the prior five years.
  • Automatic Sealing – The FDLE will automatically seal the criminal record in question when the Clerk of the Court submits a qualifying certified disposition electronically.

Contact an Experienced Florida Expungement Lawyer

Don’t let a prior Florida arrest or criminal conviction hold you back. Vero Beach Attorney Susan Chesnutt has the legal expertise necessary to protect your rights by getting your criminal record sealed or expunged. For help navigating this complicated process, contact our firm online or call (772) 492-3330 today.