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A Guide to Florida Expungement

A Guide to Florida Expungement

Are you looking to turn over a new leaf by expunging your criminal record in Florida? You’re not alone. Many individuals seek a fresh start, aiming to clear their names and embrace new opportunities without the shadow of the past. This comprehensive guide to Florida Expungement is designed to walk you through the process, shedding light on eligibility, steps, costs, and timelines. Let’s dive into how you can unlock a brighter future.

Understanding Florida Expungement

Expungement in Florida is a legal avenue that allows individuals to have certain criminal records removed from public view. It’s a beacon of hope for those who wish to erase the stigma of past mistakes. However, navigating the expungement process can be complex and different from other processes like getting a sealed record. Here’s what you need to know:

Are You Eligible for Expungement?

Determining your eligibility is the first and most crucial step in the expungement process. The Florida Statutes Section 943.0585(1) sets forth specific criteria that must be met:

A Guide to Florida Expungement

  • Dropped, Dismissed, or Acquitted Charges: Your charges must have been dropped, dismissed, or resulted in an acquittal. This is a fundamental requirement, as it indicates that the case did not result in a conviction.
  • No Prior Convictions in Florida: You must not have been convicted of a criminal offense in Florida. This includes both felonies and misdemeanors.
  • Juvenile Records: If you have been adjudicated delinquent for certain offenses as a juvenile, this may affect your eligibility.
  • No Previous Sealing or Expungement: You cannot have previously secured a sealing or expungement of a criminal history record under Florida law. Florida allows only one expungement or sealing per individual.
  • Ineligible Offenses: Certain offenses, such as sexual misconduct, drug trafficking, and other specific crimes, are ineligible for expungement. This is due to the nature of these offenses and their impact on public safety.

Step-by-Step Guide to Florida Expungement

Once you’ve determined your eligibility, the next steps involve navigating through the expungement process. Here’s a detailed guide:

A Guide to Florida Expungement

Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility

  • Starting Point: The journey begins with applying for a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). This certificate is crucial as it formally recognizes your eligibility for expungement.
  • Application Process: You can obtain the application form from the FDLE website. The form requires detailed information about your case and personal details.

Complete the Application

  • Filling Out the Form: Complete the FDLE expungement application form with accurate and comprehensive information. Any discrepancies can delay the process.
  • Notarization and Case Disposition: Get the application form notarized to validate its authenticity. Additionally, attach a certified copy of the case disposition, which provides details about the outcome of your case.

Submit Your Application

  • Submission and Fee: Send your completed application along with the required fee to FDLE for review. The fee covers the cost of processing your application and is non-refundable.

File a Petition with the Court

A Guide to Florida Expungement

  • Certificate of Eligibility: Once you receive the Certificate of Eligibility from FDLE, the next step is to file a petition for expungement with the court handling your case.
  • Legal Representation: Consider hiring an attorney to assist with drafting and filing the petition. An attorney can also represent you during court proceedings, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Court Review

  • Judicial Process: The court will review your petition, considering all aspects of your case and your eligibility for expungement.
  • Issuance of Order: If the court approves your petition, it will issue an order to expunge your records. This order is the final step in removing your criminal record from public view.

Costs Involved in Florida Expungement

The path to clearing your criminal record in Florida involves various costs that you should be prepared for. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the expenses you might encounter:

A Guide to Florida Expungement

Legal Representation

  • Starting Costs: Hiring an attorney to guide you through the expungement process is highly recommended. Legal fees can start at approximately $995, but this investment can significantly increase the chances of a successful expungement.
  • Why It’s Worth It: An experienced attorney can navigate the complexities of the law, ensuring all paperwork is correctly filed and increasing your chances of expungement.

Court and Administrative Fees

  • Application Fee: The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) charges a $75 fee for processing the expungement petition. This fee is non-refundable and is required to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility.
  • Court Filing Fees: Filing a petition for expungement in court also incurs a fee, which can vary depending on the jurisdiction but typically ranges from $50 to $75.
  • Additional Costs: You may also need to pay for obtaining certified copies of court documents, which are essential for the expungement process.

Document Retrieval and Notary Fees

  • Document Retrieval: Obtaining your criminal record, court documents, and other necessary paperwork may involve fees.
  • Notary Services: Your application and some documents will need to be notarized, which incurs additional costs.

Understanding the Timeline for Florida Expungement

Patience is a virtue when it comes to the Florida expungement process. Here’s what you can expect in terms of timing: 

A Guide to Florida Expungement

  • Overall Process: The entire expungement process in Florida typically takes about 5-7 months. This timeframe includes obtaining your Certificate of Eligibility from FDLE, filing your petition with the court, and waiting for the court’s decision.
  • FDLE Review: The initial step of applying for a Certificate of Eligibility with FDLE is critical. FDLE’s review process alone can take up to 12 weeks. This certificate is necessary to proceed with filing your expungement petition in court.

Privacy and Disclosure After Expungement

Once your criminal record is expunged in Florida, it becomes inaccessible to the general public, offering you a clean slate. However, there are exceptions: 

  • Disclosure in Specific Situations: In certain scenarios, such as applying for jobs within law enforcement or other sensitive positions, you may still be required to disclose your expunged record.

Special Considerations in Florida Expungement

There are several key points to keep in mind as you consider expungement in Florida: 

A Guide to Florida Expungement

  • One-Time Opportunity: Florida law allows individuals to expunge their record only once. It’s crucial to ensure that all eligible offenses are included in your expungement petition.
  • Firearm Rights: An expungement does not automatically restore your right to possess firearms. Restoring firearm rights may require a separate legal process.
  • Ineligibility for Certain Crimes: Not all offenses are eligible for expungement. For example, violent felonies, certain sex offenses, and DUIs may not be expunged under Florida law.

Conclusion

Florida Expungement offers a pathway to clear your name and pursue opportunities without the burden of a criminal record. While the process may seem daunting, understanding the steps, costs, and eligibility criteria can empower you to take control of your future. Remember, consulting with a qualified attorney can provide personalized guidance and increase your chances of a successful expungement. Here’s to unlocking a brighter, more hopeful future!

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and is provided as is without any guarantee of accuracy. If you need a professional legal opinion, click here to send in your legal request.

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