The Florida Sunshine Law, established in 1995, is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to the public records of government bodies in Florida. According to the Florida Sunshine Law, any person in Florida can request public documents, and a purpose for the request does not have to be stated.1 Criminal records qualify as public records, and as such are accessible under the Florida Sunshine Law.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Division of Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), is the central criminal records storage facility for the State of Florida. In accordance with the Florida Sunshine Law, FDLE makes all of its records available to the public upon request. There are two main ways of accessing Florida criminal records from FDLE: their website, and by mail.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement website allows a person to perform a search of FDLE’s Computerized Criminal History (CCH) files, which only include Florida criminal records. To be clear, neither other state’s criminal records, nor federal criminal records are available from the FDLE. FDLE’s CCH files are constantly updated in order to provide the inquirer with the most up-to-date Florida criminal record information available. This means that information acquired today through a search of the database may be outdated by tomorrow, since additional information and arrests are added so frequently.
This site allows a person to perform a search of FDLE’s Computerized Criminal History (CCH) files, which only include Florida criminal records. To be clear, neither other state’s criminal records, nor federal criminal records are available from the FDLE. FDLE’s CCH files are constantly updated in order to provide the inquirer with the most up-to-date Florida criminal record information available. This means that information acquired today through a search of the database may be outdated by tomorrow, since additional information and arrests are added so frequently.
Florida criminal records NOT disseminated by the website include:
There is a $24.00 fee for each name search performed, payable by credit card. This amount is charged against the inquirer’s credit card regardless of the search results. The money gathered is distributed by the Legislature to support criminal information systems for use by law enforcement throughout the state.
After a name is inputted, the FDLE website presents a list of as many as five possible candidates. It is the searcher’s duty to review the list and determine if any of the results matches the identity of the person whose criminal record is in question. For each additional record requested, another $24 is charged on the searchers credit card.
It is possible that a search will return no possible candidates. Not surprisingly, the accuracy of the information the investigator provides is essential to relevant search results. It is important to review all of the possible matches carefully, by evaluating all of the demographic information available. The searcher must compare their target’s and result’s complete name, race, sex, date of birth, Social Security Number, and other identifiers that may be present. It may be helpful to also compare any known aliases, height, weight, eye and hair color.
Keep in mind that this is a search of descriptive information, and a positive identification can only be confirmed by comparing the fingerprints of the person searched with the results of the search. Provided the investigator finds the person for whom she is looking, the results are returned to her instantly. She may then print the results or have a copy emailed to her.
FDLE will NOT send results of an online search through regular mail. Certified results will also NOT be provided for searches performed through the Internet site. This means that if someone is searching for the purposes of immigration or national/international adoptions, they must request the information through regular mail.
FDLE accepts criminal records requests through regular mail. If the information supplied by a searcher yields a probable candidate, FDLE will forward a copy of the candidate’s criminal history record, along with the searcher’s original request, to the searcher.
As mentioned above, it is extremely important that the information a searcher provides is accurate, so that the searcher may receive accurate results. Unless a fingerprint card is submitted and FDLE compare the fingerprints of the search results to the fingerprints on the card, it is impossible for FDLE to be sure if the record belongs to the individual the searcher requested, or if the search results are those of another individual who has a similar name and identifiers.
If no possible record is found in the storage facility, the searcher’s request will be returned to the searcher with a notation indicating that no criminal record matching the search criteria is available. Reasons why this could happen include:
The cost for Florida criminal record by mail is $24.00 per request. No matter the outcome of the search, the $24 paid by the searcher is kept by the FDLE. The searcher must make a check or money order payable to Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
To request Florida criminal record, one may simply send a letter, or print out, complete and mail the FDLE record request form to:
Florida Department of Law Enforcement
User Services Bureau
Criminal History Services
PO Box 1489
Tallahassee Fl 32302
The record request must contain a return address, the search target’s name or alias, their last known address, social security number, date of birth or approximate age, race, and sex. It will take about five business days for FDLE to return search results, not including the time the results spend in the mail.
FDLE Criminal History Services Section can be reached at (850) 410-8109. Their office is open 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM weekdays.
For verification of the accuracy and completeness of a criminal history record, Florida law requires the Department of Law Enforcement to provide an individual’s record to them, for their own personal review. This will only happen after FDLE verifies the requester’s identity by fingerprint analysis. Personal review is a free service provided by FDLE.
Someone requesting a Personal Review of their Florida criminal history from the FDLE must:
If someone requesting Personal Review suspects that they are, or have been, a victim of identity theft, we suggest that they photocopy their driver’s license and social security card, and send them to FDLE together with the request for Personal Review, in order to accelerate the search process.
If inaccurate information is contained on the record, any agency, besides the legislature and the courts, must attend hearings regarding the parts of the criminal history records that were generated by that agency. When it is determined what the record should contain in order to be complete and accurate, the Criminal Justice Information Program is advised and changes the state records to the corrected information and requests that federal records are changed as well.
An individual whose record has been corrected is also supplied with the names of all known noncriminal justice agencies to which the data was given. The correcting agency notifies all known criminal justice recipients of the corrected information, and those agencies will change their records to match the corrected ones.
There are several avenues by which someone can obtain their, or another person’s, Florida criminal record. If the searcher wants to get a copy of the Florida criminal record for himself or a third party, the searcher will be required to pay $24.00 and may elect to submit their subject’s information through regular mail or FDLE’s website.
Fingerprint comparison is the only way to definitively know that the criminal history report FDLE furnishes actually belongs to the search target. There is no extra charge associated with verifying the target’s fingerprints, however that service is only available for searches initiated through regular mail. Not surprisingly, the searcher must enclose a fingerprint card with the mailed request in order to have a fingerprint verification done.
Also, if the criminal history report requires certification, the searcher must mail in their request and indicate that the results require certification. There is no additional charge associated with requesting certified copies. Depending on the searcher’s reason for requesting the subject’s Florida criminal record, certified copies may be necessary.
Personal Review is the best option for someone looking to obtain their own records, if they have the time to (1) get a fingerprint card from a law enforcement or criminal justice agency, and (2) wait on regular mail. Personal Review is a free service, so naturally information on its availability is scarce on FDLE’s website. It is a good idea for anyone interested in clearing his or her record to first obtain a Florida criminal record report.
If you find anything on your Florida criminal record that you would like to have expunged or sealed you can learn more on our Florida Expungement and Record Sealing page.