This page was designed to help our clients better understand our Florida Record Sealing service. You will find answers to the questions we are most frequently asked. If your question is related to eligibility requirements please take the free online eligibility test.
Under Florida law, a sealed criminal record is confidential and not subject to disclosure by any State or Federal agency who possesses it. A criminal justice agency that possesses your criminal record is not allowed to say that you even had a criminal record, or that it was sealed. Also, information regarding the criminal offense that was sealed is removed from the Criminal Justice Information System so that it does not come up on any background checks. The only time the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) may reveal the existence of a sealed record to the following parties if an individual is applying to them for employment or a professional license:
The existence of an expunged record could also be disclosed if: - you are a defendant in a criminal prosecution - you are attempting to purchase a firearm - you are seeking authorization from a FL seaport for employment within or access to one or more of such seaports
The main difference is public accessibility. Sealing does not require certain agencies to actually “destroy” their records whereas a court order expunging records does require them to be "destroyed". Once sealed, the public will not have access to the person’s criminal record (except for government officials). Both sealing and expunging a record removes the information from public record. Both require that the information be made confidential. Expungment goes one step further and physically destroys the records of arrest. Once expunged, the only way for a person from the public to access an expunged record would be through a court order.
No. Sealing seals the records so that the public cannot view the case.
Yes. If you are ever prosecuted for a crime in the future, upon being asked you are legally required to disclose the arrest and/or court case.
Yes, under certain limited circumstances. These include (but are limited to) if you are (1) ever applying for employment with a criminal justice agency in Florida, (2) a defendant in a future criminal case, (3) in any future petitions for sealing or expungement, (4) applying for admission to the Florida Bar (to become a lawyer), (5) applying for employment or a license with the Department of Children and Family Services, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, or the Department of Juvenile Justice, or for any other position having direct contact with children, the developmentally disabled, or the elderly, (6) employment or licensing with an educational institution or school board, or (7) attempting to purchase a firearm.
Even though certain agencies will be able to see the sealed record, it will increase your chances of being hired because they will see that a judge granted the sealing of the case.
Section 19 of the FDIA (Federal Deposit Insurance Act) allows banks and other financial institutions to bar prospective and current employees who have had “Breach of Trust” or "Dishonesty" convictions from jobs that they are otherwise qualified for even if they had the conviction expunged.
"Dishonesty" means directly or indirectly to cheat or defraud; to cheat or defraud for monetary gain or its equivalent; or wrongfully to take property belonging to another in violation of any criminal statute. Dishonesty includes acts involving want of integrity, lack of probity, or a disposition to distort, cheat, or act deceitfully or fraudulently, and may include crimes which federal, state or local laws define as dishonest. "Breach of trust" means a wrongful act, use, misappropriation or omission with respect to any property or fund which has been committed to a person in a fiduciary or official capacity, or the misuse of one's official or fiduciary position to engage in a wrongful act, use, misappropriation or omission.
Whether a crime involves dishonesty or breach of trust will be determined from the statutory elements of the crime itself. All convictions for offenses concerning the illegal manufacture, sale, distribution of or trafficking in controlled substances are included. Other offenses can include but is not limited to the following: petty theft, grand theft, insufficient checks, burglary, possession of drugs for distribution or sales, embezzlement, fraud, fraud to obtain aid or benefits and money laundering.
If you believe you have a “breach of trust” or "dishonesty" conviction and were denied a position or were terminated from a financial institution because of that offense, there still is another way to obtain that job with a waiver from the FDIC. It is important to speak with an attorney about your specific circumstances to see if you would qualify for such a waiver from the FDIC.
No. Both procedures remove all information regarding the sealed or expunged record from the public view. A court order is necessary before a court record can be unsealed after a sealing or expungement has taken place.
Even though the sealed record will be hidden from the public (will not be shown on any background checks) the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) may reveal the existence of a sealed record to the following parties if an individual is applying to them for employment or a professional license:
1. A law enforcement agency 2. The Department of Juvenile Justices 3. A contractor or licensee dealing with children 4. The Department of Education 5. Any public school 6. Any private school 7. The Florida Bar
You have an attorney to (1) make sure it is done right the first time so it does not get rejected or cost you months of delay (2) handle objections from the district attorney (3) send an attorney to court to argue the case if need be and (4) write letters to potential employers letting them know that the case has been reopened and will soon have the records sealed.
Typically, no because our attorneys attend court for you. However, certain courts request the presence of the defendants. If the court requests your presence and you are unable to make it then we will request for your presence to be excused.
Once you sign up we have you fill out a questionnaire on your personal online account. The questionnaire asks questions that influence the outcome of the case and allows us to argue the case before a judge. Although some of the questions may seem simple, the more information and detail that you provide in your answers the better we are able to argue the case in your favor.
Typically, hearings are not required. However, a few specific counties tend to hold hearings. Most of the time, if a hearing is held, it is due to the case involving a serious offense or the case is extremely recent
Typically, it takes six months to seal a criminal record.
We base our estimates of how long a case will take on how long the average is for that service in that state. However, some cases can take less or more time depending on the facts of the case, whether the DA is agreeing or objecting, the age of the case, etc. We work on your case as fast as we can and assist the court and DA in anything they need to get your case heard.
Additionally, if you have another case we may have to obtain documents from the other case to demonstrate that you were not convicted. It may add around a month to the process in order to obtain that documentation from the other case. If time is a concern for you then you can supply the case documents if you have them to our office so that we do not have to wait for the court to supply them.
The courts work on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, the sooner you sign up, the sooner the case is heard and decided. If it helps, we would be glad to write your employer or potential employer a letter letting them know we have reopened the case and are in the process of having it sealed.
We have an online tracking system that is just for your case or cases. You will have a user name and password for the account and it will have the information specific to the case. Whenever anything happens in your case we post it in your online account so that you can view the status of the case and the progress that is made. If there is no post on your online account then that means that there is no update in the case. For example, once we update your online account to reflect that we have filed the motion with the court we will update the notes when we hear a response from the court or District Attorney. Depending on the court, it can take several weeks to months to hear from the court or District Attorney whether there is an objection, hearing, or anything else. If something is taking longer than usual for the court we will call to obtain status of the case and update your online notes. In addition to posting the status updates in your online account, we will post your case information in the case information so you are aware of the case and future hearings.
Moreover, we post your contract and payment plan information on the online account for you so that you can view all the information and print it.
No, you can only seal or expunge one case. If you have had a case sealed for ten years than you can expunge that same case but you can’t seal or expunge multiple cases.
Unfortunately, you cannot have it expunged unless it is sealed for ten years first.
Yes, if they stem from the same criminal episode and you were not convicted of any of the charges.
Yes, but only if the record was sealed or expunged by operation of law with no court order or petition by the defendant.
When you enter a plea to an offense the judge can either adjudicate you guilty (if an adult), adjudicate you delinquent (if juvenile), or “withholding adjudication” of guilt or delinquent. Only charges that were either dropped or had a “withhold of adjudication” can be expunged or sealed. In Florida a defendant can be found guilty of an offense but not be “convicted” of it. When a judge “withholds” adjudication of guilt the defendant is not “convicted” although he or she is still “found guilty” of the offense. Being “found guilty” and being “adjudicated guilty/delinquent” are two separate things.
Offenses that have adjudication “withheld” may be eligible for sealing. Offenses that were dropped or dismissed or nolle prosequi (nolle prossed) can be expunged. An offense that you have been convicted of (adjudicated guilty) cannot be sealed or expunged.
Unfortunately, we are not able to offer a money back guarantee for FL cases due to the amount of work that our law firm performs on each case.
We can create a payment plan that meets your needs. Please view the pricing for details regarding the payment plans.
We will be glad to work with you to get a copy of your record and to review what can be done. We charge a researching fee to do it and we apply that to the cost of any service that you hire us to perform.
You will receive a court order sealing your records. Public criminal record databases and the FDLE will be updated to reflect your records were sealed
The court updates their records within 48 hours and the agencies have up to 60 days to update their records. However, the agencies typically update their records before the 60 days expire.
Once the court grants the sealing, the clerk of the court sends certified copies of the order to the prosecuting attorney, arresting agency, and any agency to which the court disseminated the criminal history information. The arresting agency then sends the order to any other agency to which the arresting agency disseminated the criminal history information. Additionally, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement forwards the order to seal to the FBI.
Sealing does not influence your driving record; however, that record, unlike your criminal history, only lasts for a certain period of time and the record will disappear after that period of time.
If it is denied, it is usually because the criminal history reflects (1) the person has been convicted or adjudicated guilty of any felony or misdemeanor, (2) a prior sealing or expungement, (3) a pending petition to seal or expunge, or (4) that some or all of the charges related to the arrest or case were not dismissed prior to trial, adjudication, or the withholding of adjudication.
If the case is denied, we evaluate the reason for the denial and determine the best way to proceed. If we do believe that an appeal of the decision will be beneficial then we will determine if that is what should occur next.
If you have been convicted of minor offenses (including assault, dangerous driving, DUI, theft, shoplifting, unauthorized possession of firearms, possession of illegal substances, etc.) or indictable criminal offenses (including assault with a deadly weapon, manslaughter, etc.) you may be prohibited from entrance and further action is required to find out whether you will be allowed entrance. The Canadian government has entered into an information sharing agreement with the United States; so the Canadian government will have the same information as the United States. Therefore, the first thing you should do is clear your criminal record to the fullest extent possible before submitting to a background check. The benefit of this will show the Canadian government that the matter was resolved and no longer considered a pending case or conviction and improve the odds of not being denied entry to Canada or being stuck at the border for lengthy interrogation.
The Border Patrol has discretion in granting or denying Sentri passes. So the only thing we can say for sure is that it would help; so it would be wise to invest in record clearing before applying for a pass. A modest investment in expungement could be the difference between having your request accepted or denied. It will show that you have resolved all matters with the court.
No. Persons who have been convicted of a felony (which causes a loss of civil rights) aren’t eligible for a seal or expungement of their criminal history, regardless of restoring civil rights.
If you are eligible for sealing then your voting rights have not been taken away and you can currently vote.
Criminal violations may have severe consequences for immigrants, even if the crime is expunged/vacated/sealed. Even minor offenses such as petty theft can make someone deportable or inadmissible, while more serious offenses such as burglary may not have the same consequences. Since each case is unique, it is important to get a case-by-case analysis tailored to your specific facts. To find out if your criminal conviction will impact your immigration case it is imperative you contact a qualified immigration attorney. Our in-house immigration attorney is available to answer questions at 714-617-8395.
You can only expunge certain cases. Typically, you have to show that the conviction was wrongful or unconstitutional. Additionally, a person can apply for a pardon through the President. We do not handle federal cases.
Generally, if you are eligible for record sealing, then your gun rights are not taken away. However, under Florida Statute 790.065(2)(a)(3), an individual who has had adjudication of guilt withheld on any felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is not eligible for the purchase of a firearm unless 3 years have elapsed since probation or any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled or expunction has occurred.
Call us 561-515-1276 or Toll Free 877-573-7273
Please take the free online eligibility test before calling.
Law Firm of Higbee & Associates
301 Clematis Street Suite 3000
W. Palm Beach, FL 33401
*By Appointment Only