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Expunging Judicial and Non-Judicial Arrest Records in Florida If You Weren't Convicted

Oymayan v. State
District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District
August 9, 2000

Holding: A petitioner who is arrested and charged with several offenses, but is not convicted, is eligible to have his judicial and non-judicial criminal records expunged.

Why This Case is Important: In Florida, there are separate requirements for expunging judicial and non-judicial criminal records. Expungement of non-judicial records is governed by F.S.A. § 943.0585, while expungement of judicial records is governed by Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.692. Although separate authorities govern judicial and non-judicial expungement, there are some rules that pertain to both sections. For example, under both procedures, a petitioner who is adjudicated guilty of his or her crime will be prevented from obtaining expungement relief. Also under both procedures, a trial court has the discretion of denying a petition for expungement, so long as the court has taken into account the facts and circumstances surrounding the request.

This case answers the question of how a court is to handle an expungement request of judicial and non-judicial records where the petitioner is arrested for committing several crimes. Because section 943.0585 and rule 3.692 have separate procedures, each authority has its own standard for denying an expungement request.

Section 943.0585, governing the procedure for expunging non-judicial records, establishes that the court has authority to expunge records pertaining to one arrest or one incident. Of significant importance is the Legislature’s choice of words: “one arrest or one incident.” The use of a disjunction here signifies that a court has the authority to expunge records either from one arrest or one incident; in other words, even if a petitioner has multiple charges for one arrest, a court may still expunge his records. Indeed, Section 943.0585 contains no restrictive language that limits the court’s ability to expunge an arrest record solely because a petitioner has multiple charges. As such, a court cannot deny expungement pursuant to Section 943.0585 even if the petitioner has several charges, but one arrest.

Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.692 states that trial courts have the discretion to deny expungement requests of judicial criminal records. Generally, this means a court can deny expungement if there is a good reason for denial. However, as noted above, a court must consider all the facts and circumstances surrounding the expungement request. A court cannot deny expungement solely because the petitioner was charged with multiple offenses. The court must look to the petitioner’s behavior after the charges, and other facts relevant to whether expungement should be granted. The fact that a petitioner has multiple offenses therefore is not sufficient on its own to deny expungement of judicial criminal records.

Facts of This Case: In 1995, the petitioner in this case was arrested and charged for three offenses: possession and sale of cocaine on November 29, 1995; possession and sale of cocaine on December 1, 1995; and possession of cannabis on December 27, 1995. The petitioner successfully completed pretrial programs, and the state dropped the charges. The petitioner subsequently filed to expunge his judicial and non-judicial records.

The state opposed the expungement, arguing that the petitioner had multiple offenses, and that if the petitioner was to be granted relief, he should only be allowed to expunge one case. The trial court agreed with the state, and expunged records pertaining to the November 29 offense. The trial court refused to expunge petitioner’s non-judicial records because they were separate from the November 29 charges, and did not involve a single arrest or incident. The trial court refused to expunge petitioner’s judicial records because he had multiple offenses. The Florida Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision.

The court of appeals determined that Section 943.0585, relating to expungement of non-judicial records, authorized the courts to expunge records relating to one arrest or one incident. The court of appeals held that the statute did not establish that courts may expunge records to one arrest so long as there is only one incident. The appeals court stated that the Legislature contemplated expungement for multiple criminal acts, and because petitioner’s offenses related to one arrest, then expungement could be granted for all offenses relating to the arrest.

The court of appeals also determined that Rule 3.692 only allowed a court to deny expungement in its discretion if there was a good reason for denial based on the facts and circumstances of the case. The appeals court held that denying a request solely because the petitioner has multiple offenses is an abuse of discretion. The court of appeals stated that all the facts and circumstances of the petitioner’s case must be taken into account. As a result, the appeals court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in denying expungement of judicial records solely because petitioner had multiple offenses.

The court of appeals thereby reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case to allow the trial court to reconsider the petitioner’s expungement request.

Key Language: Petitioner’s non-judicial arrest records could be expunged, despite state’s argument that expunction statute precludes expunction of multiple charges, as records concerned multiple charges, but only one arrest.

Fact that petitioner was charged with multiple offenses over period of three days, rather than for one isolated incident, did not warrant denial of petition for expungement of judicial records, as petitioner satisfied requirements of expungement rule and was thus presumptively entitled to expungement, absent good reason for denial based on facts and circumstances of petitioner’s case.

Expert Advise: “This case clarifies what authority a judge has for denying a petitioner’s expungement request when he or she has multiple offenses. Generally, if a petitioner has multiple arrests, he will be precluded from expunging his records under Section 943.0585. However, as this case illustrates, a petitioner with multiple offenses may still successfully expunge judicial and non-judicial records. This case therefore provides the perfect response to a prosecutor’s objection to expungement solely because a petitioner has multiple offenses.” -Attorney Mathew Higbee.

To read about more cases that help to define record clearing relief laws click here.

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