Once arrested, you have a criminal record. Period. Even if the State Attorney’s Office doesn’t file charges, or if the charges are later dismissed by a judge, you still have a criminal record. As if this wasn’t bad enough, your criminal record is considered a public record and anyone including employers, landlords, friends and family can see that you have been arrested for a crime. It’s not only embarrassing, it could cost you your job!
EXPUNGE or SEAL - which one is right for me?
Expungement: You should apply for an expungement only if all the charges in your case were either dismissed by the judge or dropped by the State Attorney's Office and your case did not proceed to trial.
Sealing: If you pled guilty or no contest to the charges, or were found guilty after a trial, and adjudication was withheld (meaning you were not convicted), then you can apply for sealing. Before you apply for a sealing, you should have completed ALL parts of your sentence, including completing your probation, paying all court costs and paying all restitution that was ordered by the judge.
The Application Process:
The first thing our office will provide you with is an Application for Certification of Eligibility, a fingerprint card, a Petition to Seal and/or Expunge and an Affidavit in Support of the Petition to Seal and/or Expunge. Our office will obtain, from the Clerk of Court, a certified copy of the disposition of the case you want to have sealed or expunged. The fee for this certified copy is currently Seven ($7.00) Dollars.
You will then go to your local police department and asked them to put your fingerprints on the fingerprint card that was provided to you (some police departments charge a fee for this service, typically between $5.00 and $10.00). Our office will provide you with a list of local police departments that perform this service. Make sure that you fill out the top part of the fingerprint card with your identifying information (name, race, sex, date of birth and Social Security number) and sign the card.
You will then return the completed fingerprint card to our office. If you are seeking to Expunge your case, we mail the completed application and supporting documents to the State Attorney for their approval. Once we receive the paperwork back from the State Attorney's Office, we will forward the completed Application for Certification of Eligibility, fingerprint card, certified case disposition and a $75.00 processing fee to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) in Tallahassee. If you are seeking to Seal your record, the paperwork goes straight to FDLE in Tallahassee.
FDLE will then research your criminal history to determine if you are eligible to have your case sealed or expunged. They will do a criminal history records check in Florida and throughout the United States. This process takes approximately THREE (3) to FIVE (5) MONTHS depending on their backlog. Please be patient! Once FDLE has finished reviewing your application they will send us one of three things:
A letter telling us to you not eligible and why,
A Certificate of Eligibility to seal your case, or
A Certificate of Eligibility to expunge your case.
If we get a letter from FDLE telling us that you not eligible to seal or expunge your case, you cannot proceed with the petition until we take care of whatever they tell us the problem is. We will meet with you, at no additional cost, in order to review FDLE's denial letter and advise you accordingly.
The Court Process:
Once we get your certificate of eligibility back from FDLE, we are halfway through the process. We will file all the required forms with the clerk's office. There is a filing fee, which is currently $42.00. The clerk's office will then schedule your hearing before the judge and will notify us of the time and date. We will appear at the hearing that has been set on your behalf. You are not required to appear. Once the judge grants your petition and signs the order, the clerk's office will send certified copies of the judge's order to all law enforcement agencies involved and they will either seal or expunge your record. We will also receive a certified copy of the order and will promptly provide you with the original for your records.
Your case will then be purged from the court system records within three to five days of the judge's order.
EFFECTS OF EXPUNGING / SEALING YOUR CRIMINAL RECORD
If your criminal history record is ordered sealed you may lawfully deny the existence of your criminal record, except when you are:
Applying for a job with a criminal justice agency,
A defendant in a criminal prosecution,
Applying for another sealing or expungement,
Applying for admission to the Florida Bar,
Seeking employment or licensing by the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice, or in a sensitive position having direct contact with children, the developmentally disabled, the aged or the elderly,
Seeking employment or licensing with the Department of Education, any district school board, university laboratory school, charter school, any private or parochial school or any local governmental entity that licenses child care facilities,
Attempting to purchase a firearm and are subject to a criminal history background check, and;
Seeking authorization from a Florida seaport for employment within or access to one or more seaports.
Your sealed record is available only to you, your attorney, criminal justice agencies for their criminal justice purposes, or any of the groups listed above when you apply for employment, licensing or access authorization. When your criminal history record has been ordered expunged, it may be lawfully denied, with the exception of the same circumstances listed above (except number 7). A record that has been ordered expunged is to be physically destroyed or obliterated (except for the record held by FDLE) and is not available to anyone without a court order, even you.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Can I do this myself, without an attorney?
Yes. The following link will take you FDLE’s website where you can download all the required forms: FDLE Expunge Website
Q: Why should I hire an attorney to expunge or seal my record?
For convenience and peace of mind. We handle the preparation of all required court pleadings/affidavits, all correspondence/communications with the State Attorney’s Office and FDLE. You don't have to miss work or hope you filled out the paperwork correctly. We take care of everything. We also appear in court on your behalf.
Q: What are the costs involved to expunge or seal my record? ·
$7.00 – fee for Certified Copy of Case Disposition · $75.00 – FDLE Fingerprint Processing Fee · $6.00 – $7.00 certified mail fee for sending the application to FDLE · $42.00 – Filing Fee with the Clerk of Courts Note: Some police departments charge a small fee for fingerprinting; this is not included in our price.
Q: Are all these costs included in your fee?
Yes, Our fee of $699.00 includes all costs listed above (except fingerprinting by police). There are no hidden costs or fees.
Q: How do you expect payment?
Payment in full is due upon your retaining our firm to seal or expunge your criminal record. Prior to accepting your case for processing, we require that you complete a questionnaire to determine your eligibility to seal or expunge your record. If we accept your case, we will provide you with a written retainer for legal services that sets out our duties and responsibilities in the sealing or expungement of your case.
Q: What guarantee do you offer?
We strive to ensure that you are eligible to expunge or seal your record prior to accepting your case for processing. However, in the event that you are deemed not eligible by FDLE, we will, at no extra charge, meet with you to discuss the reasons for FDLE’s denial or your petition. In the event we cannot secure a sealing or expungement of your record, we will refund ALL of your fees, less costs that we’ve already spent preparing your case.
Q: Do I have to visit your office prior to taking the case or can I hire you over the phone or by e-mail?
While we encourage all our clients to visit our office so we can meet them in person, we understand that sometimes it is inconvenient to do so. Whether you reside out of town or whether it is inconvenient to meet with us due to your job or other commitments, we can make arrangement to deliver all documents to your home or office for your review.
Q: Do you provide status report on my case?
Yes. We will e-mail you copies of all documents filed on your behalf and will, from time to time, update you on your case. You are free to call our office at any time, if you have any questions.
Q: How long does the process take?
The entire process may take anywhere from Four (4) to Six (6) months or longer. The reason for such a long delay is due to FDLE’s backlog in processing fingerprints. You must be patient and understand that this is a lengthy process. If you cannot wait the required time for the case to be expunged or sealed, we encourage you not to hire our firm for this service.
Q: What do you expect from your clients?
We expect honesty. If you have been convicted of a crime (even certain traffic offenses) anywhere in the United States, you must disclose this information during our initial meeting. The law regarding expunction or sealing of criminal cases is very strict, therefore we prefer to advise you from the outset, in the event you are not eligible to expunge or seal your case.
Q: Does you firm provide any other services?
Yes. We are a full service criminal defense law firm. We represent clients in both State and Federal court, on all types of criminal cases. For more information, please visit: www.abreulaw.com
The Abreu Law Firm, LLC, 2340 South Dixie Highway, Miami, Florida 33133
Robert E. Abreu, Esq. is a member of the Florida Bar and the United States District Court for the Southern, Middle and Northern Districts of Florida. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you make any decision, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience. This web site is designed for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.