Criminal Arrest Records Are Publicly Available
In Florida, criminal history records are publicly available. A criminal record is created when you are arrested and fingerprinted. It does not matter if you were not convicted or if charges were never filed. Even if your case is dismissed, the record of your arrest will remain and will be accessible to the public. The only way to make it private is to have it sealed or expunged.
Why You Might Want Your Arrest Record Sealed
With so many employers performing background checks on potential candidates, having a criminal arrest on your record can be problematic. Many employers will use an arrest record as a means to weed out candidates they deem unsuitable. Additionally, some job and professional certifications require a clean arrest record. Therefore, your arrest has the potential to inhibit your career growth or your ability to find a well-paying job.
Petitioning to have your arrest record sealed can give you the fresh start you need.
How to Seal Your Arrest Record
To have your criminal arrest record sealed, you must apply for a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Before granting the Certificate, the FDLE will determine if the applicant is eligible. When applying, several documents must be collected and included with your application. You must adhere to all steps of the process and comply with all directions. It is a good idea to work with a lawyer to ensure that this is handled correctly.
The process of applying for a Certificate of Eligibility typically takes over 12 weeks.
Am I Eligible for Record Sealing?
Not everyone is eligible for record sealing. When determining your eligibility, the FDLE will perform a criminal history record check through the Florida Crime Information Center. They will also perform a national search through the National Crime Information Center and a local search through court databases and driving history records.
Your petition for record sealing may be denied if:
- You have received a sealing or expungement previously
- You have been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense
- You have been adjudicated guilty of certain driving offenses that are classified as criminal
- You were adjudicated guilty for a criminal act related to the arrest associated with your application
Determining eligibility for record sealing can be complicated, and there are many reasons why petitions get denied. When preparing your petition, you should work with a trusted criminal defense lawyer, like those at The Virga Law Firm, P.A. Having an attorney at your side can help prepare you for the process and can help you determine if you have a strong case.
Petitioning for Relief
After you have received your Certificate of Eligibility, you must petition the court for relief. Along with your petition, you will also file your Certificate and the required affidavit. You will do this in the court that had jurisdiction over the original arrest.
It’s important to note that, in Florida, just because you have received a Certificate of Eligibility does not mean your arrest record will be automatically sealed. The court will then make the final decision regarding the sealing of your arrest record.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
While you do not need an attorney when petitioning to have an arrest record sealed, it is highly recommended. The process is complicated, and you want to make sure you are putting your best foot forward. The Virga Law Firm, P.A. has aided many clients in sealing their criminal arrest records, and we are ready to put that experience to work for you. We have also helped many clients whose initial petitions were denied. Contact our law firm to discuss your case.