Sealing and Expungment

St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyers Representing The Accused

A criminal record acts as a modern day “scarlet letter,” exposing the wearer to public humiliation. Often, a criminal record will bring hardship when applying for jobs, schooling and military service, among other things. A guilty conviction is not even required for someone to end up with a permanent criminal record. In Florida, if you are arrested, a criminal record will be created for you that is publicly accessible and can be found on any basic background check. Even if the prosecution decides not to file charges against you at all, or if you go to trial and are found not guilty, the criminal arrest record will remain.

This whole process may seem unjust, and it is. However, the Florida legislature has created some processes by which a person arrested for or charged with a crime can cleanse their criminal record. These processes are known as sealing and expungement. If you qualify to have your criminal arrest record sealed or expunged, you should strongly consider retaining a lawyer to help you follow the proper procedure. Only certain people charged with certain offenses qualify to have their records removed, so it is critical that you consult an experienced St. Petersburg criminal lawyer to help you determine if you qualify.

Sealing Your Records

The first process that can be undertaken to clean up your criminal arrest record is the sealing process. Pursuant to Florida Statute section 943.059, people with certain offenses on their criminal record can apply to have their record sealed. Sealing means that a criminal record is removed from public view and access. Even background checks will not be able to uncover sealed records. A sealed record, however, is not destroyed by the clerk of court. Instead, it is kept under lock and key and can be reopened under certain circumstances. For example, a prospective lawyer applying to the Florida Bar will be required to voluntarily unseal his or her records for the organization to review.

In order to qualify to have your records sealed, you do not necessarily need to win at trial, get your case dismissed or even plead not guilty. If you are charged with a qualifying misdemeanor or felony, even if you are found guilty, you may qualify to have your record of the offense sealed as long as the judge withholds adjudication of guilt. If the court withholds adjudication, once your sentence is complete, you can apply to have your criminal records sealed from public access. If you think you might qualify to have your criminal history sealed, you should contact an experienced St. Petersburg criminal lawyer right away.

Expunging Your Records

Criminal record expungement is a more permanent process than sealing. If you successfully have your criminal history expunged, the clerk of the court will destroy the records, preventing them from being accessed by anyone, even the person originally charged with a crime. Florida Statute 943.0585 permits the expungement of certain records depending on the outcome of the case.

Unlike sealing, you can only immediately apply for expungement of your criminal records if your case was dismissed or if you were found not guilty by a jury. If you are arrested, but your case is dismissed thanks to your participation in a diversion program or due to your lawyer’s legal arguments and negotiations, you can immediately apply for expungement. If you go to trial and the jury or judge finds that you are not guilty, you can also immediately apply. Even if you plead guilty to a charge, if the court withholds adjudication and you successfully seal your records, you can later apply for expungement after 10 years as long as you are not convicted of a crime during that 10 year period.

Contact Our Lawyers Today

The sealing and expunging process can be confusing for non-lawyers. The process, due to the volume of applications, can also take up to a year to complete. If you think you might qualify for a sealing or expungement of your criminal history, call the skilled St. Petersburg criminal lawyers at Hanlon Law today at 727-897-5413 so that we can help guide you through the process.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
As a practicing attorney, I was shocked to hear that a family member of mine was alleged to have committed a sex crime. Knowing full well the consequences this type of allegation can have on anyone and their future, I immediately reached out to William Hanlon for help. I had every confidence that Mr. Hanlon had the knowledge, expertise, and experience to handle this problem. Approximately 4 weeks from an initial conference with Mr. Hanlon, we received a call with the news that a letter of release was being issued and the case was being dropped. Now my family member can finally exhale, take a deep breath, and go on with his life. Thank you, William! Jerry
★★★★★
Was on the ball. Remembered names, events, places, situations. Never need to re explain the situation. Keeps in touch through out the entire experience and keeps you feeling safe, comforted and protected. Fights hard. Worth every single penny. Would never settle for anything less than Will. Carrie
★★★★★
I was facing a charge that if convicted would carry two years in prison minimally. Not only was he empathetic and listening to what I had to say but he arranged with the prosecutor for my charges not to be filed under terms of a pre trial investigation. Would highly recommend. Alec
★★★★★
I am very happy for what he did for me. Always there when I needed him. Explained everything well. He Fights for his clients. He got me what I needed. Hes an excellent lawyer. Mutaz
★★★★★
Mr. Hanlon did what no other lawyer could do. Not only did he turn my criminal history into a thing of the past so I could move on, he was a loyal associate. No matter how bad the situation is, he has miraculously cleared me on every charge since he became my lawyer 5 years ago. I have the best lawyer that the legal system has to offer. I have had other really good lawyers try to get my business, but I know that no one can do a better job than William Hanlon. Jesse