There are thousands of people in the state of Florida who have criminal records despite the fact that they have never been tried or convicted of any crime. This may happen when people are charged mistakenly and later find the charges are dropped, or when they are arrested but subsequently not charged for whatever reason.
When the situation arises, the record of the arrest and booking information remain a matter of public record, and that can have profound effects on a person. Even though there is no associated conviction, it can still affect one's chances of getting a job or getting into school, because more and more colleges and employers are running criminal background checks as a matter of course when they recruit.
Who is eligible for an expungement?
Generally speaking, there are three types of people who are eligible for a criminal record expungement:
- Those who committed offenses as a juvenile that fall under statute s. 943.0515, which provides for the expungement of juvenile records after the completion of a diversion program for certain qualifying offenses. The length of the time that must pass between completion of the program and expungement of the record is indicated in qualifying juvenile records.
- Those who were arrested for crimes but never subsequently charged, either due to a lack of a complaining witness or because the arrest was not intended to produce charges, as when people are arrested for disturbing the peace and later released.
- People who were charged with a crime, but who saw the charges dismissed by a prosecutor or judge prior to the beginning of any trial.
How to get your record expunged
If a person qualifies, then it is better to get the process started sooner rather than later. It takes several months to process and approve applications that are eligible under the law. These applications can be time consuming, and missing steps or failing to include the proper records will result in having to start again. So, it is a good idea to get help from an attorney who understands the process. Attorneys who make helping people seal and expunge records a big part of their practice know the system well, and they can make sure a person gets through the process properly, so the expungement is obtained.
Because a past arrest can get in the way of finding the right job or heading back to school to retrain, it is important to talk to an attorney who has experience in this area of the law today.