Record Sealing and Expungement
Record Sealing and Expungement Attorneys
Jacksonville, FL white-collar and criminal defense lawyers helping you achieve a clean criminal record
Whether you face charges for a white-collar crime or for any type of felony or misdemeanor, those charges appear on your criminal record, even if the courts later acquit you of the crime. Under certain circumstances, a lawyer from Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A. can guide you through a process to reduce or eliminate the effects that criminal charges or convictions can have on your future.
Contact us to discuss your situation
Our lawyers conduct a thorough review and help you understand the options available to you. Call our office at (904) 353-5800 or contact us online to arrange a consultation that is free, with no obligation.
Common questions about sealing and expunction in Florida
How do I know if I qualify for sealing or expunction?
- Before you retain our office, please review the Disqualifying Charges for Expunction/Sealing and Disqualifying Charges for Expunction/Sealing documents available in our office or online at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) website. Please review them carefully to ensure you qualify for expunction or sealing.
- We cannot guarantee that the FDLE will grant your Application and Petition. Our Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers can only give you our opinion, based on the information you provide to us, or, if you are an existing client, what information we have in our file. Again, please review those disqualifying reasons, with your charges, and advise us if you wish to proceed. For an additional fee, we can research your criminal background to assist us in determining if you qualify to have your arrest record sealed.
- You can have only one arrest sealed (and/or expunged) from your criminal record. In addition, sealing is an option only if you were not convicted (adjudication was withheld or charges dropped) of the charge we are petitioning to seal, and if, at the time of filing our petition, you had not been adjudicated guilty of any criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation, or adjudicated delinquent (as a minor) for committing a felony or misdemeanor specified in Florida Statute 943.051(3)(b).
- You are only eligible to have your arrest expunged upon complete dismissal of the charges or when law enforcement filed no information for your case. If you seek expunction for a case not completely dismissed, you must first complete the sealing process. After ten years, a sealed case becomes eligible for expunction.
- Expunction means that any criminal justice agency that has custody of your record physically destroys or obliterates the record. However, the FDLE must retain any criminal history record in all cases. The record is confidential, except to the entities listed in Section V.1-6 and 8 (meaning you legally can deny this arrest occurred when purchasing a firearm).
- Sealing means that the expunged record is confidential and is available only to the person who is the subject of the record, to his or her attorney, to criminal justice agencies for their respective criminal justice purposes (which include conducting a criminal history background check for approval of firearms purchases or transfers as authorized by state or federal law), to judges in the state courts system for the purpose of assisting them in their case-related decision-making responsibilities. The record is confidential, except to the entities listed in Section V.1-8.
What is the difference between sealing and expunction?
How to begin the sealing/expunction process
There are three documents you must complete to begin the sealing process. They are as follows:
- Engagement letter (to retain our firm ¹)
- Application for Certificate of Eligibility to FDLE (Application)
- Fingerprint card
Once you decide to proceed with the sealing, our expunction law firm in Jacksonville forwards you an engagement letter. Please review, sign and return the engagement letter to Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A., together with your retainer, so we can begin the sealing process.
The sealing/expunction process
- The first step is to have your fingerprints taken by a law enforcement agent. You are required to appear physically at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) or an authorized law enforcement agency or substation to have your fingerprints taken. The sealing package includes the Application and fingerprint card. Please make sure the authorized agent completes the bottom of the fingerprint card. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) can return incomplete documents to us, which unnecessarily delays your sealing/expunction.
- After completing your fingerprint card, you must provide it to our office. Sign the Application (before a notary, — which you can do at our office). Please remember you must sign this document before a notary.
- When you apply for an expunction, we must have your Application signed by the State Attorney in the county of your arrest.
- Once those items are complete, we forward the Application and completed fingerprint card to the FDLE with the appropriate fee for processing your application. If you did not provide us those funds in addition to the fee, pursuant to the engagement letter, we advance those funds on your behalf. We send invoices monthly, and we bill you for that amount.
- The time for the FDLE to process your Application varies, depending on the number of Applications they receive. It can take anywhere from six weeks to four months for the FDLE to review your Application. If they accept your Application, the FDLE issues a Certificate of Eligibility (Certificate), which they return to us.
- Upon our receipt of the Certificate, we submit the applicable Petition to Seal and/or Expunge (Petition) to the Court, attaching the Certificate and an affidavit (which we prepare when we receive the Certificate, which you must also sign before a notary, attesting that to your knowledge, you qualify for a sealing/expungement).
- If the State consents to the granting of the Petition, the court schedules a hearing on the Petition². You must attend this hearing unless a Jacksonville criminal lawyer at our firm advises otherwise.
- If the Petition is unopposed by the State, the court issues an Order granting the Petition. It can take up to two weeks after the Order is entered for all law enforcement agencies (such as the Clerk of Court, the Sheriff’s Office and the FDLE) to clear the arrest that was sealed and/or expunged.
What is the benefit of sealing/expunction?
Pursuant to Florida Statute §943.059(4), once an Order has been entered granting the Petition to Seal your arrest record, you lawfully can deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests covered by the sealed record, except when you are:
- A candidate for employment with a criminal justice agency;
- A defendant in a criminal prosecution;
- Concurrently or subsequently petition for relief under this section, or the provisions of Florida Statutes §943.0583, or §943.0585 [that is, try to obtain another sealing or expunction];
- Are a candidate for admission to The Florida Bar;
- Are seeking to be employed or licensed by or to contract with the Department of Children and Family Services, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation within the Department of Education, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Health, the Department of Elderly Affairs, or the Department of Juvenile Justice or to be employed or used by such contractor or licensee in a sensitive position having direct contact with children, the developmentally disabled, the aged or the elderly;
- Are seeking to be employed or licensed by the Department of Education, a district school board, a university laboratory school, a charter school, any private or parochial school, or a local governmental entity that licenses child care facilities;
- Are attempting to purchase a firearm from a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer and is subject to a criminal history background check under state or federal law;
- Are seeking to be licensed by the Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services within the Department of Financial Services;
- Are seeking to be appointed as a guardian pursuant to Florida Statute §744.3125; or
- Are seeking to be licensed by the Bureau of License Issuance of the Division of Licensing within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to carry a concealed weapon or concealed firearm. This subparagraph applies only in the determination of an applicant’s eligibility under Florida Statute §790.06.
Subject to those limited exceptions, you may not face charges under any provision of law of the State of Florida to commit perjury or be otherwise liable for giving a false statement by reason of your failure to recite or acknowledge a sealed criminal history record. In other words, you lawfully can deny the arrest or case disposition, without facing charges of perjury.
Should you have any questions regarding these procedures, please let us know, and we will be pleased to assist you further.
For more information
Click the links below for additional information about record sealing or expungement:
¹ The retainer required varies case by case.
² Effective November 2009 — The State Attorney’s Office in Duval County has informed defense counsel that in all cases assigned to the Special Assault Division (commonly referred to as “SAD”), the State opposes all Petitions to Seal and/or Expunge. In this instance, as noted, a hearing will be scheduled, and you will have to be present.