Higbee & Associates Articles Florida Expungement Law Provides Big Benefits

Florida Expungement Law Provides Big Benefits

By Mathew Higbee  Mar. 17, 2014 5:39p

Tens of thousands of people in Florida are haunted by arrest records. Not only does Florida's Sunshine Law provide easy access to police arrest records and court cases, most counties publish mugshots, which get republished by unscrupulous mugshot sites.

It is not uncommon for someone who was simply arrested to be questioned about the arrest when applying for a job or housing. The questioning can go on for years after the arrest. The reality is that the arrest carries a punishment even though no guilt was proven.

Fortunately, there is some relief for those who are arrested and not convicted. Florida's expungement law (Florida Statute Section 943.0585) allows a person to ask the court to order all records of such an arrest to be destroyed. All government agencies that have copies of the records are ordered to expunge them from their systems and to destroy physical copies.

The eligibility requirements are pretty simple. The case could not have resulted in a finding of guilt (or withheld adjudication) or gone to trial. The person must have no convictions on their record. The person also must not have already expunged or sealed a record in Florida (an expungement in another state is allowed).

The eligibility requirements for expungement in Florida narrow. They exclude the giant universe of people who have cases that ended in a conviction or withheld adjudication. But for those who meet the requirements, the benefit can be life changing.

Attorney Melissa Clark, who publishes ClearMyFloridaRecord.com) says that her clients have horror stories about being denied the opportunity to coach their children's sports teams, travel to visit family to Canada and losing job opportunities. "The impact of an arrest record is tough to over-estimate— it really can have devastating consequences," says Clark.

Getting the criminal record in Florida expunged is a six to eight month, multi-agency gauntlet that must be navigated with precision, lest the applicant have to start the process over for the slightest misstep. Just misfiling the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FLDE) form can set a person back 3 months said Clark.

After the person clears the FDLE, they must also make it past the prosecuting attorney, which is usually the district attorney for the county. Then it is on to the court. The judge can order a court hearing that would require the person to appear in court at a time and date specified by the judge. However, such hearings are often not required.

There are also fees charged at various stages. The FDLE charges $75 for its pre-expungement verification and the court usually charges a filing fee.

For those who are not eligible for expungement, Clark suggests that they consider sealing their record if they received withheld adjudication or a pardon if they were convicted.

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