Expungement and Seal Process for Florida Criminal Records
To expunge or seal your Florida criminal history record you must obtain a certificate of eligibility
from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and an order to expunge or seal your record
from a court in the county where your record is located.
To obtain a certificate of eligibility, you must submit a state application to the Florida Department
of Law Enforcement (FDLE) (and to the State Attorney's Office if you want to expunge your record).
FDLE will review your application, along with your Florida and national criminal history records,
Florida driving history record, records in local court databases, and other information, to determine
if you meet the statutory requirements for eligibility to have your Florida record sealed or expunged.
FDLE will send you a certificate of eligibility to either seal or expunge your record, if it
determines that you are eligible. If FDLE determines that you are not eligible, it will notify you that
your application has been denied and tell you the reason(s) why you are not eligible.
If you obtain a certificate of eligibility from FDLE, the next step is to file a petition with your
certificate of eligibility in a court where your record is located. Some courts require a hearing on
all petitions to seal or expunge. Sometimes a hearing is only required if there is an objection to a
petition. The court issues an order granting or denying the petition. If the court issues an order to
seal or expunge your record, copies of the order will be provided to various criminal justice agencies
for sealing or expungement of your record. If the court denies your petition to seal or expunge your
record, you can decide if you want to appeal the court's order.
The expungement or seal process in Florida generally takes at least 4-6 months.
The length of time is based primarily on the following:
- the workload of the state attorney's office or statewide prosecutor's
office that will review your application for a certificate of eligibility,
if you want to expunge your record;
- the workload of the state agency that will process your application
for a certificate of eligibility;
- the workload of the clerk's office and court that will review and
process your petition for an order to seal or expunge; and
- the workload of the entities that will seal or expunge your record.
You can read Florida laws and administrative rules for sealing or expunging criminal history
Sections 943.0585 and 943.059, Florida
Statutes, and Rules 11C-7.006-7.007,
Florida Administrative Code.
You should find out if you are eligible before you begin the seal or expungement process.
You can determine your eligibility and apply to seal or expunge your Florida record
on your own or you can
request a DIY Kit.
The Holmes Law Firm offers a "Do-It-Yourself" seal and expunge service that includes a
DIY kit (electronic and printed versions) with the state application, fingerprint card, step-by-step
instructions, checklists, status checks, contact information for key agencies involved in the process,
mailing labels, envelopes, U.S. mail tracking/receipt forms, and tips from Attorney Holmes. The DIY
service also includes a FREE Online Prescreening and a consultation with Attorney Holmes about the kit.
More about the DIY kit.
You can also get some help from Attorney Holmes with individual steps of the process.
Request an Eligibility Review
to get started.
What is a "criminal history record" and is it public?
A Florida criminal history record is created when a person is arrested and fingerprinted.
It includes the charges and dispositions from that arrest. Generally, each arrest for a separate
incident creates a separate criminal history record, for an adult or juvenile, whether the charges
were felonies or misdemeanors. If a judge determines that two or more arrests are related, they
can be combined into one criminal record. Charges added after an initial arrest may be reflected as
additional arrests but included within one criminal history record - all related to the original arrest.
You've heard the expression "rap sheet"? A person's rap sheet
may consist of multiple criminal history records, if that person has been
arrested multiple times.
Generally, a Florida criminal history record is public, unless the record has been
sealed or expunged. If you have a Florida criminal history record,
the public has access to it - unless you have it sealed or expunged,
except in limited circumstances.
Seal or Expungement?
Which is better?
Expunge = Shred and Seal = Lock.
If your Florida record is expunged, the law requires relevant agencies to destroy your record.
If your record is sealed, the law requires the relevant agencies to securely store your record as
confidential and to prohibit access to your record unless access is specifically authorized by law.
In either case, the agencies may not make your record available to the general public.
It is important to understand
when your record can be accessed and when you must legally acknowledge your record.
Which is easier to qualify for?
It is easier to qualify to seal a criminal history record in Florida than to expunge one.
The requirements for both are very similar; but, to qualify to expunge a record that is now open to the
public, all charges must have been dropped, nolle prossed, or dismissed (or no charges filed at all).
That is not often the outcome in criminal cases. So, expungements are more difficult to obtain
and not received as often. But the good news is that, if you meet all of the other
requirements, you would be eligible to seal your Florida record! In addition, current
Florida law provides that, after your record has been sealed for ten years, if you still qualify, you
can then apply to expunge it.
Are You Eligible to Expunge? Answer 4 questions to find out.
Crimes Which Might Prevent You
From Sealing or Expunging Your Florida Record
Automatic Disqualification - Part 1
Any criminal charge, felony or misdemeanor, for which you were ever
adjudicated guilty as an adult, anywhere, will automatically disqualify you
from sealing or expunging any nonjudicial Florida criminal history record, under the
regular Florida process.
This includes an adjudication of guilt for a criminal traffic offense or a criminal city or county
ordinance offense. Consider your overall criminal history record, including records with local,
state, federal, and military agencies, and with the courts, as you decide if you have ever been
Read more about "adjudicated guilty of a crime".
Automatic Disqualification - Part 2
Charges You May Not Be Able to Seal
or Expunge, Depending on the Disposition of Your Criminal Case
You will not be eligible to seal or expunge a Florida
criminal history record that relates to a violation of any of the
crimes listed below, IF you were found guilty of the listed offense,
even if the court withheld adjudication, or
IF you pled guilty or nolo contendere to the listed offense -
even if the court withheld adjudication.
If all charges in your record were dismissed, or if the charges in the record you
want to seal or expunge are not related to any of the crimes listed below, this automatic
disqualification does not apply to you.
- Aggravated assault
- Aggravated battery
- Illegal use of explosives
- Child abuse or aggravated child abuse
- Abuse or aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
- Aircraft piracy
- Sexual battery
- Lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault or act upon or in the
presence of a child under the age of 16
- Sexual activity with a child who is 12 or older but less than 18,
by or at solicitation of a person in familial or custodial authority
- Burglary of a dwelling
- Stalking or aggravated stalking
- Act of domestic violence as defined in s. 741.28 F.S.
- Home-invasion robbery
- Act of terrorism as defined by s. 775.30 F.S.
- Manufacturing any substances in violation of Chapter 893, F.S.
- Attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above crimes.
- Sexual misconduct with a developmentally disabled person, or
related offense - s. 393.135, F.S.
- Sexual misconduct with a mental health patient, or related offense
s. 394.4593, F.S.
- Luring or enticing a child - s. 787.025, F.S.
- Sexual battery or related offense in Chapter 794, F.S.
- Procuring person under 18 for prostitution - s. 796.03, F.S.
- Lewd or lascivious offense committed upon or in the presence
of a person less than 16 - s. 800.04, F.S.
- Voyeurism - s. 810.14, F.S.
- Florida Communication Fraud Act - s. 817.034, F.S.
- Lewd or lascivious offense upon or in presence of an elderly
or disabled person - s. 825.1025, F.S.
- Sexual performance by a child - s. 827.071, F.S.
- Offense by a public officer or employee - Chapter 839, F.S.
- Showing or selling obscene literature to minor, or related offense
s. 847.0133, F.S.
- Computer pornography - s. 847.0135, F.S.
- Selling or buying of a minor - s. 847.0145, F.S.
- Trafficking in controlled substances - s. 893.135, F.S.
- Sexual misconduct with a mentally deficient or mentally ill
defendant, or related offense - s. 916.1075, F.S.
- A violation of any offense specified as a predicate offense
for registration as a sexual predator pursuant to s. 775.21, F.S.,
without regard to whether that offense alone is sufficient to
require such registration, or for registration as a sexual
offender pursuant to s. 943.0435 regarding registration as a
sexual predator under or for registration as a sexual offender
under s. 943.0435, F.S.
Automatic Disqualification - Part 3
If you were ever adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile for any of the crimes
listed below, you will not be eligible to seal or expunge any nonjudicial Florida criminal history record, under the regular process.
1) Any felony; or
2) Any of the following misdemeanors
(as specified in s. 943.051(3)(b), Florida Statutes):
- Arson (s. 805.031(1))
- Assault (s. 784.011)
- Assault or battery on a law enforcement officer, a firefighter, or other
specified officers (s. 784.07(2)(a)-(b))
- Battery (s. 784.03)
- Carrying a concealed weapon (s. 790.01(1))
- Cruelty to animals (s. 828.12(1))
- Exposure of sexual organs (s. 800.03)
- Negligent treatment of children (former s. 827.05)
- Open carrying of a weapon (s. 790.053)
- Petit theft (s. 812.014(3))
- Unlawful possession of a firearm (s. 790.22(5))
- Allowing a minor to obtain firearm who takes it to school property
- Unlawful use of destructive devices or bombs (s. 790.1615(1))
Traffic Records and Records Outside of Florida
One thing which makes many people ineligible to seal or expunge their records
under the regular seal or expungement process is an adjudication of guilt
for a criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation, including criminal traffic violations -
inside or outside of Florida.
This would include, for example, an adjudication of guilt you might have
received 20+ years ago in another state, for a traffic offense or a "minor" county
ordinance violation. You might remember that it involved only a very quick
court appearance and a "simple" resolution (such as payment of a minimal fine).
However, the other state actually classified the offense as "criminal".
If you were adjudicated guilty for this type of criminal offense, you would not be
eligible under Florida statutory requirements to seal or expunge any Florida
criminal history record.
The state agency, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), will review your
application to have your record sealed or expunged. FDLE will review
your Florida criminal history record, your national criminal history record
(maintained by the FBI), your Florida driving history record, court records, and other records
which are necessary to determine your eligibility to seal or expunge your Florida record.
Even if you believe that, for one reason or another, a record you have in another state will not
be accessible by FDLE, if you were adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense in that record,
you are not eligible to seal or expunge a Florida record. When you apply to
FDLE for a certificate of eligibility, and when you file a petition to seal or expunge with a court,
you must swear, under oath, that you have never been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense.
You would be subject to criminal penalties if you are not truthful.
If you consult with the expungement attorney from the Holmes Law Firm or another attorney,
for a review of your eligibility to seal or expunge your Florida record,
you should provide as much information as you can about your records and your
history with the court system, within and outside of Florida. Otherwise, you
may find that you make it through part of the process only to be denied a
certificate of eligibility or a court order, or to have a court order you obtained
vacated, due to additional information being discovered which makes you ineligible
to have your Florida record sealed or expunged - information that you mistakenly
thought was too old, insignificant, irrelevant, or unavailable.
Can I seal or expunge more than one Florida criminal record?
With a few exceptions, you can only have the charges for one
Florida criminal history record sealed or expunged using the regular
seal or expungement process in Section 943.0585 or 943.059, Florida Statutes.
Once you use the regular process to either seal or expunge
a record, you will not be able to seal or expunge a different Florida criminal
history record using the regular process.
One exception to this one-record-limit is if a court finds that one or more arrests are
directly related. The court can order the related arrests sealed or expunged, if the person
and records are otherwise eligible. This seldom happens.
Another exception is if you had a Florida criminal history record sealed for ten years,
based on certain requirements in Florida law, and you now want to have that record expunged
using the regular expungement process, the Florida "seal or expunge once"
restriction does not apply to you. If you are eligible to expunge under current law,
you can apply to have that record expunged.
If you had a record sealed or expunged in another
jurisdiction using a process similar to the one in Florida, i.e., a process you initiated and one which
involves an application and a court order, you will not be able to use the Florida process to seal or
expunge any Florida criminal history record.
Other states have similar restrictions, prohibiting the sealing or expunging of more than
one criminal record. If you have one or more criminal records in other states,
in addition to your Florida record, you should carefully consider
your options before sealing or expunging any of your records -
in any state. It is likely that you will have only one opportunity
to seal or expunge.
If you have a Florida criminal history record expunged through a
different process, for example, through
juvenile diversion expungement
or administrative expungement,
you may be able to use the regular seal or
expunge process to seal or expunge another Florida record,
if you are eligible.
The "seal or expunge once" restriction does not prohibit you
from applying for a certificate of eligibility more than once, if you were
not successful in obtaining a court order to seal or expunge any of your
records previously. You will have to pay the state application fee
with each application.
If you have questions about an application for a certificate of
eligibility you submitted which was denied by the state agency because
the agency determined that you are ineligible to have that record
sealed or expunged, promptly consult with an attorney before you decide that
you have no options.
Who will have access to my sealed or expunged Florida record?
If a court orders your Florida criminal history record expunged
under the process in Section 943.0585, Florida Statutes, criminal justice agencies
governed by Florida law and the court order, other than FDLE, must physically
destroy or obliterate their related records. FDLE is required to retain your expunged
record; but it must maintain the record as confidential and unavailable to any
person or entity except upon a court order or as otherwise authorized by law.
If you have your record sealed
using the process in Section 943.059, Florida Statutes, that record will
become confidential and available only to you and your attorney, and,
for authorized purposes, to judges, criminal justice agencies, and
certain other entities.
Below are some examples of when your sealed criminal history
record will be accessible to specific people and entities, for specific uses, and
when a notation that you have expunged a record will be provided. Florida law
(Sections 943.0585-.059, Florida Statutes) requires that you acknowledge the arrest(s)
in your record in the situations listed below:
- If you apply for a job with a criminal justice agency;
- If you are a defendant in a criminal case;
- If you try to have a different criminal history record sealed or expunged;
- If you apply to be a lawyer in Florida;
- If you apply for a job with or to be licensed by or to contract with the Department of
Children and Family Services, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in 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;
- If you apply for a job with or to be licensed by the
Department of Education, any district school board, any university laboratory school, any charter,
private, or parochial school, or any local governmental entity that licenses child care facilities;
- If you apply for employment in or access to a Florida public seaport; and
- If you attempt to purchase a firearm from a licensed importer, licensed
manufacturer, or licensed dealer.
Florida law requires FDLE to provide judges in the Florida state court system with
online access to criminal history record information, including sealed
records, to assist the judges in their case-related decision-making responsibilities.
(Sections 943.059(4) and 943.053(5), Florida Statutes.)
Federal agencies may also have access to sealed records, including the military.
Some private background screening companies create searchable databases from
copies of Florida public criminal history records that they obtain from FDLE and other
state and local agencies. Unless these companies update their databases,
they may continue to reveal your record in their search results, even after your record
has been sealed or expunged by state and local agencies. The Holmes Law Firm may be
able to assist you, if you find that your sealed or expunged Florida criminal history record is still
being made available by some background screening companies.