1. What is a Florida criminal history record?
A criminal history record is created when a person is arrested and fingerprinted.
It includes the disposition of that arrest - whether it is a conviction of the
related charge(s), acquittal, dismissal of the charges before trial, or other
Generally, each arrest for a different incident creates a separate criminal
history record, whether for a felony or a misdemeanor, and for an adult or a juvenile record. 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.
Order your Florida criminal history record.
2. When are Florida criminal history records public?
Generally, a Florida criminal history record is public, unless the record is
sealed or expunged or in other, limited circumstances.
Except in limited circumstances, if you have a Florida criminal history record,
the public has access to it - unless you have it sealed or expunged.
3. What is the regular process to seal or expunge a Florida
criminal history record?
The process used in most situations when a person wants to seal or expunge
a Florida nonjudicial criminal history record is based on the requirements
in Sections 943.0585 and 943.059, Florida Statutes. This process involves
a state application for a certificate of eligibility submitted to the Florida
Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) (and, for expungements only,
to the State Attorney's Office) and, if FDLE issues a certificate of eligibility,
a petition filed with a court.
The Law Firm refers to this process as the regular seal or expungement process,
to distinguish it from other processes used less often to seal or expunge a
Florida record, such as
Juvenile Diversion Expungement
or Administrative Expungement.
There are 3 main steps in the regular seal or expungement process:
Review your eligibility.
Submit a state application for a certificate of eligibility.
File a petition for an order to seal or expunge your record.
The Holmes Law Firm offers several services related to the basic process
the Firm uses to assist people who want to seal or expunge their Florida
Request an Eligibility Review
to get started.
You can choose to hire the Firm to help you with only part of the process,
depending on your situation. See FAQ 5: "Can I hire the Law Firm to help me
with only part of the seal or expungement process?"
4. How long will the entire seal or expungement process take?
Short Answer: Most likely at least 4-6 months,
for the regular process - from review by the Law Firm to the sealing
or expungement of your record by FDLE, if there are no issues or objections.
The length of time is primarily based 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.
The Law Firm will handle its part of the process expeditiously and will
let you know the status of your case.
5. Can I hire the Law Firm for only part of the seal or expungement process?
You can choose to have the Law Firm assist you with a single seal or expunge
service or from the beginning of the
through the preparation of your petition for a court order, based on your situation.
You can get started with an
Perhaps you want the Firm to review your state criminal
history records and your Florida driving record, to find out if
there are any issues in those records which might impact your
eligibility to seal or expunge your record.
Perhaps you want to prepare and submit your application for
a certificate of eligibility on your own, to find out if the
state attorney's office (for expungement only) and FDLE will determine
that you are eligible - and then ask for assistance from the Firm,
to review any denial by FDLE or to continue with the seal or
FDLE and need legal help preparing your petition for a court order.
Perhaps you want to make sure FDLE has sealed or expunged your record,
after you obtain a court order.
Request an Eligibility Review
to get started.
6. Is a sealed or expunged record always hidden?
Please do not be misled about the results of sealing or expunging
your Florida criminal history record under the processes in Sections 943.0585
and 943.059, Florida Statutes. By law, there will be circumstances in which
certain entities will have authority to access your sealed record or to
receive a notice that your record has been expunged.
If you have your record sealed under the process described
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 when your sealed
record will be accessible to specific people and entities, for specific uses:
- 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 or apply to be licensed by the Department of
Children and Families, 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, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the
Department of Education, any district school board, or any charter or
- 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.
In addition, Florida law requires the Florida Department of Law
Enforcement (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,
as well as the military.
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.
"Sealed information is disseminated only to those agencies
authorized by provisions in Section 943.059, F.S. Agencies not specified in the
statutes are not provided sealed criminal history information.
Expunged criminal history information is not disseminated. However, a notification
that a record has been expunged is provided to agencies consistent with provisions
in Section 943.0585, F.S. Agencies not specified in the statutes are not provided
the expunged notification."
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Criminal History Record
Checks/Background Checks, Fact Sheet, July 7, 2011.
If you have a juvenile record expunged under the prearrest or
postarrest juvenile diversion expungement process in Section 943.0582, Florida
Statutes, the results are different than what is explained in this FAQ.
Please see "What is Juvenile Diversion Expungement?" for more information.
7. Can private employers access Florida criminal history records?
Many private sector employers review the criminal history records of people
applying for jobs. This type of background screening often includes a check of
criminal history records with state and local criminal justice agencies.
It may include a review of records in every state where the applicant ever
worked or resided.
To access criminal history records in Florida, these employers may likely try to
review records on file with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE),
local law enforcement agencies, and courts. The law provides that, if you have a
Florida criminal history record sealed or expunged, these private employers,
with few exceptions, should not have access to the record through the above
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.
8. Does the Law Firm guarantee that my record will be sealed or expunged?
No one should guarantee you specific results in your endeavor to have your
Florida criminal history record sealed or expunged.
Attorneys in Florida are prohibited from offering guarantees or promising
results with the services they provide.
(Rule 4-7.2(c)(1)(G), Rules Regulating the Florida Bar)
In addition, under Florida law, the court has discretion to issue an order
to seal or expunge. If you have met the statutory requirements for eligibility,
the court must exercise its discretion within the boundaries of the law; but,
the court may consider additional factors when deciding whether to grant a
petition to seal or expunge.
The Law Firm tries to focus on cases which appear to
have the least obstacles to obtaining a court order to seal or
expunge, based on the information provided to the Firm by clients,
historical results of FDLE's review of applications for certificates of
eligibility, the law, court rulings, and other considerations.
To get started, you can request an Eligibility Review.
It may be true that most people who properly apply and appear to be
eligible under Florida law actually receive certificates of eligibility
from FDLE and court orders to seal or expunge. However, there are
situations in which some people do not receive certificates of eligibility
or court orders to seal or expunge, even when it appeared they were
otherwise eligible at the beginning of the process.
Sometimes people provide information at the beginning of the process which
does not reflect an accurate or complete picture of their entire
criminal history in Florida or in other states where they might have
lived, worked, or traveled.
Sometimes people forget about or misunderstand their previous traffic
violations or criminal case dispositions. Sometimes what seemed like
a "simple" court hearing and disposition on a "minor"
charge which occurred years ago, perhaps in another state, actually led to a
"finding of guilt" for a criminal traffic violation or a criminal ordinance
violation - which makes the person ineligible to seal or expunge any Florida record,
using the regular seal and expungement process.
Sometimes errors are found in a person's record when FDLE runs
a state and national criminal history check during the application review process.
The errors may have to be corrected before the person will be eligible to
seal or expunge a record.
Many things can cause delays in the process and lead to a denial
of a certificate of eligibility, and therefore, no court order to seal or expunge.
If you ask the Firm to assist you in the seal or expungement process,
the more accurate and complete you can be with the information you
provide to the attorney from the beginning, the better the
determination of your eligibility will be and the less chance you will have
for delays, a denial of a certificate of eligibility, or a denial of a court order
to seal or expunge - due to disqualifying information you have which is
discovered later in the process.
When reviewing your petition to seal or expunge, the court
must act within the law if you meet the statutory requirements
to be eligible to have your record sealed or expunged. However, the court may
consider factors in addition to your statutory eligibility when deciding
whether to grant your petition - factors such as your other criminal
history record(s), the nature of the charges in the record you want to
seal or expunge, and your occupation. The State Attorney's Office
may raise an objection to your petition based on these other factors.
There are restrictions on how the court reviews objections and
the other factors.
You should find out, before you start the process, if you
may likely face objections or a denial of a court order to seal or expunge
your record, based on the above or other factors in your case.
The attorney for the Firm will provide a service to you based on the
information you provide and the information you ask the Law Firm to
obtain for review. The attorney may choose not to provide a specific seal
or expunge service, if information the Law Firm reviews indicates that you
are not eligible, or that there are issues which may likely lead to objections
or to other legal issues which may prohibit you from obtaining a certificate
of eligibility or an order to seal or expunge your record. The attorney from
the Firm will advise you about the situation and your options.
9. Is it true that I can only use the seal or expungement process once?
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.
Under current law, 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.
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.
If you already 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 which involves an application and 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.
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 had a Florida record sealed for ten years, due to certain
requirements in Florida law, and you now want to have that record expunged
using the regular expunge 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 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.
10. What records of mine will be reviewed during the Florida seal or expunge
The state agency that will review your application to have your record sealed
or expunged (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement) will review your
Florida criminal history record and your national criminal history record
(maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation), along with your Florida driving
history record, court records, and other records which are necessary to determine
your eligibility to seal or expunge your Florida record.
If you consult with the 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(s), 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.
The next FAQ: "Why is my record in another state important if I only want to seal
or expunge my record in Florida?" may provide additional information.
11. Why is my record in another state important if I only want to seal or expunge
my record in Florida?
One thing which makes many people ineligible to seal or expunge their records is
an adjudication of guilt for a criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation
- inside or outside of Florida, including criminal traffic violations.
This would include, as an 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, which you might remember as having involved only a very quick
court appearance and a "simple" resolution (such as payment of a minimal fine) -
but which was an offense the other state law classified 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 that will review your application to have your
record sealed or expunged (FDLE) will review
your Florida criminal history record and your national criminal history record
(maintained by the FBI), along with your Florida driving
history record, court records, and other records which are necessary to determine your
eligibility to seal or expunge your Florida record.
If you consult with the 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(s), 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.
12. If I only have a traffic charge with the Department of Highway Safety
and Motor Vehicles, can I apply to seal or expunge that record?
The regular seal or expungement process cannot be used to seal or expunge a
traffic charge, unless the charge is a criminal traffic offense. If the charge in your
record is a criminal traffic offense and you meet the eligibility requirements, you
can apply to seal or expunge that record. An issue may arise if the record of the
charge is not part of the FDLE criminal history database; but, the Firm can
See FAQ: "Am I eligible to have my record sealed or expunged?"
or the Fast 5,
to get started reviewing your overall eligibility.
Request an Eligibility Review
to get started.
13. Can I seal or expunge my Florida record by myself?
Depending on your situation, getting legal advice may help you
a) make a more informed choice from options you might have; b) avoid problems or overcome
obstacles along the way; and c) save you time and money, especially in having to
ask for help to fix something after you tried to work through the process on
Here are some examples of when you should ask for help from an
attorney who is knowledgeable about sealing and expunging criminal history records
in Florida: if you have multiple criminal records, especially if some of the
records are in other states; if you are not sure about whether you are eligible
to seal or expunge your Florida record; and if you are not comfortable completing and
submitting the required state application for a certificate of eligibility or drafting a
petition for a court order.
Read more about "Do-It-Yourself" seal or expungement of Florida records.
Request a DIY seal and expungement kit.
The attorney for the Holmes Law Firm represented the state agency that will
review your application to seal or expunge your record - the Florida Department
of Law Enforcement (FDLE) - for over 7 years. Attorney Holmes has been a member
of the Florida Bar for more than 24 years. She has addressed
numerous legal issues related to eligibility to seal or expunge a Florida record,
FDLE's review of applications for certificates of eligibility, and judicial review of
petitions to seal or expunge. She is familiar with finer points of the law and processing
issues which can impact a decision by FDLE to issue or deny a certificate of
eligibility to seal or expunge and, therefore, the possibility of obtaining a
court order to seal or expunge a Florida record.
Get Started! Request an
OTHER EXPUNGEMENTS - Go to FAQ Part 2