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Expungement Attorneys in Naples, Florida 

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Simply put, everyone makes mistakes in life. However, in many circumstances, people will make major mistakes that involve criminal activity and subsequently leads to the establishment of a criminal record. Having a criminal record creates a horde of problems in one’s professional and private lives. Because of this, many former offenders choose to pursue petitions for the expungement or sealing of their previous criminal records. However, you must consider the fact that this process can be drawn-out and extremely strict, and so the majority of individuals who attempt it will require legal assistance to have a successful outcome.

With the help of a criminal defense lawyer experienced in expungement cases, you can easily make a strong case and get your life back on track. Here at Musca Law, our team of expungement attorneys are well-versed in the processes surrounding Orders to Seal/Expunge criminal records in the state of Florida. From adult crimes to juvenile detention, we are ready to help you make a fresh new start. 

For more information, contact our office in Naples, Florida at (239) 793-5297. 

Expungement vs. Sealing Records

If you want to take the next step to expunge or seal your criminal record, you must be prepared to take many steps and consider many factors that could impact these steps. To ensure your eligibility for expungement or sealing of records and the proper execution of these procedures, you must seek advisement from a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with expungement or sealing of records followed in the state of Florida. 

Ultimately, you will have two options for marking your criminal records “inaccessible” or “nonexistent” in Florida: 

  • Expungement: the removal of an offender’s criminal history 
  • Sealing records: restricting access to criminal records 

In either case, an adult or juvenile must comply with all requirements set forth in the Florida Statutes and laid out in the Rules of Procedure. Whether this person desires to seal or expunge his/her records, he/she has to begin with the application process to determine eligibility. Once an individual has obtained a certificate of eligibility, he/she may continue with the process. 

However, keep in mind that factors like the type of offense and the occurrence of multiple arrests/convictions may impact the success factor of this case. 

How a Florida Court Takes Action in the Expungement Process 

In keeping with Florida Law and the rules listed in Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 943.0585, records of adult criminal history are made public (in keeping with special access dictated by provisions), with the exception of records that have been expunged or sealed. Chapter 943.0585 also dictates that any division of the Florida Court may (with proper jurisdiction) order a criminal justice agency to erase the criminal records (including history) of an adult offender or minor who is fully compliant with all regulations listed in this Statute. 

However, Florida Courts will only make an effort to expunge records if an individual has successfully filled out an application for eligibility and subsequently received a certificate. 

How to Petition for Expungement of Criminal Records in Florida 

According to Florida State Title XLVII Chapter 943.0585, legal officials will only recognize a petition for the expungement of criminal records as “complete” if the petitioner has completed a certificate of eligibility (issued by the department) and has written a sworn statement attesting that he/she: 

  • Has not been charged for additional offenses or violations and has not been found guilty of misdemeanors prior to the completion of this certificate. 
  • Has not been adjudicated for any crimes that are similar to the offenses listed on the certificate, prior to this document being filled out. 
  • Has not secured a previous petition, unless he/she is seeking to expunge criminal records that were issued 10 years ago. 

How Can I Receive a Certificate of Eligibility for Expungement? 

As set in place by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), people seeking to obtain a certificate of eligibility for the expungement of criminal records must complete the following steps: 

  • Fill out an application: To retrieve a document, you can download the file offered on the official website for the FDLE or request the application via email (as indicated in the expungement section on the FDLE site). However, you must fill out Section A in the presence of a Deputy Clerk of Court or a Notary Public, while Section B is handled by the Prosecuting Attorney. 
  • Complete the FDLE fingerprint form (FD 40-024): This document is included with the application packet for expungement, and you may replace this form with a fingerprint card. Applicants must include their name, date of birth, race, sex, social security number, and agency ORI. The fingerprint form must also include the signatures of the applicant and the supervising official. 
  • Disposition of the case set to be expunged/sealed: If you do not have easy access to this document, the Clerk of Court, State Attorney’s Office, or arresting agency is required to submit a letter. In co-occurrence with a pre-trial intervention case or a related program, the State Attorney’s Office may provide a letter of completion as a replacement for this document.  
  • $75 fee ordered by the FDLE: Applicants can pay this amount via check, cashier’s check, or money order but may not do so through cash payments. These payments must be submitted prior to the expiration date. 
  • Letter: In the event that the applicant is being represented by a lawyer, this person must provide letters from his/her attorney. 

As part of this entire process, all applicants must also keep a record of all relevant documents that are attached to the case in question. This information may include arrest reports, dispositions, or additional orders of expungement (within the 10-year period mentioned prior). Once the courts have expunged this record, members of the court can no longer allow the public to have access to this former record, as ordered in Florida Statute Chapter 943.0585. 

Details about Administrative Expungement of Wrongful Criminal Charges

Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 943.0581 (1)(2) dictates that the department may take special action (in keeping with Chapter 120) to carry out the administrative expungement of nonjudicial records regarding the wrongful arrest of adults and minors. In the case of juvenile offenders, the parents of these minors may apply on their children’s behalf. 

Details about Sealing of Criminal Records Issued by a Florida Court 

In keeping with the rules laid out in Title XLVII Chapter 943.0585, Chapter 943.059 dictates that the Florida Courts have the unwavering authority over the proceedings and handling of judicial records, including any cases regarding the expungement and/or sealing of previous charges for criminal activity. For more information concerning these steps, please review Chapter 493.049 for more details. 

Understanding the Process of Juvenile Diversion Expungement 

As dictated in Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 943.0582, the department can take specific steps for the expungement of nonjudicial records of juvenile offenders who have participated in diversion programs (in keeping with the charges related to a misdemeanor offense). However, understand that these “diversion programs” may refer to programs or organizations listed in Statute 985.12 or a program referred by the Florida State Attorney. 

Under these circumstances, Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 943.0585(4) will not apply to any circumstances surrounding a case of juvenile diversion. The only exception is that legal officials will release the applicant’s criminal history to criminal justice agencies for these reasons: 

  • Determining the applicant’s eligibility for diversion programs
  • Active criminal investigations 
  • Elements of a prosecutorial decision (Chapter 985.15) 

Victims of Human Trafficking and Expungement on the Grounds of Self-Defense 

As dictated by the FDLE and Florida Statute Title XLVIII Chapter 943.0585, in specific situations, the victims of human trafficking crimes may apply for a certificate of eligibility to seek the expungement of crimes on the grounds of self-defense. 

Here is a more detailed outline of the terms presented in this code: 

  • Human trafficking: the transportation of men, women, and children against their will (also defined as a form of human slavery under Title XLVII Chapter 943.0538)
  • Official documentation: documents provided by agencies at the federal, state, and local levels that confirm that this applicant is a human trafficking victim
  • Victim of human trafficking: man, woman, boy, or girl who was victimized by individuals who supervised human trafficking operations and efforts

In accordance with these details, men, women, and juveniles who have been processed as victims of human trafficking may apply for an eligibility certificate for the expungement of criminal records. As part of this process, legal officials must prove (without any shred of doubt) that these people were victimized and were being controlled/directed by the instigator of the human trafficking crime. 

Details about the Automatic Expungement of Minors’ Criminal Records 

Under Florida Statute Title XLVIII Chapter 943.0515 (1ab), the Criminal Justice Information Program has the authorization to retain the criminal history of juvenile offenders who have been: 

  • Processed as seasonal criminals. 
  • Detained at juvenile correction facilities. 
  • Detailed at juvenile prisons for a 5-year period after the date the offenders reach the age of 21 (outlined in Chapter 985). 

If the juvenile offender has not been previously indicted (e.g. seasonal offender or detaining at one of two different locations), the court will expunge these records once all criteria are met. 

On that note, juveniles may also apply for a certificate of eligibility before he/she reaches 21 years of age, but this individual must be 18 years of age (at least) to fill out an application. Furthermore, the applicant must not have committed additional crimes in the 5 years prior to the application date. Like adult offenders, minors may also file these certificates to the department. 

Chapter 943.0515(3) of the Florida Statutes lists that a minor who does is not approved for early expungement will have his/her records expunged once he/she reaches 21 years of age (and all requirements have been met). 

Chapter 943.0515(2a) also states that applicants who have been charged with forcible felonies prior to the expungement of his/her juvenile records will have these records combined with adult records. 

The Process of Applying for Early Juvenile Expungement 

Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 943.0515(1)(b)(2) dictates that any people between 18-21 years of age (determined by specific criteria laid out in the code) can fill out an application by submitting required information (including documentation) to the FDLE. Furthermore, these applicants may seek approval of this expungement from the local prosecuting attorney. Once again, this action can only be completed if the offender has not committed an additional crime in a 5-year period prior to filing the application. 

Certificate of Eligibility for the Early Expungement of Juvenile Crimes 

As ordered by Florida Law, all requirements for the early expungement of juvenile crimes must match standards laid out in Statute 943.0515(1)(b)(2). Understand that most of these steps match the procedure followed by adults who are also filing for expungement: 

  • Juvenile applicants must obtain and complete applications for early juvenile expungement. These offenders may download the files from the FDLE website or may request these documents via email. Juveniles must complete Section A of the application, which must be signed by a parent/guardian. Section B will be processed by the Statewide Prosecutor or the Office of the State Attorney. 
  • All applicants must submit fingerprint forms (or fingerprint cards, as an alternative) to complete the application packet. Each form must include the applicant’s name, sex, race, date of birth, social security number, agency ORI, and signatures. 
  • Applicants must also submit a non-refundable processing fee of $75.00 by check, money, order, or cashier’s check (no other forms are accepted). 

Get Your Life Back on Track with the Help of Musca Law

Overall, criminal records could potentially haunt you for the rest of your life and severely impact your professional, social, and private circles for years and years to come. Here at Musca Law, our team of lawyers is prepared to help you get a fresh start by helping you to wipe away the cobwebs of past offenses. Everyone deserves a second chance, and we are committed to offering our 150 years of combined legal experience to make this happen on your behalf. Don’t hesitate to call our Naples office today at (239) 793-5297 to have a free initial case consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.

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