Expungement Lawyers in Sarasota, Florida
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At some point in each of our lives, we all make mistakes. In many cases, though, people will make dangerous and potentially life-altering mistakes, which may lead to the establishment of a criminal record. In the end, these men and women will face an onslaught of problems in their professional lives and private circles. Due to these overly stressful factors, many former criminals will pursue the option of expunging or sealing their criminal records. However, you have to understand that while this is a promising option, it is also a process that can potentially become very lengthy.
If you are seeking expungement, you will require in-depth legal assistance. With the aid of a criminal defense lawyer, you can easily build a strong and strategic legal defense to fix your life for good. We at Musca Law have 150+ years of combined legal experience with criminal defense, and our team of expungement lawyers are highly knowledgeable in the procedures for sealing and expunging records in the State of Florida. Get in touch with us, and we will help you create a new future.
For more information, get in touch with our office in Sarasota, Florida at (941) 909-3234 to speak with an experienced attorney today.
What Is the Difference between Expunging and Sealing Records?
If you want to make an effort to expunge or seal your criminal record, you must be prepared to face a variety of factors that could impact your eligibility. To ensure that you are fully eligible for expunging or sealing your records and that you can properly execute these procedures, you must seek counsel from a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with expungement cases and related criteria that are pursued in the state of Florida.
Once you make the decision to go forward, you will have two options for marking your criminal records “inaccessible” or “nonexistent” in the state of Florida:
- Expungement: the removal of an offender’s criminal history
- Sealing records: restricting access to criminal records
Regardless of your choice, adults and juveniles must comply with each requirement established in the Florida Laws and laid out in the Florida Rules of Procedure. No matter if a person wants to seal or expunge his/her records, he/she has to fill out an application to determine eligibility, first and foremost. Once this person obtains the certificate of eligibility, he/she may continue with the procedure for expungement/sealing.
Understand that different factors like the category of offense and the co-occurrence of multiple arrests/convictions may impact the success factor of this case.
Actions Taken by a Florida Court during Expungement Procedures
In accordance with Florida Law and the rules listed in Florida Statutes Title XLVII Chapter 943.0585, all records of adult criminal history are extended to public sources (in keeping with special access dictated by Florida provisions), with the exception of records that have been expunged or sealed. FS Chapter 943.0585 also dictates that divisions of the Florida Court may (under proper guidelines and jurisdiction) order criminal justice agencies to wipe out criminal records (including history) of adult or juvenile offenders who are fully obedient to regulations listed in this code.
Nevertheless, members of the Florida Court will only expunge records if people have filled out eligibility applications and have subsequently reviewed completed certificates.
Petitioning for the Expungement of Criminal Records
As dictated in Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 943.0585, legal officials will only recognize petitions for the expungement of criminal records as “complete” if the petitioners have completed eligibility certifications (issued by the state department) and have signed sworn statements attesting that they:
- Have not been charged for additional offenses or violations and have not been found guilty of misdemeanors prior to the completion of a certificate.
- Have not been adjudicated for any crimes that are similar to the offenses listed on the certificate, prior to this document being filled out.
- Have not secured a previous petition, unless he/she is seeking to expunge criminal records that were issued 10 years ago.
The Process for Receiving Certificates of Eligibility for Expungement of Crimes
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLA) has dictated that people who are seeking to obtain certificates of eligibility for the expungement of criminal records must:
- Fill out applications: You can download the file from the official website for the FDLE or request the application via email (as indicated on 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.
- Completion of the FDLE fingerprint form (FD 40-024): The application packet for expungement includes this document, and you may replace the 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 applicant’s signature and a signature from the supervising officials.
- 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.
- Paying the $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.
- Providing a Letter: If the applicant is being represented by a lawyer, this person must provide letters from his/her attorney.
During the entire process, applicants must keep a record of all documents that are relevant to the case in question. This information should include arrest reports, dispositions, or previous orders of expungement (in the 10-period previously mentioned). Once court officials have reviewed the information and approved expungement, they can no longer open these records for public access, as dictated in FS Chapter 943.0585.
Important Facts about Administrative Expungement: Wrongful Criminal Charges
According to Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 943.0581 (1-2), members of the department may take special action (in accordance with Chapter 120) to complete the administrative expungement of nonjudicial records concerning the wrongful arrest of adults and juveniles. For minors, the parents of these convicted individuals may apply on behalf of their children.
Important Facts about Sealing Criminal Records: Issued by Florida Courts
In accordance with the guidelines laid presented in Title XLVII Chapter 943.0585, Chapter 943.059 states that members of the Florida Courts have the unwavering authority to handle judicial records, including any cases surrounding the expungement and/or sealing of previous criminal records. For more information concerning these steps, please review Chapter 493.049 for more details.
Facts about Juvenile Diversion Expungement in Florida
According to Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 943.0582, members of the department can take special actions for expunging the nonjudicial records of minors who have taken part in diversion programs (as part of the charges stemming from a misdemeanor crime).
Remember that these diversion programs refer to programs or organizations reviewed in Statute 985.12 or a program that has been referred by the Florida State Attorney.
In accordance with these rules, Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 943.0585(4) does not apply to 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 one or more of the following reasons:
- Determining the applicant’s eligibility for diversion programs
- Active criminal investigations
- Elements of a prosecutorial conclusion (Chapter 985.15)
Eligibility for Victims of Human Trafficking in Florida
The FDLE and Florida Statute Title XLVIII Chapter 943.0585 dictate that, in special situations, victims of human trafficking may apply for eligibility certificates to seek expungement of crimes on the grounds of self-defense.
Here is a closer look at the outline of the terms presented in Chapter 943.0585:
- 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 keeping with these details, men, women, and children who have suffered as victims of human trafficking may apply for a certificate of eligibility to have their criminal records expunged. During this process, legal officials must prove (without any doubt) that these victims had been put in harm’s way and were being controlled by the instigator of the human trafficking.
Facts about Automatic Expungement of Minors’ Criminal Records
As dictated in Florida Statute Title XLVIII Chapter 943.0515 (1 a-b), the Criminal Justice Information Program has the authority to hold juvenile offenders’ records of criminal history, for those criminals who have previously 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 indicted for previous crimes (e.g. seasonal offenders or people detained at one of two different locations), members of the court will expunge all records once the eligibility criteria are met.
Juvenile offenders may also submit applications for eligibility certificates before their 21st birthdays, but these people must be 18 years of age (at least) in order to fill out an application. Furthermore, applicants must not have committed previous crimes in a period of 5 years prior to the date of application. Like adult offenders, minors may also file certificates to members of the department.
Furthermore, FS Chapter 943.0515(3) dictates that minors who have not been approved for early expungement will have their records erased once they reach 21 years of age (and all requirements have been met).
On a similar note, Chapter 943.0515(2a) states that applicants charged with forcible felonies prior to the filing for expungement of his/her juvenile records will have these previous juvenile records combined with adult records.
What Does the Application Process for Early Juvenile Expungement Entail?
Florida Statute Title XLVII Chapter 943.0515 (1b, 2) states that any people who are 18 to 21 years old can fill out eligibility applications (determined by special criteria listed in the Florida Code) by submitting all required information (including documents) to the FDLE. Likewise, these applicants may seek further approval for expungement from local prosecuting attorneys. Furthermore, officials can only complete this action if the criminal has not committed additional crimes 5 years before the application is filed.
Details about the Certificate of Eligibility for Early Expungement: Juvenile Crimes
Florida Law dictates that all requirements for early expungement of juvenile crimes must match standards outlined in Statute 943.0515(1)(b)(2). You must keep in mind that most of these steps match the processes 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.
- Applicants must submit required 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 pay the non-refundable processing fee of $75.00 by check, money order, or cashier’s check (no other forms are accepted).
Let Musca Law Get Your Life Back on Track
Criminal records will haunt you for the rest of your life and will severely impact your professional, social, and private circles for years to come. We at Musca Law understand the complications of criminal charges and are ready to help you get your life back on track. Wipe the cobwebs of the past away with Musca lawyers on your side. Don’t hesitate to contact our Sarasota office today at (941) 909-3234 to schedule a free initial case consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.