17 Oct 23

How Long Do Felonies Stay on Your Record in Florida?

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Last Updated on: 3rd November 2023, 07:11 pm

How Long Do Felonies Stay on Your Record in Florida?

If you’ve been charged with a felony in Florida, you’re probably wondering how long it will stay on your record. I know – it’s scary and confusing. But don’t worry, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about felony records in Florida.

What is a Felony?

First, let’s cover the basics. Felonies are the most serious type of crime. They are more severe than misdemeanors. Felonies are punishable by more than one year in prison or even death.

There are several classes of felonies in Florida:

  • Capital felony – Punishable by death or life in prison without parole
  • Life felony – Punishable by life in prison or probation for life
  • First degree felony – Up to 30 years in prison
  • Second degree felony – Up to 15 years in prison
  • Third degree felony – Up to 5 years in prison

Examples of felonies include murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, kidnapping, arson, and drug trafficking. The level of felony depends on the circumstances of the crime.

How Long Do Felonies Stay on Your Criminal Record in Florida?

Unfortunately, the simple answer is that felonies stay on your criminal record forever in Florida. The record is maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

Even if you are found not guilty, the felony arrest will still appear on a background check unless you get it expunged (more on that later).

The only way to remove a felony from your record is through a pardon or getting your rights restored through clemency. But pardons are extremely rare in Florida.

Capital and Life Felonies

If convicted of a capital or life felony, it will never come off your record. The only possibility is a pardon from the governor, which is pretty much impossible.

Other Felony Convictions

For other felonies, you may apply to get your civil rights restored through clemency after 5-7 years. This doesn’t erase the conviction, but restores rights like voting and serving on a jury.[1]

You can also apply for a pardon or commutation from the governor after 10-15 years. But again, this is very rare.

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Felony Arrests Without Conviction

If arrested but never convicted, you may be able to get the arrest expunged after 10 years. This seals or destroys the record so it doesn’t show up on background checks.

Expungement has strict eligibility requirements though. You can’t have any prior convictions or expungements. And certain charges like sex crimes are ineligible.[1]

Why Do Felonies Stay on Your Record So Long in Florida?

The main reason is public safety. Felonies are very serious crimes that put the public at risk. So the state wants them to remain on record to protect employers, landlords, and others.

Long-lasting records also act as a deterrent to committing future crimes. The impact on your record is part of the punishment.

But for those who have served their time and changed, a lifelong record can be overly punitive. That’s why some advocate for more opportunities for expungement and pardons.

How Does a Felony Record Affect Your Life?

A felony conviction or even just an arrest can have long-lasting effects on many aspects of your life:

  • Employment – Most employers do background checks and won’t hire felons.
  • Housing – Landlords often deny housing applications from felons.
  • Loans – Banks may deny loans, mortgages, or lines of credit.
  • Education – You may be denied financial aid or college admission.
  • Voting and Jury Duty – Felons lose voting and jury service rights.
  • Travel – Felons may be denied passports and have travel restrictions.
  • Gun Ownership – Felons cannot legally own firearms.

As you can see, the effects of a felony conviction can snowball and make it very difficult to move on with your life. That’s why expungement is so important.

Can You Get a Felony Expunged in Florida?

Felony arrests that did not lead to a conviction can potentially be expunged in Florida. But the process is complicated with strict requirements.

Here are some key things to know about expunging felonies in Florida:

  • You must wait at least 10 years after completing sentence.
  • No prior convictions or expungements.
  • Violent felonies and sex crimes often can’t be expunged.
  • The process takes 1-2 years to complete.
  • You’ll need to hire an attorney for the best chance.

Start by getting a Certificate of Eligibility from FDLE showing you qualify. Then petition the court to approve the expungement. If granted, FDLE will seal your record.[1]

Felony convictions unfortunately can’t be expunged, only arrests without conviction. But an attorney may find a way to get certain charges reduced or dropped to make you eligible.

Should You Disclose Felonies When Applying for Jobs & Housing?

Even if you do get a record expunged, you may still need to disclose it when asked on job or housing applications. Most applications ask if you’ve ever been convicted, even if it was sealed or expunged.

Lying or failing to disclose could be grounds for termination or eviction later on. But don’t volunteer more than you have to.

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An attorney can advise you on how to answer appropriately. You may be able to legally say “no” in some cases after expungement.

Can You Appeal a Felony Conviction?

If you were wrongfully convicted of a felony in Florida, you may be able to appeal and get it overturned. But the appeal options are limited once you’ve exhausted your direct appeals.

Within 30 days of conviction, you can file a direct appeal to a higher court. Grounds are limited to procedural errors, insufficient evidence, ineffective counsel, etc.

After that, you can file a post-conviction relief motion within 2 years alleging constitutional violations. Actual innocence claims must have new evidence.

For federal convictions, you can file a habeas corpus petition in federal court within 1 year. The time limits are strict, so don’t delay.[2]

An attorney who specializes in criminal appeals is highly recommended to navigate this complex process and give you the best chance.

Should You Take a Plea Deal to Avoid a Felony Conviction?

Prosecutors often offer plea deals to avoid the risk and expense of a felony trial. This may involve pleading to a misdemeanor or having your charges dropped.

But you shouldn’t accept a deal without consulting your attorney. Make sure you understand the consequences and that it’s your best option.

A misdemeanor still goes on your record, just not as long. And pleading guilty has repercussions too.

Your attorney can assess the evidence and odds of winning at trial. They’ll advise if a plea is in your best interest or if you should fight the charges.

What If You’re Charged with a Felony in Another State?

If convicted of a felony in another state, it will likely still show up on a Florida criminal background check. Florida may treat it as a comparable felony conviction.

However, the process to restore rights or expunge the record must be done under the laws of the state where you were convicted.

An attorney licensed in that state would need to handle the record clearing process. It can’t be done from Florida.

Conclusion – Don’t Panic, Take Action

Being charged with a felony in Florida is scary. A conviction will stay on your record forever barring a rare pardon. But even arrests can do damage.

Don’t panic or lose hope though. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. An attorney may get charges reduced or dismissed. They can also guide you in clearing your record.

With proper legal help, you can mitigate damages, protect your rights, and work to move on with your life. It’s not easy, but taking action is better than doing nothing.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of how Florida handles felony records. Let me know if you have any other questions!