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Last Updated on: 3rd November 2023, 07:11 pm
How to Seal Criminal Records in Florida
Having a criminal record can create major obstacles in finding jobs, housing, and loans in Florida. While expungement erases records, sealing can also provide protection by making cases confidential.
Sealing criminal records is an option in Florida for certain charges that didn’t lead to a conviction. Here is a step-by-step guide on how the sealing process works and what it takes to seal eligible criminal records in Florida.
What is Record Sealing?
Sealing criminal records in Florida makes the case confidential and unavailable to the general public, but does not destroy it. Sealed records can still be accessed by law enforcement and certain agencies.
Sealing limits public exposure of dropped charges, arrests without conviction, or convictions when adjudication was withheld. Sealing protects your reputation.
Requirements to Seal Criminal Records in Florida
To qualify for sealing in Florida, you must meet all the following:
- No prior felony convictions
- No prior sealing or expungement of a record
- Charges were dropped or dismissed before trial
- Adjudication was withheld by the judge
You are only eligible to seal one case. Violent felonies and most serious crimes cannot be sealed.
Step 1: Application for Certificate of Eligibility
The first step is submitting an application to FDLE to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility. This confirms you qualify to petition for sealing based on your specific record.
FDLE typically issues certificates within 6 months if you’re eligible. Hire an attorney to handle the application.
Step 2: Petition to Seal
Once you obtain the Certificate of Eligibility, your attorney will file a Petition to Seal in county court. This requests a judge order sealing of the records.
The petition must provide information about your criminal history and compliance with sealing requirements. Filing fees apply.
Step 3: Serve Petition on State Attorney’s Office
You must serve the Petition to Seal on the State Attorney’s Office that handled your case so they have a chance to respond. The state rarely objects to sealing petitions.
Step 4: Court Hearing
Most sealing petitions are approved without a hearing. But the judge may request a hearing to ask questions before deciding. Your attorney will represent you at any hearing.
Step 5: Judge’s Order to Seal Records
If approved, the judge enters a court order directing FDLE and the arresting agency to seal your criminal history records. This protects them from public disclosure.
Cost to Seal Criminal Records
Typical costs for sealing in Florida are:
- $75 FDLE application fee
- $5-10 for certified dispositions
- $50-100 court filing fees
- $1000 attorney fees (approximate)
Sealing vs. Expungement
Sealing just makes records confidential, while expungement erases them. Expungement has stricter eligibility requirements in Florida.
Many choose to seal records first, then seek expungement after 10 years. An attorney can advise the best options.