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Tampa Law Firms Outline the Process of Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records

Tampa Law Firms Outline the Process of Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records

Having a criminal record can make life extremely difficult. It can prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, or even volunteering in your community. That’s why many people look into sealing or expunging their criminal records in Tampa. But navigating the legal system can be confusing and overwhelming without proper guidance. This article outlines the step-by-step process and requirements for sealing and expunging criminal records in Tampa, written in plain language by local law firms.

What Does It Mean to Seal or Expunge Your Criminal Record?

Sealing and expunging are legal processes that limit public access to your criminal record. Sealing sets your record aside so that only certain agencies can view it, like law enforcement. Expunging goes a step further by destroying or erasing the record altogether. The process you qualify for depends on the type of offense and outcome of your case.

In Tampa, you must petition the court to have your record sealed or expunged. The requirements vary based on your specific situation, but some common ones include:

  • Waiting period after final disposition (1-15 years depending on offense)
  • No prior sealings or expungements
  • Completion of sentence terms
  • No pending criminal cases

Keep reading to learn more about eligibility based on your specific circumstances.

Non-Convictions: Arrests, Dismissals or Nolle Prosequi

If you were arrested but never formally charged, or your case was dismissed or dropped (nolle prosequi), you may qualify for an expungement. This clears the arrest and any related records from your name.

The waiting period is typically shorter compared to convictions — just 1 year for misdemeanors and 3 years for felonies. Certain very serious charges like murder have longer waiting periods or may not qualify.

One exception applies to domestic violence arrests. These require a certification that you haven’t been convicted of any other domestic charge since then.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
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Loveth Okpedo
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

Misdemeanor Convictions

For misdemeanor convictions, whether you qualify for sealing or expungement depends on the offense type and outcome. In Tampa, some common sealable misdemeanors include:

  • Petit theft
  • Possession of cannabis <20 grams
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)

The waiting period is usually at least 3 years after completing all sanctions like probation. Typically you cannot have more than one sealing in your lifetime.

Some minor misdemeanors may qualify for expungement instead. Common expungeable misdemeanors in Tampa include:

  • Disorderly conduct
  • Trespass
  • Worthless checks

The waiting period is typically shorter at 1 to 3 years. You also cannot have any prior expungements.

Felony Convictions

For more serious felony offenses, sealing is very limited in eligibility. The only sealable felonies in Florida are third-degree offenses, and only if adjudication was withheld. This means you pled guilty or no contest but were not formally “convicted.”

If adjudication was withheld for a third-degree felony, you must wait at least 10 years to petition for sealing if eligible. You also cannot have any prior sealings.

In rare cases, certain low-level third-degree felonies may qualify for judicial expungement after 15 years. But the requirements are strict, including proving rehabilitation and lack of public safety risk.

How to File for Sealing or Expungement in Tampa

The process for sealing or expunging a criminal record is complex, with lots of paperwork and precise filing instructions. That’s why working with an experienced Tampa expungement attorney is highly recommended. They can handle all the specifics so you don’t miss any important deadlines or requirements.

If filing on your own, you must submit a specific petition based on whether you are requesting sealing or expungement. You also have to obtain certified copies of all case documents, fingerprints and final dispositions. Multiple agencies must be properly served copies of the petition as well.

Everything must be filed in the correct division based on level of offense and which county it occurred in. For example, misdemeanors and criminal traffic offenses are handled in county court. Meanwhile, felony cases go through circuit court.

There is also a filing fee around $75 for county cases or $250 for circuit cases. Indigent applicants may request a fee waiver if eligible.

After filing, there will be a court date scheduled for your expungement or sealing hearing. You must attend this hearing and may have to provide testimony about your eligibility. The judge will either approve or deny the petition.

If approved, the court issues an order to seal or expunge your records. This is sent to all agencies that may have your criminal information so they can seal or destroy it as applicable.

Sealing vs. Expungement: Key Differences

There’s an important difference in what information gets sealed versus expunged. Sealing limits public access to your records without erasing anything. Meanwhile, expungement clears the record altogether.

When your record is sealed, background checks will not reveal the offense to most employers or landlords. However, sealed cases still exist in court and law enforcement databases. They can be accessed for limited purposes like new arrest processing or if you apply for certain jobs.

With an expungement, arrest information and records are destroyed from all applicable agencies. The case is treated like it never existed. However, very sensitive fingerprint databases may still retain the record while restricting access.

In summary:

  • Sealing sets record aside, but it still exists in some databases
  • Expungement erases the record more completely
  • Sealing restores some rights; expungement restores more rights

Long-Term Implications of Sealing and Expungement

Getting your record sealed or expunged does not completely erase what happened. There are still some long-term implications to consider.

For example, the offense may still appear in certain background checks despite sealing or expungement, like for national security clearances. And while you can legally deny existence of an expunged record, lying about it can backfire if discovered.

You should also know that sealed or expunged offenses still count as “prior offenses” if you get into legal trouble again. The judge may consider it when setting bond or sentencing if re-arrested.

Finally, while sealing and expungement restore many rights, some exceptions apply. For instance, certain professional licenses can still be denied despite record clearance. And expunged cases still count as strikes for purposes of Florida’s habitual offender law.

Why Work With a Tampa Expungement Attorney

Trying to seal or expunge your criminal record on your own is extremely difficult, with lots of room for mistakes. The legal system is complex and unforgiving if you miss deadlines or important details.

That’s why working with an experienced Tampa expungement lawyer is so valuable. They handle everything for you properly so you don’t have to stress about the process. Attorneys like Sammis Law Firm are familiar with every step, from compiling the right documentation to representing you at your hearing.

An attorney can also advise if you qualify for record clearance based on your specific situation. If eligible, they walk you through pros and cons of sealing versus expungement so you understand the differences. This empowers you to make the best decision for your personal and professional goals.

Sammis Law Firm, de la Grana | Boardman, William Wynne and other Tampa law firms have successfully guided numerous clients through sealing and expungement. Take advantage of their expertise so you can finally put your past behind you.

Ready to Expunge Your Tampa Criminal Record?

We hope this article gave you a better understanding of the record sealing and expungement process in Tampa. As you can see, the requirements are complex and vary widely based on your unique case factors. That’s why working with a knowledgeable attorney is so important.

If you’re ready to clear your Florida criminal record through expungement or sealing, contact a Tampa law firm for a free consultation. Qualified attorneys will review your history and advise if you are eligible. They will then handle everything properly so you can finally move forward with a clean slate.

Don’t let a past mistake continue haunting your future. Take control by exploring record clearance options today. You deserve a fresh start.

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