If you have had a criminal case dropped, been found not guilty at trial, or if you have successfully completed probation as a first time offender, you may qualify to have your criminal record sealed or expunged. Having a clean record may open up job opportunities otherwise unavailable by giving you a clean background check. The process is burdensome and paperwork-intensive, so hiring an attorney to guide you through this process will greatly assist your chances of doing it right to give your petition to seal or expunge the best chance of being granted.
How Long Does It Take To Have My Florida Criminal Record Expunged?
On average, it takes nine months to complete the expungement process from the time your case is closed in Palm Beach County, Florida. Most of this time is spent waiting from the Office of the State Attorney to complete its portion of the application and for FDLE to review the application. There is always a backlog of applications in both offices.
What Does the Expungement Process Involve?
You first complete an application signed before a notary that is sent to the Office of the State Attorney. It takes several months to receive it back from them with their portion signed, acknowledging that you currently qualify to have the record of that case expunged. Then your fingerprints are taken and the application is sent along with a $75 application fee to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) in Tallahassee to be signed. FDLE will issue a Certificate of Eligibility to Petition for an Expunge Order if you qualify. Your attorney will then ask you complete an affidavit, which certifies that you have no old or new criminal offenses which would prevent you from qualifying to expunge your case. That affidavit accompanies a petition filed in front of the court in which your case was originally heard. Your lawyer will get a hearing date and appear for you in court. You will not have to appear for that court date.
Am I Guaranteed to Get My Record Expunged If I Receive a Certificate of Eligibility?
A Certificate of Eligibility to Petition for an Expunge Order is FDLE giving you the green light to file your petition in court. Your petition will include that certificate. The Office of the State Attorney has already signed off on your application if you have made it to this stage. On the day your petition is heard by the judge, the prosecutor will make sure you do not have any new arrests or charges that would disqualify you from having your record expunged. The judge has the discretion to grant or deny your petition.
I have not seen a petition denied, but I can imagine some situations in which it might be. For instance, the alleged victim may object to your record being expunged and the judge may choose to follow their wishes. Victims are supposed to be notified when you apply to have your record sealed or expunged and could attend the hearing if they wanted. However, a person who feels they were victimized has often long since come to terms with how the case was disposed by the time of the expungement hearing. Also, when criminal charges are dropped, the alleged victim usually has the opportunity to voice their opinion about it and often has agreed. If you were found not guilty at a trial, they may feel otherwise. But again, many months will have passed even if you start the expungement process right away. In my experience, if you qualify, your petition is very likely to be granted.