A criminal record, involving even a small crime like Petty Theft, can affect the rest of a person’s life. Employment, admission to a school, or even renting an apartment can be denied. Fortunately, Florida law allows a sealing or expungement of a record. Certain serious crimes do not qualify, but most do. A SINGLE criminal case may be removed from the record, once in a lifetime.
A sealed record is hidden from view and an expunged record is physically removed from Florida public databases. There are certain conditions that have to be met in order to seal or expunge a record. A person may not have been convicted (adjudicated) of a crime in order to qualify. The final outcome of a case must be not guilty, dropped (notice of nolle prossequi or no information), or adjudication withheld. Traffic offenses, such as speeding, do not count as adjudications.
There is a problem, however, removing a record completely, because information that appears on the Internet is difficult to remove. There are businesses that provide Record Search services, unearthing information that might relate to an individual or business. Employers, schools, and even landlords make use of such services. In a perfect world, the process of sealing or expunging a criminal record would remove it from all databases. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Despite a successful sealing or expungement, there may still be information on the Internet of an arrest, or even a booking photo. That record must also be removed in order to gain the benefit of sealing or expungement in Florida.
Once the process of sealing or expunging a crime is accomplished, Florida law allows an individual to act as if the incident never occurred. “Were you ever arrested?” “No.” “Ever charged with a crime?” “No.” It is of critical importance, then, that there be no record of crime that might appear on any record available to the employer or landlord who might be searching.
For the most part, the Criminal Record search companies are willing to remove a record from their database once they have proof that the record has been sealed or expunged by the State. They probably can’t be legally forced to do so, but they do as a matter of courtesy. That still doesn’t guarantee that somewhere out there in the eddies of the Internet, there isn’t some article, some photo, some document that can appear out of nowhere at the most inopportune time.
The good news is that there is a process to remove a record of a criminal case from the public database. And that the law allows a person to deny that any such criminal case ever existed. There is the problem of the private databases, however, and the effort that must be made to remove those records. In the end, the process of sealing or expunging a record in Florida, followed by a concerted effort to remove all evidence of the record from the Internet, is worth the effort.
To remove your criminal case, contact us at the law firm of Morgan and Barbary.
Darrell Sedgwick, Criminal Defence Attorney, Melbourne FL