Under Florida law, criminal histories are public records unless they are sealed or expunged. This means that landlords and employers can view them if they run background checks. A criminal record is created in Florida when an individual is arrested, photographed and fingerprinted, and it is kept on file even if the charges are dropped or the individual is acquitted. An arrest or conviction can make finding a job or renting an apartment a lot more difficult, which is why Florida law allows criminal records to be sealed or expunged in certain situations.
The first step in the expungement process is obtaining a criminal history record from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. When this record is received, it should be checked closely for any errors. Before people can ask a court to expunge or seal their criminal history, they must first obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the FDLE. Obtaining this document does not guarantee that a criminal record will be expunged or sealed, but it does verify that the record is eligible for expungement or sealing. The application to receive a Certificate of Eligibility can be downloaded from the FDLE website.
Petitions for relief
Once they have obtained their criminal history and a Certificate of Eligibility, they can submit a petition for relief in the court that had jurisdiction over their arrest. The criminal records of minors are expunged automatically in Florida when they reach 21 years of age if they were not incarcerated at a juvenile correctional facility. When minors are incarcerated, their records are expunged when they reach the age of 26.
Some crimes cannot be expunged
A criminal record can cast a long shadow. Florida law allows individuals who have been charged with or convicted of committing crimes to petition the court to expunge or seal their records, but they must first obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the FDLE. Serious crimes like murder and rape cannot be expunged in Florida.