Being arrested for a crime is not an accomplishment you want the world to see. Unfortunately, all arrest records are public in Florida. A criminal history is established the moment you are arrested and fingerprinted and may include the disposition of any charges that arise from that arrest. Whether you have been adjudicated guilty, adjudication was withheld, or you were acquitted or had your charges dismissed before your trial, all of that information becomes public record.
The state of Florida offers two avenues for having your arrest removed from the public eye. You may either attempt to seal or expunge the record of your arrest through the help of a criminal defense lawyer.
You might think that any dropped charges against you are automatically removed from your criminal history. This is a common misconception. Your charges will still show up as an arrest. Any employer will be able to find them upon a background check. The closest you can come to removing the arrest from your past is to get it sealed or expunged.
Sealing and Expunging a Criminal Offense in West Palm Beach
Those who have been arrested for a first-time misdemeanor offense often receive the opportunity to complete a Pre-Trial Diversion Program. These programs empower low-level offenders to take measures to have their charges dropped. The State Attorney’s Office agrees to drop the charges against successful offenders; however, dropped charges still show up on a background check.
Upon having your charges dropped, it’s important to consider sealing or expunging them so that you may proceed with your life as if you were never arrested. Sealing and expunging a record accomplish the same goal, that of having your record kept from the public, slightly different ways. The main difference is in the outcome — while expunging a record results in completely deleting any record of an arrest or criminal charge, record sealing allows for a record to continue to exist in a legal and physical sense. This means that the record will be accessible with a court order after it has been sealed.
Sealing or expunging an arrest is a once in a lifetime opportunity. In some cases, you may be permitted to seal or expunge more than one case if the cases are related to the same arrest. The court ultimately decides what counts as “one instance” of criminal activity.
What Charges May Be Sealed or Expunged in Florida?
Generally, misdemeanor charges may be sealed or expunged. Florida Law defines criminal offenses that may not be sealed or expunged, even if adjudication is withheld. You may find these in §943.059 of the Florida Statutes. Those who have been adjudicated guilty as adults of any criminal offense in any jurisdiction, whether or not related to the charges that the person is applying for, may not have their record sealed.
Learn More About Expungement
Find out if you may be eligible to have your record sealed or expunged in Palm Beach County with the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Brian Gabriel has helped countless clients return to their regular lives by ensuring the proper completion of a record sealing or expungement application.
At The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel, we have over 30 years of experience helping clients resolve criminal law issues. Contact us at 561-622-5575 or complete our contact form for a free case review.