Tampa Attorney for Expungements and Sealing of Records
In Florida, it’s harder than ever to find employment that can reasonably sustain you and your family, but those hardships are doubled, if not tripled, for individuals with criminal histories. At the Law Offices of Brian E. Gonzalez, we take our clients’ concerns very seriously as a failed background check could mean the difference between sleeping with a roof over your head and sleeping on the street. Employers hold the power to investigate employee history by way of the Clerk of Court website, the jail website or a criminal background check, making one search for your name and identifying any arrests or criminal history on record. There is a way to get back on your feet.
If you have been arrested in the past and are now seeking employment, Brian E. Gonzalez and his team of legal professionals will work to have your records sealed or expunged, enabling you to rebuild your life as any arrest can have a huge impact on your ability to find and maintain employment..
Don’t wait. Schedule a free consultation with our Tampa defense attorneys by calling 813-224-0632 or complete the form below.
Sealing of Criminal Records vs. Expungement
There are two cases in which an individual is eligible to have his or her criminal records sealed. The first is in the case of a guilty or no contest plea. Alternatively, if the individual is found guilty, records may also be sealed if adjudication was withheld. In either of these cases, offenses must not be one of the listed disqualifying offenses per Florida law. If records are effectively sealed by your defense attorney, access is denied to everyone except select governmental-related entities which are listed in Section 943-059(4)(a), Florida Statutes. You have the legal right to deny that you were arrested.
However, expungement can be an even more effective process, assuming you qualify. In the case of expungement, your charges must be dismissed before trial, and again fall under the prerequisite that the offense is not on the statutory list of disqualifying offenses.
What Is the Benefit for Expunging or Sealing My Record?
Expungement and sealing of criminal records have one important purpose and that is to remove these records from public view. But more than that, you are free to legally state that you have not been arrested or convicted of crimes when questioned by employes, lessors, and lenders. These parties often do extensive background checks on anyone they do business with, and once your records have been expunged or sealed, you are legally allowed to deny their existence.
What if I did not enter a plea, but the charges were dropped or dismissed?
Attorney Brian Gonzalez is dedicated to helping his clients through even the most unique circumstances. Even if your offense does not qualify, we can still help you seek expungement. If the charges were dropped or dismissed, and one of the following has occurred, you may still be eligible for expungement:
- despite the arrest, the charges against you were never formally charged by the prosecutor;
- the charges against you were dropped by the State after you were formally charged (i.e., the State announced a nolle prosse);
- the charges against you were dismissed by the Court;
- you were found “not guilty” after a trial.
Am I Eligible?
- Have you ever had your record sealed or expunged before?
- Have you ever been adjudicated delinquent of a crime as a juvenile?
- Have you ever been convicted or adjudicated guilty of a misdemeanor (including criminal traffic cases such as DUI reckless driving, or driving while license suspended), a criminal ordinance violation, or a felony?
- Are you currently on probation, community control, or any type of court supervision, including any diversion program?
- If you received a withhold of adjudication in the case that you wish to have sealed or expunged, is the offense for which you received the withhold of adjudication listed as a disqualifying offense?
- If you were able to answer “no” to each of these questions, then you should be eligible to have your record scaled or expunged. If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you are not eligible to have your record sealed or expunged.
You will not be eligible to have your record sealed or expunged even if you received a withhold of adjudication after entering a plea to or being found guilty of any of the following offences:
- Aggravated assault
- Aggravated battery
- Illegal use of explosives
- Child abuse or aggravated child abuse
- Abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, or aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
- Aircraft piracy
- Sexual battery
- Lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault or act upon or in the presence of a child under the age of 16 years
- Sexual activity with a child who is 12 years of age or older but less than 18 years of age by or at the solicitation of a person in familial or custodial authority
- Burglary of a dwelling
- Stalking or aggravated stalking
- Act of domestic violence
- Home-invasion robbery
- Act of terrorism
- Manufacturing any substances in violation of Chapter 893
- Attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above crimes
Will I Ever Have to Disclose My Record?
Generally, the fact that your record is sealed or expunged means that the records are removed from view of the general public. For example, the offense would not show up in an employer’s background check or on the Clerk of Court website. The only people who would have access to the record after it has been sealed or expunged are the person who was arrested, that person’s attorney, law enforcement agencies for criminal justice purposes and those entities listed below. In fact, it is a crime for someone who has access to your sealed or expunged record to divulge that the record has been sealed or expunged. Florida law provides that a person may legally deny or fail to acknowledge the arrest that has been sealed or expunged under most circumstances. However, there are certain limited circumstances in which a person may be required to divulge that their record was sealed or expunged. Those circumstances are as follows:
- You apply for a job with a criminal justice agency
- You apply for another record sealing or expungement
- You apply for admission to the Florida Bar
- You apply for a job with the Department of Family Services, Department of Juvenile Justice, or to be employed in a sensitive position having direct contact with children, the developmentally disabled, or the elderly
- You apply to the Office of Teacher Education, Certification, Staff Development, and Professional Practices of the Department of Education, any district school board, or local governmental entity which licenses child care facilities
If you apply for licensing or employment with any or the entities mentioned above, your record is subject to disclosure and is not protected by having it sealed or expunged. However, it would still be illegal for any of the above-mentioned entities to disclose information about your record.
Some Records Can Be Expunged Administratively
Arrests by mistake can be expunged administratively pursuant to Section 943.0581, Florida Statutes. Most of the time, people expunge their prior record because they committed a mistake or committed a crime that resulted in an arrest and prosecution. However, there are cases in which the person arrested was totally innocent, i.e., the arrest was because of mistaken identity or was otherwise contrary to the law. For example, if the police serve an arrest warrant on the wrong person because his or her name is similar to the name on the warrant, then that individual may be eligible to administratively expunge the record. This administrative remedy can also be available in many other “mistaken identity” cases, in which the police mistakenly arrest the wrong individual because of an identity issue. Another increasingly common example is when someone is arrested because he or she has been the victim of identify theft by someone who has committed a crime using an innocent person’s identity.
Administrative expungements may require an additional attorney’s fee depending on the facts of the case because they are often more complicated and require closer judicial scrutiny because mistaken identify or another similar circumstance must be established.
Contact a Tampa Defense Lawyer to Seal or Expunge Your Record
The Law Offices of Brian Gonzalez work hard to gets sealed or expunged as quickly as possible, but the process can still take between 6 and 12 months. Paperwork must be completed by a number of agencies to ensure your life and career can get back on track, and we do our best to see that these agencies complete their end of the job sooner rather than later. Don’t waste time when you know there is a criminal record out there with your name on it.