Criminal record

Can I Seal or Expunge My DUI Charges in Florida?

Sealing or Expunging public criminal history records in Florida is governed by F.S. 943.0585, 943.059, and new statute 943.0581. The purpose of these statutes is to block public access to criminal records and to grant people the qualified permission to deny the existence of the record of arrest and court case.

DUI convictions can never be sealed or expunged. That’s why it’s so very important to have a highly qualified attorney defend your case. DUI cases that are dismissed or reduced to lesser offenses can be sealed or expunged under most circumstances.

What’s the Difference Between Sealing and Expunging?

Expungement requires the destruction of criminal records, except that FDLE keeps a confidential record for limited purposes such as investigations in civil rights restoration and subsequent applications for expungement. Police agencies will only be able to see that the person’s record has been expunged, but not the contents of the record.

Sealing does not destroy or erase any records, but rather places the files into a secure area for safekeeping. It’s considered confidential, but law enforcement and the courts will have access to it. A court order unsealing the record is required to open the sealed file.

Am I Eligible for a Record Sealing or Expungement?

There are different eligibility requirements for sealing or expunging a criminal history record.

943.059 Court-ordered sealing of criminal history records.—

(1) ELIGIBILITY.—A person is eligible to petition a court to seal a criminal history record when:

(a) The criminal history record is not ineligible for court-ordered sealing under s. 943.0584.

(b) The person has never, before the date the application for a certificate of eligibility is filed, been adjudicated guilty in this state of a criminal offense, or been adjudicated delinquent in this state for committing any felony or any of the following misdemeanor offenses, unless the record of such adjudication of delinquency has been expunged pursuant to s. 943.0515:

1. Assault, as defined in s. 784.011;

2. Battery, as defined in s. 784.03;

3. Assault on a law enforcement officer, a firefighter, or other specified officers, as defined in s. 784.07(2)(a);

4. Carrying a concealed weapon, as defined in s. 790.01(1);

5. Open carrying of a weapon, as defined in s. 790.053;

6. Unlawful possession or discharge of a weapon or firearm at a school-sponsored event or on school property, as defined in s. 790.115;

7. Unlawful use of destructive devices or bombs, as defined in s. 790.1615(1);

8. Unlawful possession of a firearm by a minor, as defined in s. 790.22(5);

9. Exposure of sexual organs, as defined in s. 800.03;

10. Arson, as defined in s. 806.031(1);

11. Petit theft, as defined in s. 812.014(3);

12. Neglect of a child, as defined in s. 827.03(1)(e); or

13. Cruelty to animals, as defined in s. 828.12(10).

(c) The person has not been adjudicated guilty of, or adjudicated delinquent for committing, any of the acts stemming from the arrest or alleged criminal activity to which the petition to seal pertains.

(d) The person is no longer under court supervision applicable to the disposition of arrest or alleged criminal activity to which the petition to seal pertains.

(e) The person has never secured a prior sealing or expunction of a criminal history record under this section, s. 943.0585, former s. 893.14, former s. 901.33, or former s. 943.058.

Additionally, there can be no prior adjudication for any criminal offense or ordinance violation. Though you can’t apply more than once in Florida, recent changes in the law permits record sealing even if you have sealed an out-of-state offense. Further, multiple charges can be sealed if the arrests directly relate to the original arrest AND the judge makes a specific finding in the Order to that effect. A case can only be expunged if the case was dismissed by the court or dropped by the State.

943.0585 Court-ordered expunction of criminal history records.—

(1) ELIGIBILITY.—A person is eligible to petition a court to expunge a criminal history record if:

(a) An indictment, information, or other charging document was not filed or issued in the case giving rise to the criminal history record.

(b) An indictment, information, or other charging document was filed or issued in the case giving rise to the criminal history record, was dismissed or nolle prosequi by the state attorney or statewide prosecutor, or was dismissed by a court of competent jurisdiction or a judgment of acquittal was rendered by a judge, or a verdict of not guilty was rendered by a judge or jury.

Recent changes to Florida law allow for “automatic sealing” of a criminal history record by FDLE. The criminal history record maintained by FDLE will automatically be sealed (by operation of law) when the Clerk of the Court submits a qualifying certified disposition to FDLE, via electronic means. A list of qualifying dispositions can be found in Section 943.0595, Florida Statutes. A list of disqualifying offenses can be found in Section 943.0595(2)(a), Florida Statutes.*Note- this process does not seal records at the local level. (Per Section 943.0595, Florida Statutes).

943.0595 (2) ELIGIBILITY.—

(a) The department shall automatically seal a criminal history record that does not result from an indictment, information, or other charging document for a forcible felony as defined in s. 776.08 or for an offense enumerated in s. 943.0435(1)(h)1.a.(I), if:

1. An indictment, information, or other charging document was not filed or issued in the case giving rise to the criminal history record.

2. An indictment, information, or other charging document was filed in the case giving rise to the criminal history record but was dismissed or nolle prosequi by the state attorney or statewide prosecutor or was dismissed by a court of competent jurisdiction. However, a person is not eligible for automatic sealing under this section if the dismissal was pursuant to s. 916.145 or s. 985.19.

3. A not guilty verdict was rendered by a judge or jury. However, a person is not eligible for automatic sealing under this section if the defendant was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

4. A judgment of acquittal was rendered by a judge.

(b) There is no limitation on the number of times a person may obtain an automatic sealing for a criminal history record described in paragraph (a).

(2) ELIGIBILITY.—

(a) The department shall automatically seal a criminal history record that does not result from an indictment, information, or other charging document for a forcible felony as defined in s. 776.08 or for an offense enumerated in s. 943.0435(1)(h)1.a.(I), if:

1. An indictment, information, or other charging document was not filed or issued in the case giving rise to the criminal history record.

2. An indictment, information, or other charging document was filed in the case giving rise to the criminal history record but was dismissed or nolle prosequi by the state attorney or statewide prosecutor or was dismissed by a court of competent jurisdiction. However, a person is not eligible for automatic sealing under this section if the dismissal was pursuant to s. 916.145 or s. 985.19.

3. A not guilty verdict was rendered by a judge or jury. However, a person is not eligible for automatic sealing under this section if the defendant was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

4. A judgment of acquittal was rendered by a judge.

(b) There is no limitation on the number of times a person may obtain an automatic sealing for a criminal history record described in paragraph (a).

(2) ELIGIBILITY.—

(a) The department shall automatically seal a criminal history record that does not result from an indictment, information, or other charging document for a forcible felony as defined in s. 776.08 or for an offense enumerated in s. 943.0435(1)(h)1.a.(I), if:

1. An indictment, information, or other charging document was not filed or issued in the case giving rise to the criminal history record.

2. An indictment, information, or other charging document was filed in the case giving rise to the criminal history record but was dismissed or nolle prosequi by the state attorney or statewide prosecutor or was dismissed by a court of competent jurisdiction. However, a person is not eligible for automatic sealing under this section if the dismissal was pursuant to s. 916.145 or s. 985.19.

3. A not guilty verdict was rendered by a judge or jury. However, a person is not eligible for automatic sealing under this section if the defendant was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

4. A judgment of acquittal was rendered by a judge.

(b) There is no limitation on the number of times a person may obtain an automatic sealing for a criminal history record described in paragraph (a).

What is the Process for Sealing or Expunging a Criminal History in Florida?

It’s always best to retain an attorney when dealing with the courts, particularly when there are very technical requirements. You want to be certain that all documents are correct, submitted properly, and fees paid. You don’t want any excessive delays, as this process may take up to a year to complete.

The first step is to obtain a certified disposition of the case from the Clerk, next prepare the Application for Certificate of Eligibility and obtain a set of fingerprints at a police station using the official form or FBI fingerprint card. In the case of an expungement, the Application and certified case disposition must be approved by the local State Attorney’s Office.

You’ll need to send the Application, the court disposition, and fingerprints to the Seal/Expunge unit in Tallahassee with a check for $75.00. Then wait. For a long while.

Once FDLE sends back an approved Certificate of Eligibility you must file a Petition, Affidavit, and Order with the Court and pay a filing fee of $42.00 (or similar amount). The local clerk will have those forms, but an attorney can put them together for you with no difficulty. You’ll need to send a copy of the Petition to the police agency that arrested you as well as FDLE and the local State Attorney’s Office.

Finally, you’ll need to set the case for a hearing with the judge’s office.

Can a judge deny my Petition to Seal or Expunge?

Florida law allows a judge to deny a petition to expunge or seal if he/she finds "good reason" for denying the petition to seal/expunge based on the facts and circumstances of the case. it is NOT good reason, if a judge merely states that because of the nature of the charges he/she will deny the petition to seal or expunge. https://youtu.be/Vr1MWKeLyPI

While a judge has the discretion to deny a petition to seal or expunge, the discretion must be exercised soundly. That is, they can't abuse their discretion and a denial of a petition to seal or expunge where the person qualifies under the law will be reviewed by an appellate court to determine if the judge abused their discretion. The analysis regarding proper exercise of a judge's discretion is essentially, "what would a reasonable judge under the same circumstances do?" The rule regarding denial of a petition to expunge is found in the case of Anderson v. State, 692 S0.2d 250 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1997).

If you are interested in learning whether you qualify for expungement, and how we can streamline the process for you, contact my Miami Florida law office today and schedule a free case evaluation. When you meet with me, we can discuss your case and arrest history in order to determine the best strategy for accomplishing your personal goals.

Call my firm for a case evaluation! Contact Miami DUI Lawyer Jonathan Blecher today to discuss sealing or expungement of any criminal charge. With more than 30 years of experience on both sides of the courtroom - as both a private defense attorney and a former prosecutor - and a long list of professional accolades, I offer the right kind of legal advocacy and representation for your case. Call today! 305-707-0036