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Frequent Questions on Sealing or Expungement

Below are frequent questions I receive regarding sealing or expunging a criminal record in Florida.


How much does it cost to have my Florida criminal record sealed or expunged?

Depending on the nature of the underlying offense, I charge a flat fee of $1,500 which includes all court costs and related expenses. If the case is outside of the Central Florida area and a hearing is required there is an additional $500 travel fee.

How is sealing a criminal record different from expunging it?

In Florida, sealing and Expungement of your criminal records are two similar, but separate processes.

Sealing of your criminal record means that all records related to your criminal case that are held by a criminal justice agency or the court system are no longer accessible to the public.

Other than the statutory exceptions listed in the sealing section, your criminal record can only be accessed if a judge orders that it be unsealed, and this is rarely, if ever, done.

Expungement (also known as expunction) is the physical destruction of all records related to your criminal case that are held by a criminal justice agency. Importantly though, one copy of your criminal record history is retained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Clerk of the Court, but neither are open to the public.

The primary distinction between sealing and expungement, is that sealed records are retained by the courts and law enforcement agencies who possess them, but they are prohibited from divulging their existence to the public. On the other hand, expungement requires the courts and law enforcement agencies who possess your records to physically destroy them, thus making it impossible for them to be accidentally divulged. However, one copy is confidentially maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Why can't I just expunge my criminal record instead of sealing it?

By law, you can only have your record expunged if the State Attorney dropped the charges or the court dismissed the case completely.

If you entered a plea and adjudication of guilt was withheld or went to trial and were found Not Guilty, the law only allows you to have your records sealed. Then, after ten years of staying out of trouble, you may apply to have your record expunged.

What effect does sealing or expunging my record have?

Answer: Under Florida law, a sealed or expunged criminal record is confidential and not subject to disclosure by any State or Federal agency who possesses it.

What effect does sealing or expunging my record have?

Answer: Under Florida law, a sealed or expunged criminal record is confidential and not subject to disclosure by any State or Federal agency who possesses it.

A criminal justice agency that possesses your criminal record is not allowed to say that you even had a criminal record, or that it was sealed or expunged. It is a first degree misdemeanor to divulge the information. Most importantly, information regarding the criminal offense is removed from the Criminal Justice Information System so that it doesn't come up on any background checks.

I have multiple arrests, can I seal or expunge my entire record?

Answer: No, you can only seal criminal history related to one criminal episode. So if you have been arrested multiple times, you will only be able to seal or expunge the criminal history related to one of those arrests.

One exception to this does exist. If you plead guilty or no contest to more than one offense and the court withheld adjudication of guilt on all of the offenses, then you may seek to have only one of the convictions sealed or expunged. If this applies to you, you should seek to have the more serious charged removed.

Are Felony Offenses eligible to be sealed or expunged?

Answer: Yes, felony offenses are eligible to be sealed or expunged, provided it is not an ineligible offense prohibited from being sealed or expunged.

I had multiple charges from one arrest, can I seal or expunge them all?

Answer: Yes, you can seal or expunge multiple charges if they stem from the same criminal episode.

Do I have to appear in court?

Answer: No, your appearance in court is not necessary unless required by the presiding judge. However, if a formal hearing is scheduled, I request that my clients make every attempt to attend the hearing. It demonstrates to the court that you value this chance to clear your criminal record and that it is important to you.

How long does it take to seal or expunge my criminal record?

Answer: It can take up to six months to complete the process of sealing or expunging your criminal record.

What steps are involved in sealing or expunging my criminal record?

  1. Your application must be approved by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). If they approve your application, they will issue a certificate of eligibility;
  2. Upon receipt of the certificate of eligibility I must then prepare a Petition to Seal or Expunge and submit it to the court;
  3. After filing the petition, the court will either rule on the petition without a hearing, or the court may set the petition for a hearing. Either way, the court will either grant or deny the petition;
  4. If the petition is granted, the court will issue an order to seal or expunge your criminal record;
  5. The order is then sent to the arresting agency, any other criminal justice agency involved in your arrest, any other agency having criminal records related to your case, and to the clerk of the court.