On our website, we talk about how you may be eligible to have your record expunged (or sealed)  if you receive either a “no action,” “nolle prosse,” or “withhold” on either a misdemeanor or felony charge. Because these are terms that people do not commonly use outside of the legal community, we want to take a moment to explain what they mean. 

  • No Action: You were arrested, but no charges were filed against you. 
  • Nolle Prosse (prosequi): Charges were filed against you but were eventually dismissed by the State. 
  • Withhold of Adjudication: You entered into a plea of guilt or no contest (nolo contendere) but you were not convicted of the charges. 

Furthermore, it is also important to understand the difference between expunging your record and sealing it. When your record is sealed, no one can access your records unless they have a court order. For instance, if you apply for a job or an apartment, neither the employer nor the landlord can see your criminal history. Basically, the clerk’s office will take your file, put it in an envelope, and seal it where no one can get into it. If you wanted to look at the record at a later date, you would have to petition the Court to unseal the file. Expungement is one step beyond that because it shreds the record. The result of the two are essentially the same, you can lawfully deny (with certain exceptions) having been arrested. However, there are some circumstances in which you will have to disclose a record that has been sealed or expunged for example, a job working with children or law enforcement and immigration). It is important to understand under which circumstances you will need to honestly answer a question on whether you have ever been arrested for a crime after your record has been sealed or expunged.  

What Do I Have to Do?

Before we continue, it is essential to highlight that certain offenses such as the battery, homicide, child abuse, and acts of terrorism immediately make you ineligible. In Florida, even the crime of DUI makes you ineligible because the statute requires a conviction. (The list of criminal charges that are not eligible for either expungement or sealing is extensive, and it is beyond the scope of this article to elaborate on each one. If you have specific questions regarding your eligibility, contact our offices and schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.) Another critical step in this process is to establish that if you have ever been convicted of any crime, regardless of whether in another State, you cannot have your record sealed or expunged—even if the crime you committed is not on the list we previously discussed.  

If you wish to expunge your record or have it sealed, you must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Before they issue you one, they will conduct a background check. Anyone who is even considering pursuing this should contact an attorney immediately. The entire process can take anywhere from six to nine months, so getting started is in your best interest. For example, if you find a job that could change your or your family’s life, you want to pursue it without the hindrance of a blemished record. 

Begin the Process Alongside Puglisi Caramés
Once you receive a Certificate of Eligibility, you will need to petition the Court to seal or expunge the record. The road ahead may be challenging, but it is worth it. The skilled and compassionate attorneys at Puglisi Caramés will help you navigate each challenge as it surfaces. Contact our office and schedule a free consultation to continue this conversation with legal counsel.