16 Sep Under What Circumstances Can I Have a Court Order Sealed?
Under what circumstances can I have a court order sealed? To understand this question, we have to know what “sealed” means and what “expunged” means. If the court case is expunged, it is literally removed from the court records. There is no trace of it left behind – except a record kept by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Any search for it will come up empty. Sealed is different. Sealed, means a record is still there, however, it is placed under highly restricted access.
Specifically in Florida, a record that is sealed is kept on file at the courthouse and by the arresting agency. The file will be placed in an envelope that will deny public access to it. For anyone to gain access to this envelope, a court order is required. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement – FDLE – will also keep a record in their database. However, the record will be erased from the court’s computer database.
In the state of Florida, state law sets forth what is needed to have a criminal record sealed or expunged. Having a record sealed is considered a form of relief. To be eligible for this belief, you have to make an application to the FDLE for Certificate of Eligibility. This does not guarantee that your records will be sealed or expunged. This only ensures your statutory eligibility of your case telling you that your case is eligible to be sealed or expunged.
Before Florida considers any case for expunction or sealing, we must keep in mind that they will only consider cases that are closed. This means that they have to be completely closed – all court supervision must have ended and all probationary periods must have passed.
Criminal records in Florida are very difficult to be expunged or sealed. For the most, part they cannot be expunged or sealed. The rules that govern this are very simple. Only one criminal record per person can be expunged in a lifetime. That includes individual charges. If you have several criminal charges on your record, you are only eligible to have one of those charges sealed or expunged.
Moreover, the case against you must have reached a particular verdict. Only three verdicts are eligible for expunction.
- No Action – this means you are arrested but not charged. You were not indicted, and no charges were pressed or filed against you.
- Nolle Prosse (Dismissal) – this means your case was dismissed. You are arrested, you are charged, but later on your case was dropped. There are different reasons for this, including lack of evidence, problems with witnesses, and more.
- Acquittal by a Judge or Jury at Trial – this means you are arrested you are charged in your case went to trial. The result of the trial ended with a verdict of not being guilty.
As you can see, it’s very difficult to get a criminal case expunged in Florida. Any charge against you in what you are found guilty, or you pleaded “no contest” is not eligible for the Certificate of Eligibility.
To get a court case sealed, you must have reached the “adjudication withheld” result. This means you either entered a plea, or you want to trial and the court withheld the conviction against you.
There are several different charges that are not eligible for sealing. According to the 2015 Florida Statutes, section 907.041, the following offenses are not eligible for sealing:
- Aggravated Assault
- Aggravated Battery
- Illegal use of explosives
- Child abuse or Aggravated Child Abuse
- Abuse of an elderly person or physically challenged adult, or aggravated abuse of an elderly person or physically challenged 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 solicitation of a person in familial or custodial authority
- Burglary of a dwelling
- Stalking and Aggravated Stalking
- Act of Domestic Violence as defined in s. 741.28 F.S.
- Home-invasion Robbery
- Act of Terrorism as defined by s. 775.30 F.S.
- Manufacturing any substances in violation of Chapter 893
- Attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above crimes
It is possible to have your court proceeding sealed. However, there is a particular process laid before you that allows you to seal one of your records. The law is very explicit on what can and cannot be sealed. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has very specific instructions on the website on how to apply for Certificate of Eligibility. It typically takes 90 days to receive a response. Once you receive your certificate, you need to petition the County Court for relief, in which you must provide proof of eligibility by providing the certificate. It is not guaranteed any record will be sealed. The final determination is left to the discretion of the court.