If you have been convicted of a federal crime in Florida, you may be eligible to have the record of your arrest and conviction destroyed through a process called expungement. The outcome will largely depend on the circumstances of your case, and whether the crime in question is a state or federal offense, but a Florida federal expungement attorney can evaluate your case and help you determine how to proceed.
What is Expungement in Florida?
Expungement is the process of removing a conviction from an individual’s criminal record. In most cases, it also removes the conviction from public record, although there are some exceptions.
There are various forms of expungement, depending on the circumstances of the conviction. In Florida, the different types of expungement include:
- Administrative expungement occurs when the arrest was made unlawfully or by mistake;
- Court-ordered expungement occurs when an eligible individual applies for expungement;
- Juvenile diversion expungement occurs when an eligible juvenile who was convicted of a misdemeanor offense completes an authorized juvenile diversion program;
- Lawful self-defense expungement occurs when the subject is found to have acted in lawful self-defense and the charges were subsequently dismissed;
- Human trafficking expungement occurs when the individual is a victim of human trafficking and the conviction is part of a human trafficking scheme;
- Automatic juvenile expungement occurs when a minor’s conviction is automatically expunged at the age of 21 or 26, based on having certain conditions met;
- Early juvenile expungement occurs when an eligible individual, between the ages of 18 and 21, applies for early expungement of their juvenile criminal history; and
- Automatic sealing may occur when the criminal record does not include an indictable offense.
When a criminal charge or conviction is expunged, it is essentially hidden from public view. Although most records are destroyed and deleted, a confidential record will remain on file with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In very limited situations, a government entity may be able to access this record, but it will be concealed from nearly all searches.
If, for example, a potential employer or landlord performs a background check before hiring you or approving housing, an expunged criminal record will not appear in that background check. This is of special importance in Florida since the passing of the “Sunshine Law” in 1995. The Sunshine Law basically guarantees access to non-sensitive public records, a category to which criminal records belong. For individuals who simply made a bad choice, and for those who were wrongly accused of a crime, the Sunshine Law can severely limit their ability to get a job, housing, loans, and even custody of their children. Expungement is often the answer.
Crimes That Cannot be Expunged
In order for a criminal conviction to be expunged, however, the offense itself must meet certain criteria. Generally speaking, the crime may not have been violent or involve sexual misconduct against a minor. Some offenses that are ineligible for expungement include:
- Domestic abuse
- Child abuse
- Elder abuse
- Aggravated assault
- Home invasion
- Drug trafficking
- Luring or enticing a child
- Lewd or lascivious offenses involving minors
- Possession or distribution of child pornography
- Sexual activity involving a minor
What Is A Federal Expungement?
Although Florida has a comprehensive list of state offenses that allow for expungement under various conditions, the federal system seriously limits crimes eligible for expungement. In fact, only possession of small quantities of certain controlled substances are explicitly eligible for expungement under the federal expungement statute. That being said, federal judges often have the power to expunge criminal records, even without statutory authority.
Without specific statutes allowing for the expungement of federal offenses, it is even more important to seek immediate legal counsel if you wish to have a federal criminal record expunged. Only a defense attorney with extensive experience in federal expungements can understand how to work within this system and obtain the results you desire.
Benefits of Having Your Record Expunged
The benefits to having your arrest or conviction expunged are extensive. It can give you the fresh start you need to get your life back on track.
Some of the benefits of expungement in Florida include:
- Removal of the conviction from public record
- Destruction of all non-judicial records
- Deletion of arrest record
- The ability to “lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests covered by the expunged record”
- Shortening of the restriction on purchasing firearms
Certain entities will still be able to access an expunged record. These include employers and organizations that are licensed to work with children, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly.
How To Get a Federal Expungement
Even when a federal judge has the power to expunge a record, federal expungements are rare. In order to obtain one, the judge must feel that doing so will be in the “interests of justice.” This is why it is so critical to work with a lawyer skilled in the federal expungement process. Your attorney needs to convince the judge that your basic legal rights will be violated if the expungement is not granted. The judge will be more inclined to approve a federal expungement when extreme police misconduct was present, and/or there is a high likelihood of misuse of the records, and the records are not necessary for the protection of society or to aid in future criminal investigations.
In short, this is not an easy process, and it should not be undertaken without the help of a highly skilled federal criminal defense attorney.
What is Sealing?
Similar to expunging, sealing removes access to an arrest record or criminal conviction. But where expungement involves the destruction of all non-judicial criminal records, sealing does not involve the deletion or destruction of any information. Rather, it places the sealed information under government protection, essentially making it confidential from all public access.
What Is A Federal Pardon?
Where expungement restricts access to a criminal record, a pardon basically forgives the individual of all punishment for a criminal offense. It does not, however, expunge the conviction or remove guilt. As such, a person who received a pardon must still disclose their conviction on a job or housing application, but they can explain that they were pardoned.
Typically made by either the President or a state governor, a pardon is granted when it is deemed necessary to address an unfairness that the courts are unable to resolve.
Contact the Law Office of Nayib Hassan Today
If you wish to have a federal arrest or conviction expunged in Florida, the skilled legal team at the Law Office of Nayib Hassan can help. Federal expungements are complicated, limited, and rare, but they are possible. At the Law Office of Nayib Hassan, our federal defense team has aided in the successful expungement of countless federal offenses. We will review the details of your case, determine the most appropriate legal strategy, and position you for the best possible outcome. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation about your case.