When Can You Expunge or Seal Your Record?

Interviewer: I see. How long after a case has been dismissed or dropped can you apply for an expungement or for the case to be sealed? Do you have to wait a certain period of time?

Monica: The expungement only happens if a charge is dropped. Pretty much immediately after it’s dropped, you can start the process to get it expunged. It is advantageous to retain an criminal defense attorney for that process because there are many steps you will need to take. If you don’t go through the steps correctly then your application may end up getting denied. Typically we tell people that the length of time it will take, assuming you do it immediately after charges were dropped, may be somewhere between six months to a year to finish. It’s protracted because the whole process travels through departments.

To start with, it will go to the state attorney, at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Tallahassee, and then ultimately to the judge. It’s something that does take a little bit of time and that’s why you should get the process started as soon as you can.

You can apply one of two ways for a sealment. One of the ways is to obtain the withhold of adjudication that I mentioned earlier in which you will get probation. You need to wait until you’re completed with your probation.

At that point, you can potentially apply to get it sealed. The other way is easier to explain by example. Let’s say the state does not drop the case ahead of time but you go to trial and then you’re acquitted or you’re found not guilty by a jury. You’re not eligible for an expungement by the way that the rules work but you are eligible to petition to get the case sealed. At that point, you can get it sealed. In that kind of a scenario, a sealment would stay in place for a period of 10 years. After those 10 years, you can then apply to get it expunged or completely blocked off your record.

Who Approves the Expunging or Sealing of Your Record?

Interviewer: Obviously, judges would decide the approval of expungements or sealments, is that correct?

Monica: Yes. What would happen is that the judge that originally handled your case typically handles the judgment. Or whatever division your case was in, if the judges have changed divisions and it’s now another judge presiding. It’s whatever division you were originally and in whatever county it originally started. For example, if it were in Osceola county, you would need to apply to get it expunged in Osceola county in front of that same judge or the judge now presiding over that division.

Author: Amir Ladan
A former assistant state attorney for Orange/Osceola Counties, Amir has handled thousands of cases and dozens of trials, ranging from DUI and traffic offenses to murder, in both adult and juvenile court.

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