Having criminal records may prevent you from enjoying your life to the fullest. You may feel anxious about people finding out that you have previous cases, or you may have a hard time being accepted into your dream job just because of a single mistake.
In Florida, it is possible for a person charged with a case to seal or expunge it. This means that all the information related to your arrest, including mugshots in the sheriff’s office, will be sealed away.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony
Crimes are classified into different types depending on the severity and the jail time associated with the crime. The major classifications are infraction, misdemeanor, and felony. Crimes under infraction are the least serious ones. In this classification, no jail time is associated, and the crimes do not appear on a criminal record.
It is relatively more severe for misdemeanors since the jail time of a year, or less may be imposed on the person involved. Crimes under misdemeanors are again branched into two — first-degree and second-degree misdemeanors.
Second-degree misdemeanors are less-serious offenses, while first-degree misdemeanor is the more severe type and is governed by Florida state statutes.
Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious crimes with a jail time that is more than one year in a state prison or federal prison. Crimes classified as felonies are the ones that people see as the worst. Some examples of felonies are murder, robbery, kidnapping, and arson.
Types of Misdemeanors and their Corresponding Penalties
First degree misdemeanors are more severe crimes and punishable by up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Here is a simple list of crimes under this category to give you an idea of what first-degree misdemeanors are.
- Domestic battery
- Possession of marijuana (less than 20 grams)
- Petit theft of property less than $300 but more than $100
- Driving under the influence
Second-degree crimes are punishable by up to six days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Some examples of offenses under this category are:
- Disorderly conduct
- Petit theft of property less than $100
- Minor in possession of alcohol
Getting your record sealed or expunged is a process set out in Florida Statutes, Section 943.0585 and 943.059 for adult criminal records.
The expungement process usually takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months on average from beginning to end. Remember that having a lawyer guide you through the process is essential so that your case’s expunction will go smoothly.
When processing your case’s expungement, you should also know that you can only expunct one case in your lifetime, so it must be done correctly.
After receiving the Certificate of Eligibility, a Petition to Seal/Expunge must be filed with the court.
Make it right from the start to avoid prolonging the agony. Contact a defense lawyer now to assist you until the end.
Certificate of Eligibility
To start your case’s expungement process, you must first acquire a Certificate of Eligibility or COE. You cannot proceed to the next step if you don’t have this document from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
Acquiring the COE is the longest part of the process, and if it isn’t done correctly, it may take another 4 to 6 months to restart, if it is even allowed at all.
Benefits of Expungement
The primary benefit of having your criminal record expunged lies in the fact that you can, under Florida law, legally deny or fail to acknowledge the arrests and convictions covered by the sealed or expunged record.
- An expungement allows you to retain professional certificates and licenses.
- It can potentially have a positive effect on your credit rating.
- It allows you to legally state on a job application that you were never convicted of a crime.
“A case that is dismissed/dropped can be expunged. A record that has been sealed for ten years may be expunged. Florida law favors the granting of properly filed motions for eligible applicants, holding that a petitioner who satisfies the requirements of the law is presumptively entitled to an order to expunge.”
FAQs about Misdemeanor Expungements
How much does it cost to get your record expunged in Florida?
For a single criminal charge, the fees you have to pay may range from $400 to $1000. But you should note that there are cases where the attorney fees will vary from $1000 to $4000. You will also have to pay the court around $100 to $400, depending on location and amount of paperwork to be done.
Do employers care about misdemeanors?
This depends on the employer. There are some cases where employers don’t care about your previous charges, but others do background checks on the applicant. There’s also a possibility that even if the employers know that you’ve had prior charges, they will still employ you.
Will an expungement show on a background check?
Generally, once a case has been expunged, it will no longer show in background checks. When your crime has been expunged, it means that the information about the criminal arrest, charge, and conviction has been sealed or destroyed. Technically, an expunged case’s records no longer exist.