Individuals that have been arrested for crimes can find it difficult to move on with their lives. Arrest records can keep you from gainful employment, renting a home, make you unable to obtain certification or special licenses, and create many other problems.

Even if someone hasn’t physically been arrested, just being issued a notice to appear for a criminal offense or a civil infraction can make it difficult for that person to find employment or housing in the future. Landlords and employers frequently conduct background checks, either on their own or with the assistance of a third-party company that specializes in background checks. These background check companies review and COLLECT criminal records, which are publicly available, from the various clerks of courts’ websites across the country.

Sealing or expunging someone’s criminal arrest record can provide relief, but the process and the specific steps required to successfully seal or expunge an arrest record can be confusing. To understand the intricacies of the sealing and expungement process, contact an attorney at GMV Law Group today.

In Florida, while there are a few very specific and narrow exceptions, individuals are only entitled to seal OR expunge the criminal arrest record for ONE qualifying offense. Including any record related to that specific transaction or occurrence.

What do Sealing and Expungement Mean?

Sealing a criminal record involves making a person’s criminal history inaccessible to the public. However, most city, county, state, and federal government agencies (including the police and military), will have access to review criminal history records whether those records are sealed. A sealed criminal record is preserved by court order under circumstances that leave it secure and inaccessible to the public, but the confidential information and documents in a sealed criminal record stay on file.

Expunging a record involves the court-ordered physical destruction or obliteration of a criminal history record or a portion of that record, except for one confidential copy, which is kept with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).


Below is an overview of the different phases involved in the process, and the approximate time involved in each.

Phase 1: Application for a Certificate of Eligibility – 1-4 Days

Both sealing and expunging a criminal record begin with an application to the FDLE for a Certificate of Eligibility. Applicants must provide their fingerprints, first and last name, date of birth, sex, race, permanent address, mailing address, charges, date of arrest, and the arresting agency. If an individual was not physically arrested, but instead was given a Notice to Appear, they will need to note that date in the place where they would list the arrest date. The application then needs to be signed and dated before a notary public or a deputy clerk of court.


Phase 2: Certified Disposition of Charge(s) – An additional 1-21 Days

Individuals must provide a certified disposition for each criminal charge or case listed on the application for a Certificate of Eligibility. A certified document can be obtained from the clerk of court in the county where the charge originated. Individuals placed on probation will also need to provide documentation showing the termination date of probation. Individuals that completed a diversion program would need to provide a copy of the completion certificate or letter of successful completion that can substitute for a certified disposition.

Phase 2A (Expungements Only): State Attorney Application Approval – An additional 1-21 Days

Expungements require the extra step of receiving approval or certification from the applicable State Attorney’s Office prior to the FDLE processing an application. The appropriate State Attorney or statewide prosecutor must complete a written certified statement prior to a petition for expungement being brought before a court for ruling. This additional step is required because expungement results in the destruction of all public records connected with criminal charges, except for one file that is kept confidentially by the FDLE. After expungement is ordered, the applicable clerk of court will execute the order of destruction, as will other government agencies affected by the order.

Phase 3: FDLE Processing – An additional 6 weeks to 7 Months

Despite the FDLE’s website indicating that it takes them approximately “90 working days” to process and complete applications, their website and that estimate have not been updated since before the pandemic. While it can take approximately 4.5 months (90 working days) for the FDLE to complete processing, we have seen it take as long as seven months in recent years. Factors that may increase processing time can include an individual having numerous aliases or having lived in several different states or countries.

Before issuing a Certificate of Eligibility, the FDLE will review the criminal charge an individual is trying to seal or expunge, as well as their criminal history, and decide whether that individual is statutorily eligible to petition the court to have their Florida criminal history record sealed or expunged.

Florida Statutes section 943.0585 sets forth the criteria for eligibility to expunge your records. Florida Statutes section 943.059 sets forth the criteria for eligibility to seal your records.

Phase 4: Filing Petition With Court – 1-14 Days

After issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility for expunging or sealing, a petition must be filed with the court. The filing will include a petition to expunge or seal, an affidavit in support, a notarized order, and an FDLE Certificate of Eligibility.

Get Advice from Our Criminal Defense Lawyers

Sealing or expunging an individual’s criminal record can provide substantial, long-term benefits, but the process can be difficult and confusing. Individuals interested in sealing or expunging their criminal history should seek representation from an attorney with substantial experience in this area.

Some preliminary questions that a qualified attorney will need to know the answers to include the following:

  1. Do you have any adjudications (convictions), as an adult on your record for a felony, misdemeanor, or criminal traffic offense (for example: Driving while license suspended/cancelled/revoked, no valid DL, DUI, etc.)?
  2. Have you ever been adjudicated (convicted) because of a violation of probation?
  3. Have you ever had a case sealed or expunged before or do you have a petition to seal or expunge pending in any jurisdiction?
  4. Were you arrested as a juvenile?
  5. Are you currently on probation or have a pending case?


To find out more about the phases of sealing and expungement in Florida, you can contact the attorneys at GMV Law Group. Contact us at 954-530-6206 or via our online form.

what to do after a sealing and expungement of criminal arrest records

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