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Sealing/Expunging Criminal History Records

Provided by Three Rivers Legal Services, Inc.
April 2019

 Sealing/Expunging Criminal History Records

Criminal records can be barriers to employment and housing. Sealing or expunging a criminal record may remove the barrier. The following applies to Florida criminal records only. If you were arrested in another state, you must determine that state’s laws and apply there. There is no sealing or expunging of federal criminal charges.

If you were ever arrested in Florida, you have a criminal record even if no criminal charges were filed or the charges were dropped. An arrest creates a criminal record. Those records are available for public view, unless you were arrested as a juvenile. Contrary to popular belief, the records are permanent. They do not “come off” your record after seven years or at any other time. Sealing a record means that it is removed from public view. Expunging a record means it is physically destroyed, except for one copy kept by the FL Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).


  • You have never sealed or expunged a criminal record.
  • You were never convicted of any crime: misdemeanor, felony or criminal traffic (DUI, driving while license suspended, or reckless driving, etc.).
  • You may qualify if adjudication of guilt was withheld. However, certain charges cannot be sealed or expunged if you were found guilty or pled guilty or no contest, even if adjudication of guilt was withheld.
  • You were not adjudicated delinquent of a felony or serious misdemeanor charge as a minor.
  • You have paid all court costs and fees related to criminal charges; and
  • You have completed all court supervision.

In addition to the above, to be eligible to expunge a record:

  • No charges were filed after your arrest OR the charges were dropped before trial. There is no wait period to apply for expungement.


  • You first seal the record, then wait 10 years to apply for expungement, with no criminal record occurring during the wait period.


  • Speak with an attorney to determine if you are eligible. Call the Three Rivers Legal Services’ Legal Helpline at 1-866-256-8091 to find out if you qualify for free legal services on this topic.
  • If eligible:
    • Apply to the FDLE for a Certificate of Eligibility. There is a $75 nonrefundable application fee, so it is important to determine eligibility before applying.
    • Upon receipt of the Certificate of Eligibility, file a Petition with the court where the criminal record originated. Most Petitions do not require a hearing.
  • If ineligible, consider Clemency, discussed below.


Once a record is sealed or expunged, you may lawfully deny it, unless you are:

  • A defendant in a criminal prosecution
  • Concurrently or subsequently seeking to seal or expunge another matter
  • Seeking to purchase or transfer firearms and subject to criminal background check
  • Seeking licensing, access authorization, or employment subject to:
    • Criminal justice agencies
    • Department of Juvenile Justice
    • The Florida Bar
    • Department of Education
    • Department of Health
    • Department of Children and Family Services
    • Division of Vocational Rehabilitation with the Department of Education
    • Any district school board, any university laboratory school, any charter school, any private or parochial school
    • Agency for Healthcare Administration
    • Department of Elderly Affairs
    • Any local governmental entity that licenses childcare facilities
    • Agency for Persons with Disabilities
    • Florida sea ports
  • Seeking licensing by the:
    • Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services with the Department of Financial services
    • Bureau of License Issuance of the Division of Licensing within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to carry a concealed weapon or concealed firearm (sealing only)
  • Seeking employment with a contractor or licensee in a sensitive position having direct contact with children, the disabled or elderly.
  • Seeking to be appointed as a guardian under Florida Statute Sec. 744.3125.

In addition, there are federal laws that require disclosure, such as when seeking to join or work with the U.S. Military or in areas covered by homeland security.


If ineligible to seal or expunge a criminal record, you can request a pardon from the conviction from the FL Office of Executive Clemency Board 10 years after completion of your sentence. A pardon forgives the conviction but does not erase, seal, expunge the record or indicate innocence. You must admit the crime when applying for work or housing.

Restoration of Civil Rights for Convicted Felons

When convicted of a Florida felony, you lose your right to vote, sit on a jury, hold public office and possess firearms. However, you can immediately register to vote using a Florida driver license or FL identification card if you:

  • Were not convicted of murder or a sex crime, and
  • Have paid all court fines and fees and completed all other terms of your sentence.

For restoration of other civil rights (and for those convicted of murder or sex crimes who want to restore the right to vote), you must wait five to seven years, depending on the criminal charge, from the completion of your sentence to petition the FL Clemency Board to restore your civil rights. You must wait eight years to petition for restoration of firearm rights.

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This information is for general education only and not intended as legal advice.
The laws discussed may change without notice.

By |2019-05-20T10:08:31-04:00April 2nd, 2019|Employment, Individual Rights, Uncategorized|