Many residents of Florida have been wrongly charged with a crime or have been acquitted after a trial before a judge or jury. A common question after the criminal proceeding has been completed is whether Florida maintains a record of the charges or the proceeding. The answer is “yes,” giving rise to the second question: Can the record be erased?
The answer to the second question is also “yes,” although the legal term used to describe the process of erasure is called “expunction” or “expungement.” Florida statutes spell out a procedure by which certain individuals can have criminal charges expunged or erased if they can demonstrate their eligibility for such a remedy. A person seeking expunction must first obtain a certificate of eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Such a certificate may be obtained only if the person seeking expungement obtains a certified written statement from the appropriate state attorney indicating that the indictment, information or other charging document in the case at issue was either not issued or dismissed, or that the applicant was found not guilty by a jury or a judge.
The applicant must also demonstrate that he or she has never been accused of violation of one of several enumerated statutes, most of which concern sexually related crimes. A certificate of eligibility cannot be issued if the applicant has been charged with related criminal activity or is still under court supervision concerning the alleged crime to which the petition for expunction is related.
The person seeking expunction must then serve the certificate on the state’s attorney and file it with the court. The court reviews the certificate to make sure that all perquisites have been satisfied. If the applicant has satisfied all requirements of the statute, the court will issue an order to expunge the person’s criminal history record.