Criminal Defense LawyerLakeland, Tampa, FL

Expungement and Record-Sealing in Polk County, FL

An experienced Lakeland defense attorney may be able to clear your name

A criminal record can have effects on your life beyond jail time, fines, and other legal penalties. It follows you throughout your life, affecting your career and reputation. In the state of Florida, it is easy for anyone to access public criminal records. This can make it difficult for anyone with past convictions to obtain work, rent housing, or, in some instances, even travel.

Nearly 7 in 10 adults said they have had difficulty finding a job after incarceration. Source: Alliance for Safety and JusticeMost of us think of a criminal record as something permanent and unchangeable, but that’s not always the case. While for the most part convictions are recorded permanently and can follow you on your record for life, there are certain circumstances where your criminal record can be removed or sealed from public access.

If you’re hoping to clean up your criminal record, the best way to do so is to contact a qualified criminal defense attorney with experience handling expungement requests. That’s why you should talk to Thomas C. Grajek, Attorney at Law in Lakeland, Florida. We know how the legal system works in Polk County and we’re here to help.

What is an expunction?

Expunction, also known as expungement, is essentially the destruction and deletion of all records of your arrest. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement keeps a confidential record for extremely limited purposes, but for the most part, it’s like the arrest never happened.

To be eligible for expungement, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You are not under any type of probation, house arrest, pretrial release, or any other form of court-ordered supervision.
  • You have never had another offense expunged or sealed in Florida or any other state, and you do not have a seal or expungement petition pending in another jurisdiction. In other words, you can only ever do this once.
  • You have never been adjudicated guilty of any criminal offense – that includes guilty pleas, no contest pleas, and guilty verdicts – in Florida or another state.

Expungement is an opportunity to remove an arrest from your record if the charges were dismissed before trial. It can also be used for a case where you were acquitted at trial. It doesn’t allow you to remove a conviction. Expungement generally can’t be used for multiple arrests, but it may be possible to remove multiple arrests if they are part of a single, related episode at the judge’s discretion.

What is record-sealing?

Sealing your record doesn’t delete or destroy it but rather places it under protection. While expunction results in your records being shredded or burnt, record-sealing means they are literally sealed with tape and cannot be accessed by the public. However, the courts and the criminal justice system can still access sealed records for some purposes, and a judge may order that they be unsealed at some point in the future.

Unlike expunction, which is only possible if your charges were dropped or dismissed before trial, you may be eligible for record-sealing if you were placed on probation. Also, once your record has been sealed for 10 years, it may become eligible for an expunction.

How can you get your criminal record cleared in Florida?

To seek expungement, an individual must apply through the court system where they were convicted. The expungement process begins by filing the proper documents for an application at the courthouse where you were convicted.

You can then be granted a hearing with a judge, who has the final decision to grant or deny the expungement.

This can be a complex process. Small mistakes in your application can delay the process for weeks or months. Therefore, it’s essential to get everything right the first time to ensure a speedy application process. The best way to handle an expungement or record-sealing is to get an experienced lawyer who knows the system on your side.

How a Lakeland expungement attorney can help

The expungement process is fraught with difficulties. While it is possible to submit the applications yourself, even small errors in details can cause serious delays and complicate the process dramatically. A qualified attorney will know how to properly file the necessary documents and use the best language to maximize the chances that your expungement or record-sealing will be granted. Once you are granted an expungement hearing, your lawyer can represent you to the judge to make a legal argument for your expungement.

If you’re hoping to get an arrest removed from your record, call today to schedule a free consultation at our Lakeland law firm. I’d love to provide you with some advice, answer any questions, and begin the process of applying for your expungement in Polk County or whichever court has jurisdiction over your case.

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