How Long Does It Take to Seal or Expunge a Criminal Record in Florida?


Update: Effective October 1, 2019, the rules in Florida to seal or expunge a record just changed. Because out of state convictions no longer matter, many believe that the time FDLE takes to issue the certificate of eligibility will drop tremendously within the next 12 months.

According to the FDLE website, as of October 1, 2019, FDLE was still processing April applications which is a six-month delay. But within 6 month, FDLE will begin applying the new rules which will streamline the process.

Read more about Florida's new rules to seal or expunge a criminal record

If you want the process to go as quickly as possible, hire an experienced attorney at Sammis Law Firm. Call 813-2500.

Under the old rules, the process to seal or expunge a criminal history record takes about 6-10 months from start to finish. This article explains why it takes so long to seal or expunge a record. If someone tells you that your record can be sealed or expunged in less time, ask for that promise in writing with a money-back guarantee because it simply can't be done.

The sooner you start the process the sooner it will be completed. The only way to speed up the process is to complete each step as quickly as possible. Some parts of the process cannot be sped up. 

For instance, there is no way to jump to the front of FDLE's line to get the certificate of eligibility issued (which currently takes between 5 to 8 months). FDLE will process the applications in the order in which they receive it as explained below.

By hiring an attorney you can make sure each step is done correctly and as soon as possible. When you come to our office, it takes about one hour for us to complete all of the paperwork while you get your fingerprints taken.

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, take seal and expunge cases throughout the State of Florida. We charge a flat fee of $950 which includes all of the standard fees and costs. 

Included within this price is our promise to contact all of the data-mining companies like mugshot[dot]com and arrests[dot]com to demand that they remove your mug shot from their website. Because we process so many of these requests, we can save you a lot of stress, aggravation, and money when trying to get the mugshot off the internet.

Never pay these data mining companies money to remove the mug shot. Instead, get the record sealed or expunged and make sure the attorney you hire is willing and able to make the demand on your behalf.

Some judges require a hearing before they will sign the order to seal or expunge the record. If a hearing is required in your case, we will attend the hearing for you.

If you are eligible to seal or expunge your criminal record, then contact us to get the process started today. We know how important it is to get it done as quickly as possible. 

Call 813-250-0500 for more information.

Expunging a Criminal Record in Florida


After determining that you are eligible to move forward with expunging your record, the first step in the process is completing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Application for Certification of Eligibility. We will help you fill out this form so that it is done correctly.

Section A of this application will need to be completed and you must sign the form in the presence of a notary. You can complete this step at our office or we can send you the forms so that you can get it notarized yourself. 

If you come into our office, we will prepare these documents for your signature while you take the fingerprint card to the Tampa Police Station to get the fingerprints taken. By the time you get back to our office, all of the other paperwork will be ready for your signature.

Section A of Application

Once Section A has been completed (and while we are obtaining the necessary paperwork and the client is working on getting their fingerprints taken) we then provide the signed application to the State Attorney’s Office for their review and consideration. 

This part of the process provides the State Attorney’s Office with an opportunity to review the application and confirm that the applicant is eligible to expunge the charge or charges listed on the application. 

The normal turn around time for this part of the process takes between five to fifteen business days to complete depending on which State Attorney's Office is handling the request.

Section B of Application
 
Once your application is returned from the State Attorney’s Office, we check it carefully to make sure that the State Attorney's Office correctly completed Section B.

Common errors committed by the State Attorney's Office include not listing all charges that are eligible to be expunged or listing the wrong reasons for approval or denial. 

Once the application has been reviewed, the next part of the process is to prepare and provide the
Florida Department of Law Enforcement with the required documentation. This documentation includes:
  • The completed application (with Section A and Section B completed);
  • The completed fingerprint card; 
  • A certified copy of the final disposition;
  • A check or money in the amount of $75.00 for the application fee (which we pay out of our $950 fee); 
  • A pre-postage paid envelope for the return of your Certificate of Eligibility once processed. 
The seal and expunge attorneys at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, send these documents via Certified Mail so that we have confirmation that it was received. 

This part of the process takes the longest as the turn around time is approximately 5-8 months (from the time the documents are sent to FDLE until the time the certificate of eligibility is returned).

FDLE Takes 5-8 Months to Process the Application


Waiting for FDLE to process your information and provide you with a response can be stressful. No one wants to wait 5-8 months to learn that they are not eligible or that they need to provide additional documentation. An attorney can help you make sure that you are eligible and that everything is done correctly so that there are no further delays in the process.

You can also check the status of the application by checking FDLE’s website to confirm the month being processed. 

For example, if you received confirmation that your documents were received by FDLE in June you can check their website to see what month they are currently processing.

This information can be found at http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Seal-and-Expunge-Process/Seal-and-Expunge-Home.aspx.

This article was written on November 22, 2017, and as of today, the FDLE says that it is processing applications from June of 2017. This tells you that it takes at least 5 months just for FDLE to process your application.

If your application was received by FDLE in June and the FDLE website tells you that June applications are being processed, then you can expect to receive your Certificate of Eligibility back within 30 days (assuming all eligibility requirements have been met). 

Once processed, FDLE will provide you or your attorney with a Certificate of Eligibility which includes the charge/charges you are eligible to expunge. There will also be an 8-digit Identification Number listed in the bottom left-hand corner of the page that will need to be provided to the County Clerk’s Office (for the charge or charges you wish to expunge).

Complete the Affidavit to Seal or Expunge


The next part of the process is to complete the Affidavit. The affidavit needs to be notarized and the original will need to be provided to the Court. Once we receive an applicant’s Certificate of Eligibility back from FDLE we will then provide them with the Affidavit. 

While the applicant is completing the Affidavit, the cost amount will need to be obtained from the County Clerk’s Office. For seal and expunge cases in Hillsborough County, your attorney will contact the Expungement and Sealing Unit (ESU) of the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court by calling 813-276-8100 ext. 3800. The clerk needs to know the case name, case number, and the FDLE Certificate Number before the costs can be calculated.

Each county in Florida has their own process for obtaining information about the costs for expunging your case. In Hillsborough County, the ESU clerk normally provides us with the cost information within 24-48 hours.

Prepare the Petition to Expunge and Proposed Order

Once costs have been received and the original Affidavit has been completed, it is now time to prepare and Petition to Expunge and the proposed Order. Once drafted, the Petition, proposed Order, original Affidavit, and original FDLE Certificate will need to be provided to the County Clerk’s Office, with a check or money order for the costs, for filing and for the Judge’s consideration.

Once the above documents have been provided to the Judge it normally takes about 2-6 weeks to receive the signed Order Expunging Criminal Record back. The interested parties listed on the order will also receive a copy, once signed by the Judge.

The interested parties include:
  • You (or your attorney’s office if you are represented by counsel); 
  • The State Attorney’s Office for the appropriate county where the arrest or prosecution occurred;
  • The Florida Department of Law Enforcement;
  • Any Arresting Agency;
  • I.D. Section for Sheriff’s Office (this division handles the mugshots).
It is important to remember to serve each of the above with a copy of your Petition, proposed Order, FDLE Certificate, and Affidavit as well as making sure they are listed to receive a copy of the signed Order once signed by the Judge.

Once the interested parties receive a signed copy of the Order, they will begin their office’s procedure for removing your information from their databases. For example, your docket information will be removed by the Clerk once the signed Order is received. Your mugshot will be removed from the Arrest Inquiry once your signed Order is received. Once expunged, this information is no longer a public record.

We suggest that if you need any documentation related to your case that you obtain it while the process is being completed. Once completed, you will no longer be able to access any information related to your case unless you Petition the Court to reopen it.

In order words, before the case is sealed or expunged, be sure to get a certified copy of your final disposition and any other records in the file so you can save them in case you need that documentation in the future. We can obtain these documents for you.

Getting Your Mug Shot Off the Internet


Here at the Sammis Law Firm, our attorneys demand the removal of your arrest/case information from third party sites once your case has been expunged. We ask our clients to provide our office with a list of any and all URL website links for sites that have posted your arrest information.

We tell our clients to wait and not pay these sites for the removal of their information because we can typically get the mugshots taken down at no additional cost to you after the seal or expunge order is signed. 

Although we cannot guarantee the removal of the information from these third-party data mining companies, we have become pretty good at getting them to remove the record, usually within a matter of weeks. 

How Long Does it Take to Seal a Record in Florida? 

The process to seal a criminal history record is very similar to the expunction process. Unlike expungements, when you seal the record your application is not provided to the State Attorney’s Office for their review and consideration.

Instead, the next part of the process is to prepare and provide the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with the required documentation. For this reason, sealing a record takes slightly less time then expunging a record.

It is also important to remember that once your case has been sealed for a period of 10 years, you can then complete the expungement process to have your case expunged. For example, if the Judge signed the Order Sealing Criminal Record on November 22, 2017, then you can then begin the expungement process to expunge your previously sealed case on November 22, 2027.

Because a sealed record is very similar to an expunged record for all practical purposes, most people with a sealed record don't bother to expunge it after 10 years. But at least you know that this opportunity is available under Florida law.

Do I Need an Attorney to Seal or Expunge My Criminal Record?

Do you need a lawyer to seal or expunge your criminal record in Florida? No, you do not need an attorney to seal expunge your record. You can do it yourself if you want to avoid paying attorney fees (although the cost would remain the same). 

Many of the people that hire us, start off trying to do it themselves only to realize they needed an attorney’s help after losing valuable time. This article explains the process and the benefits of having an attorney help you at every stage of the case.

The benefits of hiring an attorney to seal or expunge a criminal record include making sure:
  • you are eligible to seal or expunge the record in the first place;
  • all related cases are sealed or expunged so that nothing is missed (especially when a second case might have a different case number but be part of the same incident);
  • the paperwork is filled out correctly so that no additional delay occurs;
  • all of the agencies that need to seal or expunge the record receive and process the order correctly; and
  • data mining companies take down your mug shot off the internet after the seal or expunge is completed.

Conclusion - Finding a Tampa Attorney to Seal or Expunge the Record

If you need to seal or expunge a record in Tampa, FL, or Hillsborough County, or anywhere in the State of Florida, then contact an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm.

We know you need it done quickly and correctly. Let us put our experience to work for you. We can start the process today.

Call 813-250-0500 to get started.

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