I am a low life bottom sucking criminal defense lawyer. I help the bad people escape justice and put victims on trial. Or so that is how people lucky enough to never have been royally screwed by the government feel. “No worries,” I tell myself, “just give it some time.”
The same people that think criminal lawyers are scum also have the common disdain that we all share for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, commonly known as the “DMV.” No one likes to deal with the DMV because, let’s face it – they suck. The DMV does not care about efficiency, your time, getting anything done correctly, or the safety of motorists. All they care about is crossing their “Ts” and dotting their “Is.” They only know one thing “bureaucracy.”
Unfortunately, the DMV’s bureaucracy is designed to do only one thing well – suspend our driving privileges. They don’t care about how we will get to work, feed our families, keep our job, go to school, etc. for the true believers, this is where you can say “well, you shouldn’t have screwed up.” Oh, if it were so simple.
The DMV is a well oiled machine when it comes to taking your drivers license away. Forget to pay the only ticket you ever received in your life and you will efficiently receive a letter from the DMV within 10 days. Fix your mistake and try and get your license back, well … that is a different story. And while the DMV checks their books and double checks the computer calibration your job, school, groceries, are all suppose to be out on hold.
When we cannot take the delay, when we have to go to work, have to go to school, have to provide for our families, without a drivers license be sure to remember that we are committing a crime. We can go to jail. We can lose everything because we are “suppose” to wait for the DMV.
Then lets not forget the criminal justice system. The unwitting partner in this disaster. The system that “understands” and resolves your crime with just a fine and some costs. The pat on the head to make you feel good as you walk out the door free again. Thanks system!
It’s only a few days later that the DMV send you the letter that your little mistake has now caused a major fuss up in Tallahassee. Now the DMV must suspend your license for 5-years. It is for the good of all. Remember you drive to provide for your family when they had not told you that you could. You’ve don’t that 3 times they see and that makes us a very dangerous driver. Forget the fact that you maintain the highest level of insurance on your vehicles – you are a menace. Drive now and they will slap a felony on your a**!
The economy is down, your debts are up, you have two kids, you have to drive to get to work, your elderly mother needs medicine, – none of that matters. We broke the DMV rules and that rulebook says “drivers license suspension.” That’s life. That’s justice. That’s bureaucracy.
Starting Your Expungement
For the non-lawyer trying to save a buck or two, expunging a criminal record will initially sound easy. The first “easy” sound regarding how to expunge your record usually comes from another non-lawyer such as a clerk at the courthouse. Years ago FDLE would provide expunge “packets” to the Clerk’s Office to hand out to lawyers and non-lawyers alike. There were pre-approved fingerprint cards and applications back then – don’t try creating a merge application back then because it would not be accepted. The non-lawyer would ask the clerk if she knew anything about expunging a record and the clerk would hand over the packet and add “you don’t need an attorney for that.”
Today, it is seemingly much easier. FDLE has put everything online. No longer do you have to ask someone for them to tell you about a mysterious packet – just
Getting Help Without Paying An Attorney
Forget the clerk that told you that you did not need a lawyer. She can’t give out legal advice. However, the FDLE website download includes instructions for obtaining the
Certificate of Eligibility. You’ve got that but that’s as far as FDLE goes. You need that certificate so get that first.
The next step after receiving a Certificate of Eligibility is to file the petition, serve copies on all the required offices, set a hearing (if necessary), and if there is a hearing – arguing why it should be granted. Where do you find help for all that? The first place to look is in the
Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. You’ll need to also Google for that. Don’t worry, there are a lot of sources for these rules. Once you pick one you need to look at rules 3.692 and 3.989. This is where you will find the form for the petition and the affidavit. Break out your word processor and start formatting.
Finally, look at the Florida Statutes. You’ll need to focus on section 943.0585, Florida Statutes. Read it, then read it again. This will complete the non-lawyer help resources. Now read it again.
What Do I Do With All This?
Let’s take a step back. Let’s do some backward planning. What is your goal? To have the court sign an order expunging your criminal record. So ultimately you are trying to get to court.
How do you get to court? You have to file the petition and you have to do that correctly (read above for help). And when you file the petition you need to file the Certificate of Eligibility with the petition.
So first you need to secure the Certificate of Eligibility from the FDLE. Next, properly prepare the petition and accompanying affidavit (see rules listed above). Serve the petition on all necessary parties. File petition with Certificate of Eligibility with the court. Request a hearing.
I know this seems very skeletal. Unfortunately, law school is three years long and I can’t cover it all here. Try rereading this admittedly brief article. It does spell out the basic steps and should help you achieve your goal. Take it step by step. That will make it much easier. Get the Certificate. Create the petition and affidavit. File and serve them. Ask for a hearing. Good luck.