How To Expunge A Criminal Record In Florida

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 Google it. FDLE has the entire mystery packet online. Get online and print out everything FDLE put on there website.

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.

Related resources:

Criminal Record Expungements: More Good Stuff

In the realm of law, in between the nether world and the iclouds, there is a place where things sometimes seem pretty darn good. Doesn’t mean it is! Or forever will be – but, for now, good. This This is where we find the following two cases (case law):

Shanks v. State, 83 So.3d 1226 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012)

Baker v. State, 53 So.3d 1147 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011)

Both of these cases, for the time being, stop the practice of the State Attorneys going to court unarmed and arguing away a client’s chance to seal or expunge their criminal record without producing a single shred of evidence on which the Court could hang its hat.  With these cases (and others) defense counsel is now sitting in the cat-bird’s seat!

Er, ahh, … for now…

English: Excerpt from the swiss criminal recor...
Redacted Record.

Another Good Case on Sealing Records

A rejected petition to the Tsar of Russia by U...
A rejected petition to the Tsar of Russia by US citizens, 1903, now kept at the US National Archives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SHANKS v. STATE, 37 Fla. L. Weekly D728a (Fla. 1st DCA, Mar 28, 2012)

Mr. Shanks had entered a plea of nolo contendere to a charge of possession of cocaine, in violation of section 893.13(6)(a), Florida Statutes (2009). The trial court withheld adjudication of guilt and sentenced him to twelve months’ drug offender probation with the special condition that he complete a six-month recovery program. Upon request of his probation officer, Mr. Shanks’ probation was terminated early. He then filed his petition to expunge or seal, which meets all rule and statutory criteria.

(Here is the problem with appealing a petition to seal or to expunge – it defeats the purpose to some degree especially with Google Scholar)

“[O]nce an applicant satisfies the criteria set forth in Rules 3.692 and 3.989(d), the applicant is presumptively entitled to an order to seal or expunge court records. However, the petition is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court, and the petition may be denied if there is good reason for denial based on the facts and circumstances of the individual case.” Anderson v. State, 692 So. 2d 250, 252 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997) (citation omitted). Here denial in the exercise of sound discretion would have required some good reason based on facts and circumstances of Mr. Shanks’ individual case.

But “[w]ithout [any] evidence at [a] hearing or stating any reason for denying [Mr. Shanks’] request in its order, it appears the trial court had no factual basis to support the denial of [Mr. Shanks’] request to seal his records.” Cole v. State, 941 So. 2d 549, 551 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006). Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings. See Light v. State, 37 Fla. L. Weekly D386 (Fla. 1st DCA Feb. 14, 2012); Hobbs v. State, 37 Fla. L. Weekly D397 (Fla. 1st DCA Feb. 14, 2012); Baker v. State, 53 So. 3d 1147, 1148-49 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011); VFD v. State, 19 So. 3d 1172, 1175 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009).

(Note: VFD was not a juvenile. It requested this designation on appeal and the District Court followed it)

September 2011 Updates (Part IV)

State v. Carter, 18 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 782 (7th Jud. Cir., May 27, 2011): Order on Defense Motion to Suppress – Very interesting case regarding probable cause to arrest for a DUI.  Court found stop legal and there was justification to perform FST’s.  However, the court found that the FST’s, video, and observations were insufficient and did not rise to the level of probable cause to arrest.  This resulted in a felony amount of marijuana which was found during the inventory search of the vehicle to also be suppressed.

M.N. v. State, 18 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 804 (9th Jud. Cir., Apr 25, 2011): Defense Appeal, Reversed – Court denies defendant’s petition to seal.  Appellate court finds the judge abused his discretion.  Good case for citations in support of granting petition to seal.

This concludes the September updates…

Eric J Dirga, PA 

Good Anonymous Tipster case from the 4th DCA

McKelvin v. State, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D347 (Fla. 4th DCA, Feb 16, 2011): Appeal of denial for motion to suppress stop, reversed – A person approaches law enforcement at unrelated stop and makes claim that someone may be involved in illegal drug activity.  Person describes car in detail and specifically describes male driver.  Police later see car and male (with a female) and stop car.  Court finds this to be an anonymous tip and requires further corroboration before reasonable suspicious can form.