Thursday, September 27, 2012


A reader recently asks a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney about sealing and expunging of criminal history records in Tampa Bay Florida:
Clearwater Criminal Lawyer Robert Hambrick recommends self awareness & honesty to get a job after a criminal client gets a grand theft conviction in Tampa Bay Florida at the Pinellas criminal court complex in Largo
Van Gogh, Self Portrait & Hat
I'm only in my twenties but I think I already ruined my life. I pled guilty to a felony Grand Theft in Florida two years ago to avoid a trial. I was sentenced to probation and I was given an adjudication of guilt. I believe I was innocent, but I know it's long too late to withdraw the plea. I didn't think things would be this difficult later. Because of that charge on the record it's been really tough to find a decent job. I want to get my life back and make something of myself. Is it possible to have my record cleared by having the charges expunged or sealed? Should I move to another state?

Sealing and expungement are tools to restrict access to criminal records in Florida. Here's the difference between sealing and expungement:
A sealing of a criminal history means that the public will not have access to it though law enforcement and other governmental entities as found at FS 943.059(4)(a) will still have access to sealed record information in its entirety.An expungement goes much further by giving those entities which would have access to the sealed record notice that the subject of the record has had a record expunged, with no access given to the actual criminal history records without a court order. 
For the official record of a crime to be sealed under Florida Law the charge had to be resolved with either a dismissal or with the Judge withholding adjudication at sentencing. Because you state that you were convicted with an adjudication of guilt your record for grand theft can not be sealed under Florida law. 

For a charge to be expunged one of the following things must happen:
1. The State of Florida nolle prossed or dropped the charge. 
2. The charge was dismissed by the Court.
3. A jury found you not guilty of all of the charges at trial.
4. The records were successfully sealed and a term of at least ten years have passed.

Since you don't meet any of these criteria, your official record can not be expunged nor sealed even with the help of Clearwater Criminal Defense LawyerWhat can you do to get your life back? You could ask the Governor and cabinet for a Florida Pardon, but it's political and no longer an automatic process. Finding work is tough even without a Grand Theft in your background. To persuade someone to risk hiring you focus on what you've learned and what you've gained from the humiliating experience of being arrested, pleading guilty and being punished with probation. Show how the things you've experienced makes you the best fit for the job. Make an honest self appraisal of your life. Focus on how the arrest changed your life in ways that have made you stronger, wiser, more reliable and more empathetic. And never give up.