What is a record?
Once a person has been arrested, or charges have been filed against them by a state attorney, they will have a criminal history record. A criminal history record shows what happened in the case, and a person can have a criminal history record, even if the charges were later dropped or dismissed. Having a record sealed or expunged can prevent or limit what others can see on a person’s record and the process usually takes 6-9 months.
What does it mean to have a record “expunged”?
When a person’s record has been expunged, the criminal information has been removed from the record. Once the court orders a record to be expunged, the criminal justice agency that has the record must physically destroy the record.
After having a record expunged, the person can lawfully deny or fail to recognize the arrest except in certain situations. Some of these situations include if the person:
- is a candidate for employment with a criminal justice agency;
- is a defendant in a criminal prosecution;
- is a candidate for admission to the Florida Bar;
- is seeking to be employed or licensed by or to contract with certain agencies dealing with children, the disabled, or the elderly;
- is seeking to be employed or licensed by the Department of Education, a district school board, at a school, or a local government entity that licenses child care facilities;
- is attempting to purchase a firearm and is subject to a criminal history check under state or federal law;
- is seeking to be appointed as a guardian.
In these situations, if a record has been expunged, the agency will only receive the subject’s demographic information and a statement stating the criminal history information has been expunged.
What does it mean to have a record “sealed”?
When a person’s record has been sealed, the general public does not have access to view the record, and the record becomes confidential. Like having a record expunged, the person can lawfully deny or fail to recognize the arrest except in certain situations as listed above. In the above situations, the agency can access the entire sealed record.
What is clemency?
In Florida, a convicted felon cannot vote, serve on a jury, hold a public office, or possess a firearm until their civil rights have been restored. Convicted felons must go through a process called clemency to try to have these rights restored. The Governor, with the agreement of two cabinet members, holds the power to grant clemency.
When the Office of Executive Clemency receives an application for clemency, it is screened to ensure it meets the eligibility requirements for time frames for the offenses and that all paperwork is included with the application. The office processes cases in the order in which they receive them. Because some cases take a short time to process, and others require a lengthy in-depth investigation, the office cannot give any estimates on how long the entire process may take, only that it can be several years before the investigative phase even begins, making clemency a long process.
Once the investigative process does begin, the office will notify the individual and a Clemency Investigator will prepare an extensive report, which is then given to the Clemency Board members and a clemency hearing date is scheduled. The hearings occur four times a year.
There are several types of clemency that a person can apply for, depending on what rights they are seeking to have restored. The types of clemency are:
- Full Pardon
- Pardon without firearm authority
- Remission of fines and forfeitures
- Specific authority to own, possess or use firearms
- Restoration of civil rights in Florida
- Restoration of alien status under Florida law
Clemency is considered an act of forgiveness or leniency in the punishment for a crime, and is a privilege, not a right. Clemency is the process that a convicted felon can take to try to restore their rights or to forgive or lessen the punishment imposed by the law.
Clemency does not remove a criminal conviction from a person’s record, to have something removed from their record, a person must try to have the record expunged or sealed. Sealing and expungement of records is handled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and requires a different process than that for clemency.
Clemency, and sealing or expungement of records can be a lengthy process that has certain requirements that must be met. If you believe you may be eligible for clemency, or to have a record sealed or expunged, you need to consult with an experienced attorney. I urge you to consult with me by calling 407-233-3210 or 888-778-7638 toll free.
During your free, initial consultation, we can discuss your circumstances and legal options privately and in confidence.
If we agree that I am the right attorney to defend you, I will represent you aggressively and to the fullest extent of the law.
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