As criminal defense lawyers in Jacksonville, Florida, we get a lot of calls from people who are applying for jobs, looking to switch to a new job, perhaps getting a promotion or otherwise are making some sort of important career move but are hindered by a criminal record. They are either concerned that a new employer may see their criminal record or a background check was already done that uncovered a criminal record that is creating a serious obstacle in their career advancement.
The best thing to do in a situation like that is to have the criminal record sealed or expunged. However, because Florida law only allows a person to have a criminal record sealed or expunged in limited circumstances, many people are not eligible for this service. There are several rules dealing with who is or is not eligible for a sealing or expunction. However, one basic rule is that if you have ever been adjudicated guilty of a crime, you cannot get your criminal record sealed or expunged. This rule affects a lot of people and is the number one reason why a person is not eligible under Florida law to have a criminal record sealed or expunged.
It is very important for a person who has just been arrested or who has a pending criminal case to understand what happens when the case is resolved. When a person enters a plea of guilty or no contest, the judge can do one of two things. The judge can adjudicate the person guilty or withhold adjudication. Those words probably do not mean much to the average person, but they are crucial when it comes time to seal or expunge a criminal record. If the judge adjudicates a person guilty for any crime, that person may not get any crime sealed or expunged. If the judge withholds adjudication at sentencing, that person remains eligible for sealing or expunction depending on other factors.
This often comes into play on minor crimes where the defendant faces little to no punishment, enters a plea of guilty or no contest and does not consider whether the judge will adjudicate them guilty or withhold adjudication. Even where the sentence seems light or otherwise fair (i.e. no jail time, no or minimal probation and a small fine), it is important to know if the judge is going to adjudicate the person guilty or withhold adjudication.
If you have a pending case and are not sure about this procedure, feel free to contact us for a free consultation so you can retain your eligibility to later seal or expunge your record. If you have a prior case that is showing up to employers and want to get it sealed or expunged, call us for a free consultation to see if you are eligible.