Just because you were arrested does not make you a bad person. After all, an arrest does not mean you were guilty of any wrongdoing. You might not be charged at all. If you are charged with a crime, the charges against you might be dropped. If your case goes to trial, you could be found not guilty.
So, if you were arrested but never charged, the charges were dropped or you were found not guilty, why do you still have a criminal record?
Criminal records in Florida
Under Florida law, any part of your criminal history is included in the records available to the public. This includes an arrest, charges, dismissal of charges or the final outcome of your trial. Your criminal record can only be hidden from public view if it is sealed or expunged.
Sealing or expunging a criminal record
There are rules stating what parts of your criminal record can be sealed or expunged. Certain offenses cannot be sealed even if adjudication is withheld. There are also time limits on expungement. Also, if you are found guilty of the charges against you, your criminal records cannot be sealed.
But, if you believe you qualify for expungement, the first step to take is to apply for, and be issued, a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
After that, you must file a petition for relief with the court, along with your certificate of eligibility and an affidavit. The court may then, at its discretion, issue an order to have your records sealed or expunged.
A criminal record can be like a ball and chain, preventing you from living where you want, working where you want and exercising other personal freedoms. The sealing or expungement of your criminal record can be key in preserving your ability to live your life as you see fit.