Getting On With Life After A Criminal Conviction
On average, people change jobs about twelve times during their careers, which means that most of us fill out lots of job applications. Unfortunately, a criminal conviction makes it difficult, or even close to impossible, to make it past the screening process in many cases, especially with regard to certain military and professional occupations.
Fortunately, there is a way to erase a criminal past, at least in most cases. In addition to a leg up in job hunts, expunction can help people find a place to live and avoid some of the prejudice that some people harbor against those with criminal convictions. Florida has rather broad expunction laws, so many people are eligible for new starts.
Informal, Limited Expunction
Most jurisdictions offer pretrial diversion programs for many non-violent crimes, whether they are misdemeanors or felonies. Prosecutors are especially willing to recommend deferred adjudication if the defendants have made restitution and expressed remorse for their crimes.
Typically, judges place deferred adjudication defendants on probation, so procedurally, the matter is largely like any other criminal case. The big difference is that instead of entering a finding of guilt, the judge defers that decision until after the period of probation expires. If the defendants successfully complete probation, the judge never enters such a finding. Bear in mind that the arrest record still exists, even though the defendants in these situations can truthfully say that they have never been convicted of any criminal offenses.
If the prosecutor refuses to agree to deferred adjudication, Section 948.08 lays out an alternative procedure. Probationers who successfully complete at least half their terms and have paid all fines, restitution, and other costs may be eligible for early discharge. In these cases, the judge may not dismiss the cases, but the judge will discharge the defendants so they are no longer under court supervision.
Formal, Limited Expunction
Sealing is a step up from pretrial diversion and early discharge. This procedure essentially makes it illegal for most private citizens to access criminal conviction records. There are basically two qualifications:
- Expunction and sealing are both one-time affairs, so any prior procedure in Florida makes defendants ineligible for future relief, at least in most cases.
- Defendants cannot have convictions for any of the prohibited offenses laid out in the statute.
After the judge signs a sealing order, consider asking the county clerk to run a records check on your criminal past. When that search reveals nothing, this document can back up your assertion of non-conviction and also give you added peace of mind.
In this process, the underlying records are either completely destroyed or returned to the defendants. To be eligible, the criminal case must have been dismissed before trial. Cases that were dismissed nolle prosequi (which indicates a lack of probable cause) is preferable, but a technical dismissal probably suffices as well. The defendants must meet the other expunction qualifications as well, viz, no prior criminal history and no prior expunctions in Florida.
After the defendants file petitions, the judge schedules hearings. If the prosecutors do not object, which is often the case, the judge signs the order as a matter of course; if the prosecutors object, the defendants must convince the judge that expunction or sealing is in the best interests of both the individual and society.
Count on Experienced Attorneys
A criminal conviction does not have to derail plans for the future. For prompt assistance in this area, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Port St. Lucie from Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. After hours and weekend appointments are available.