KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
As our criminal defense law firm enters its 6th year, we continue fulfilling our solemn responsibility to protect our community and our constitution.
For most people – especially those without a prior record – a criminal arrest is the start of a deeply distressing experience that consumes the accused with anxiety, frustration, and confusion. It is our job to not only provide a strong defense against the government, but also to empower our clients with an understanding of their rights and the legal system. Over the years, we have found that knowledge is the antidote to fear and uncertainty, and communication is the method of administering knowledge.
While the best way of helping the accused is to represent them, we also use our blog section to disseminate accurate and useful information to those seeking guidance. In keeping with our mission to defend and empower the public, we have compiled a list of the most common criminal defense questions asked by clients, potential clients, and callers – and our answers.
- Are criminal records public in Florida?
Yes. Criminal records are public in the State of Florida – meaning anyone can access them. Criminal charges generally show up in case search systems operated by the clerk of courts and, in cases involving a physical arrest, private search engines such as Google.
2. How do I look up my case?
Much to the dismay of the accused, a cursory google search can reveal his or her booking photo in a matter of seconds. A booking blotter generally includes the name of the arrestee, address, alleged offense, and bond amount.
For information beyond the initial arrest, anyone can look in the clerk of court case search database for the pertinent jurisdiction. For example, Palm Beach County uses a system called Showcase for court case information. Clerk systems should display amended charges, future court dates, pleadings, party information, filings, and ultimately the disposition of the case.
3. Does my case disappear from public record if it is dismissed?
In most situations, the answer to this question is no. A common misconception about criminal cases is that the record is automatically cleared after charges are dropped. The truth is, your case shows up in the clerk system for life, unless you seal or expunge your case. Even in cases that have been sealed or expunged, completely clearing your record can be tricky; this is because privately owned websites are not bound by court orders to seal or expunge like government agencies.
4. How do I seal or expunge my case?
You must qualify to seal or expunge your case based on the law as outlined in the Florida Statutes. The process involves an Application for Certificate of Eligibility to Seal or Expunge with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), followed by a Petition to Seal or Expunge in the court that handled the underlying case. For more information about sealing and expunging, visit our sealing and expunging page.
5. If an employment application asks about my criminal record, what do I write?
While we can never advise on matters outside of your criminal representation, a couple of guidelines for appropriate responses are as follows:
- If the question is, “Have you ever been arrested, cited, charged or detained?” the correct answer is “yes” whether or not your case has been dismissed.
- If the question is, “Have you ever been convicted of an offense?” the answer will depend on whether you received a dismissal, adjudication withheld, or adjudication. Only the latter is considered a formal conviction in Florida. However, you should be aware that the definition of “conviction” for federal agencies is broader than the State definition and, in that realm, you may be considered to have a conviction upon any plea of guilty or even a mere admission of guilt.
LET US HELP YOU MOVE FORWARD
You will notice that the FAQs involve concerns about public exposure. It is human nature to feel self-conscious about a negative life event. However, don’t let a bad moment define you. Let us help you move forward so you can focus on your life, health, career, and family.