Articles Posted in Florida Criminal Defense

StudentsAccording to the Florida Sun Sentinel in 2005, teacher Blake Sinrod, was accused of molesting four third grade students at Coral Sunset Elementary School.  He fondled the four girls in his classroom during their reading groups, a classroom movie, and he would also instruct them to touch his genitals or he would he would place their hands on his genitals over his clothes. After a 12-year-old lawsuit, the Palm Beach County School District gave the approval for a $3.6 million settlement.

Mr. Blake Sinrod was fired from Coral Sunset Elementary in 2006 and his teaching license was revoked in 2008.  Mr. Sinrod plead guilty in 2006 to molesting two of the four girls but the four families persisted in filing a joint civil suit against the school district.  According to file from 2006, the defense used by Mr. Dale Friedman, the defense attorney, was that the victims were old enough to understand the consequences of of their actions and conducted themselves in careless and negligent minor.  The parents of the four victims could not believe this was the defense tactic used by the school district.

Attorney Dale Friedman, told the Sun Sentinel that the district’s outrageous claim was used in an effort to reduce potential damages the district might have to pay out, a tactic she referred to as “comparative negligence.” Friedman insists, “We have never blamed the girls or given them the appearance of holding the girls responsible for what their teacher did.” But this defense only weakened the defense’s case further because it re-victimized the victims. According to Mr. Jeffrey Herman, an attorney who represents victims of sexual abuse, explained that he had never witnessed the use of such a defense and the fact that the school district was blaming the four girls of what happened to them would remain as permanent record of the case.

However, when the parents of the four third grade students filed a civil law suit in 2006, their lawyer at the time, Charles Bechert, said that the parents believed their children were preyed upon in part because they were immigrants and that perhaps the teacher thought their parents would not know how to report the crimes, or feel comfortable doing so.  This is something that continues to happen to children all over the world but children do not speak out about it because of fear of their families being deported or hurt in any form.

According to 7 News what infuriated the parents of the victims and their attorneys is that the school district failed to investigate or take proper action against Blake Sinrod in the sexual molestation incidents in 2003.  The Sun Sentinel reports that the school district also uses as its defense that Mr. Sinrod’s actions were unknown and beyond the foresight of a reasonably prudent person.  But this insufficient for both the parents of the victims and their attorneys because they do not understand how the School District did not think that this man was a danger to the students and why he was not revoked of his teaching license from that very moment.

MarijuanaAccording to ABC News a senior citizen and her son, in Pasco County Florida, explain that the nursing home where she lives is denying her potential pain relief, by refusing to allow her to have the medical marijuana she has a legal prescription to take. This seems to be an issue that is affecting Florida residents who live in long term care facilities throughout the state. Ms. Simpson, who is  attached to a wheelchair and suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, has tried everything she could have possibly tried to assist her with the medical conditions she suffers from, but medical marijuana  had given her faith in a new alternative that would allow to live a little more comfortably.

Medical marijuana legislation in the State of Florida was finally established by the governor on June 16, 2017 after years of Florida residents explaining to the government all its health benefits. In Amendment 2 of the Constitution of the State of Florida, patients with a debilitating medical condition will not be found subjects to criminal or civil liability for consuming medical marijuana.  Debilitating medical conditions mean cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.

Ms. Simpson’s son explains that after medical marijuana became legal in Florida, a doctor prescribed it for his mother and she applied for a compassionate use permit. When she was finally approved, and the medicine was delivered, they gave it to him and told him he had to take it home with him because it would not be permitted inside the nursing home. But according to a healthcare expert from the University of Florida, even though Ms. Simpson had a legitimate medical therapy reason for the use of medical marijuana and a prescription for it, it doesn’t mean they have to allow her to take it if they can provide her with other options for her pain.  This is one of the biggest dilemmas with the statue because it is not completely clear on the regulations of long term health care facilities and the acceptance of medical marijuana therapy.

States like California, Colorado, and other states have found other alternatives to balancing the use of medical marijuana in long term health care facilities.   Instead of having their patients, who suffer from chronic diseases, consume the marijuana inside the medical facilities, they offer to take the patients to close by dispensaries where they can practice this therapy without breaking the law. Unfortunately, medical marijuana is a scheduled narcotic and is considered a private business, therefore nursing homes can set their own rules regarding its use in their facilities, even if it causes their residents to live uncomfortably.  Issues such as this one will push the government to amend Section 381.986, F.S., or to create a brand new legislation that clarifies the rules and regulations of the use of medical marijuana with better ways of providing it to its consumer.

Increasingly the U.S. Attorney’s office has been actively pursuing men and women who were placed on Federal probation but have either stopped checking in or have violated their probation with a new arrest.   Federal probation is a sentence, just as is Florida state probation.  Violations of probation are most frequently one of the following:

  • Failing to report a change of address or get approval to move from the probation officer
  • Failing to follow the terms of current probation
  • Committing another crime while still on probation
  • Failing to pass or submit a urinalysis
  • Failing to pass or submit a drug analysis
  • Failing to pay for restitution
  • Failing to report to the probation officer

5aebe3eb57581e1d811f05221f078474-300x199Probation is often part of a sentence and follows incarceration.  Violating probation has severe consequences.  If you are currently on probation, make certain that you are aware of all the terms and conditions. Please see 18 U.S. Code §3563, for the terms and conditions of federal probation. Florida Statute § 948.03 is the statute that contains the basic elements of what probation requires in Florida state court.

When and if one is placed on federal probation one is informed by a probation officer at the time of sentencing immediately after the federal judge imposes the sentence in open court.  You and your attorney will go from the courtroom to the Probation Office in the courthouse where you will be instructed.

If you have a violation of probation warrant, contact a criminal defense attorney.  Depending on your state or federal jurisdiction, the warrant can be handled in several ways.  One way is to appear before a judge and explain why you failed to appear (i.e. if the service was to a wrong address or you were hospitalized or incarcerated most judges will set aside the warrant).

The substantive elements of a violation of probation are two: a willful act which substantially violates the terms and conditions of probation.  Rule 32.1 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure contains the post incarcerate laws on modifying probation or supervised release.

Upon being summoned, the Rule requires the federal judge or magistrate to advise you of what you did in violation of your probation or supervised release, and your right to be represented by an attorney.  If you cannot afford a private attorney, the federal judge will appoint a federal public defender.

You are entitled to a preliminary hearing, and at the federal preliminary hearing, the issue of jurisdiction (are you in the correct federal district), is primary.  If you are being held in the wrong federal district the court will transfer you to the jurisdiction of your conviction.  The magistrate can detain (keep you in custody) or release you.  If you are released, you must appear within a few days in the correct federal court.  The purpose of the hearing then becomes a court inquiry.  Taking documents and allegations of fact into consideration the magistrate must determine if probable cause exists to support the allegations of violation.  The federal magistrate must provide you with written accusations specifically identifying what conditions of probation or supervised release were allegedly violated.  The disposition is covered by 18 U.S. Code § 3565 and 18 U.S. Code § 3583.

If after an evidentiary hearing the magistrate makes a finding based on the evidence that a violation has occurred, one of three things can occur:

  1. The federal magistrate can return the probationer to probation without modification.
  2. The second option is to modify the terms of probation by adding new terms, extending the probation or requiring some prison time.
  3. Lastly, the federal judge or magistrate can impose a prison sentence.

The only limitation on the length of any extension or probation or any term of incarceration is the maximum sentence under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for the crime of conviction for which you were placed on probation.  Time served can and often is granted or credited toward any new prison sentence.  A sentence imposed by a magistrate can be reviewed by a federal judge.  If you are before a magistrate and not a federal judge your criminal defense attorney can follow the procedure to have the findings and rulings of a federal magistrate reviewed by a federal judge.

Earlier this month, a Miami judge declared Florida’s revised death penalty law unconstitutional, saying jurors should agree to execution unanimously, contrary to what the new law says.

Circuit Court Judge for Miami-Dade County, Milton Hirsch, said that Florida’s new death penalty law, which enacted a “super majority” system where 10 of 12 juror votes aCopy-of-Vetoed-205x300re required to impose the death penalty for murder is contrary to U.S.’s long-time goes against the long-time precedent of unanimous verdicts regarding the death penalty cases.

Just recently in March, Florida’s legislature was forced to revise the death penalty statute after the U.S. Supreme Court declared the previous one unconstitutional in January of this year because it said it did not give jurors a significant enough role in the death penalty decision.

Under Florida’s previous death penalty statute, the trial court held two phases of the trial, which is in effect two separate trials for capital death cases. Capital death cases are all cases in which the death penalty is a possible punishment.  The first phase was, and remains, the “guilt phase.”  During the guilty phase of the trial, the State has to put evidence before the jury that all the elements of a capital homicide prosecution are met and meet the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  The death penalty can be imposed in murder cases in which the killing was done in a cruel, heinous or atrocious manner: other States and the Federal system define this element in other words as well such as “especially heinous” or “cruel” or “depraved” and/or “depraved torture.”

All those terms have been litigated up and down the court system.  A useful understanding of this element or facts that must be proved before a finder of fact can impose the death penalty is that the nature or the killing was such that it is not a fast or painless death, or the killer tortured the victim before death overcame the victim.  Death is also imposed in certain cases in which the killing is a killing for hire, or done to escape detection (killing a witness), or the killing of a special protected class of individuals such as police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, judges, prosecutors and other special classes of victims.  Each state has or includes different special classes of victims in which the death penalty can or must be imposed.

What the Judge in Miami did was to strike down the new revised law.  Formerly, once a recommendation was made by the jury, and the recommendation had to be unanimous, the Judge could then decide on his/her own to impose death or not impose death. The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that plan or that structure unconstitutional and struck the Florida death statutes and their manner or method for imposing death.  The “new’ plan, the one that was found unconstitutional, had the jury decide by a vote of ten jurors to impose death and took the judge out of the process.  But the Miami Judge declared that ten is not constitutional and that the decision must be the decision of all twelve of the the jurors.

Now the appeal process begins and appellate court for the Miami district, the Third District Court of Appeals, will hear the case on appeal. That appellate courts decision will then be sent to the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida supreme court’s decision will then be the law of Florida unless the U.S. Supreme Court overrules or overrides the Florida’ Supreme Court’s findings. The process can take a year or two, but in all likelihood will be expedited.

Yesterday, on January 12th, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a portion of Florida’s capital punishment system is unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court, in striking this portion, found that only a jury can make the necessary findings that the defendant’s taking of the life of the victim was cruel, unusual, or heinous.

Source: theguardian.com

Source: theguardian.com

Under Florida’s capital punishment system, the jury is not required to make findings or required to make the vote unanimous and instead the judge makes the findings of fact required by the U.S. Constitution before the death penalty could be imposed.  But now the Supreme Court’s ruling has rendered this procedure in Florida unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision was rendered in Hurst vs. Florida, No. 14-7505, in which Timothy Lee Hurt was convicted and sentenced in 2000 for the 1998 murder of Cynthia Lee Harrison in Escambia County, Florida.

The Court took a look at Florida’s statutory set up and found it lacking.  This decision is one of a line of cases going back almost twenty years.  The Supreme Court is pushing States to require juries make findings of fact when those findings impose sanctions on defendants.

During the first step of Florida’s process for imposing a death sentence, the jury has to make a determination on the evidence as to finding a defendant guilty or not guilty, which is called the “guilt phase.” If a jury finds a defendant guilty of a capital crime (a crime for which the imposition of death as a sentence is provided under the statute), the judge then tells the jury to hold their seats, or return the next day, for the “penalty phase,”

During this second phase of the trial, a determination will be made as to whether the defendant will be sentenced to death or sentenced to life in prison.  During this penalty phase, the prosecutor and the defendant have the opportunity to present arguments, call witnesses, introduce evidence, and bring on experts for opinions for subjects a judge finds can aide the jury in their determinations.   At the conclusion of the penalty phase, the jury will be sent to deliberate over the case.

The next and final step in this procedure is what was ruled unconstitutional in Florida by the Supreme Court.  As the law currently stands, juries in Florida vote (a majority vote is used, not a unanimous vote) on whether or not to “recommend” the imposition of death as a penalty and then their recommendation would be given in open court. Then, the judge makes the decision of whether to impose death or not.  So under this system, if the jury recommends a life sentence instead of the imposition of death, the judge can ignore the jury’s recommendation and impose death.  Now, juries in Florida will be required to vote and make their own finding of fact of whether or not the crime was cruel, unusual, or heinous, and if so, make the determination to impose the death sentence.

Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor wrote that under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the jury is responsible for making the necessary findings of fact, and not the judge. That “… a jury’s mere recommendation is not enough.”

While the death penalty still stands in Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court only addressed the manner in which Florida goes about deciding whether or not to impose a sentence of death for a capital crime.

Several women have accused entertainer Bill Cosby of rape.  The  victims who have come forward with rape charges allege criminal  sex acts that were in past years.   Florida’s statutes of limitations  rules set a framework for what acts are time-barred and those that are not.   What rules of law would apply if Bill Cosby were charged and arrested for sexual battery in Florida?

Source: Wikipedia.org

Sexual offense categories and sentences,  vary with the ages of those involved.   Florida’s sexual battery crimes have different levels of culpability, which depend not only on the age of the victim, but the age of the perpetrator. Florida enhances penalties for sexual batteries by those in positions of trust such as parents and teachers.  In Bill Cosby’s situation the lapse of time between the date of the act and the involvement of prosecutorial agencies would quite likely bar a prosecution in Florida.  Sexual Battery is a subject in the news because of its social and political implications: none of this is missed in the Bill  Cosby matter.  What has been reported as a delay in bringing the allegations forward is also being reported as the very human delay between a violation and the victimization of an individual and a plea for help.

At the time of the posting of this blog, none of the accusers allege that the sexual batteries (rapes) were committed in Florida. Each state has its own set of laws concerning statute of limitations and rape. Depending on which state seeks to arrest and prosecute Bill Cosby, their individual state laws would govern the prosecution. Statues of limitations do not “repose” or end prosecutions when the accused fled the jurisdiction of the courts and hid from detection. The statute of limitations would also be tolled if the facts of the case could not have been discovered by the State due to efforts by the perpetrator to hide or obscure the detection of relevant facts.

Bill Cosby’s accusers have received great and widespread public support in their attempts to bring Bill Cosby before a criminal court for prosecution. Depending on the individual facts of each case and relevant State laws, prosecutors will explore and decide on where and if to bring criminal charges of rape against Bill Cosby. Since some of the accusations go back a significant numbers of years, some of them are from acts alleged to have occurred twenty-five years or more in the past, an issue may be whether prosecutors can proceed on the current laws, or must prosecute under the laws as they existed at the time of the alleged sex acts. This gets into the area of constitutional laws as some modifications that have been made by legislatures to sex crimes involve constitutional rights and other modifications have no constitutional implications.  It will be for local prosecutors in the State’s in which the allegations arose to decide to bring criminal charges.

With a nod to the sports industry in United States, we turn our attention in today’s blog post to a current issue in basketball. The sale of the basketball team the Clippers in Los Angeles opens our door to the issue of competency. Competent to stand trial in a criminal courtroom? Competent to enter into a contract? Competent to sign a Will? These issues are all very different legally, and are light-years away from insanity as a defense to a criminal indictment.LA%20Clippers.jpeg In the sale of the Clippers, it is a form of incompetency, which may force Mr. Donald Sterling to accept his share of a $2 billion deal, against his stated conscious intent. In criminal courts, the issue of the competency of a defendant is often the first issue raised by the defense attorney. Competency has different meanings in different legal situations. In Los Angeles, when the Sterling group, headed by Mr. Sterling’s wife, put their basketball team up for sale Mr. Sterling said ‘No sale.’ Notwithstanding his resounding “NO!,” reportedly, the sale is being forced through. The reason, according to the New York Times, is the now infamous Plan B in the trust document, which holds ownership of the Clippers. Plan B, we hear, says if Mr. Sterling is suffering from cognitive impairment the trust could enter into the agreement over his stated conscious intent to say no. Similarly, a criminal defendant can say yes, or no, but if the court finds incompetency, that is criminal incompetency, the process stops. Florida’s criminal laws define incompetency as the defendant’s ability to recognize aspects of the criminal process. All states, including Florida, have laws to define competency: That is the competency required of the individual to stand, or sit, before a judge and jury, and be tried under a criminal statute. In Florida, the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 3.210 and subsequent rules cover it. (Rules 3.211, 3.212 and 3.213). The legal standard for evaluating and finding competency (that means before anyone can be placed on trial as a criminal defendant) involves the following:

  1. Defendant has to understand and appreciate the charges against him or her.
  2. Appreciate (understand) the range of possible penalties that can be imposed by the judge, if convicted.
  3. The defendant must understand the criminal process and how the adversarial process works in the context of a criminal trial.
  4. The defendant must be able to effectively disclose to the defense attorney facts pertinent to the proceedings.
  5. The defendant must behave properly in the courtroom so that the court can function.
  6. Be able to testify on relevant issues.
  7. The judge can consider other factors that would impact the fairness of a prosecution and the ability of the lawyer to effectively represent his/her client.

If after an examination by forensic psychologists, it is the opinion of the experts and the defense attorney that the defendant does not meet the minimum competency standards, then the judge must rule on the motion to stay the proceedings due to incompetency. In Florida, the state has five years to restore competency. If after five years competency cannot be restored, then the state can either drop the prosecution or have the defendant remain in a lockdown facility. The state can detain an incompetent person who is a danger to him/herself, and the community, and make some continued attempt to restore the competency of the accused. We opened this blog with a nod to Mr. Sterling and the sale of the Clippers basketball team. His wife, according to the New York Times, intends to force the sale over his objection, claiming his cognitive impairment is a contractual element and without cognitive impairment his stated desire can be overridden by the trust documents terms. I’m not privy to the terms of the sale and I’m not serving as advisor to any of the parties… But wait a moment my phone is ringing…I’ll be right back… yes hello Steve, Steve Ballmer? Yes… Yes… Yes… sure! I’ll be on the next plane… bye.

Florida’s STAND YOUR GROUND STATUTE is about self-defense, one’s right to use force when in reasonable fear of an unlawful touching. The statute grants immunity from arrest and prosecution if use of force (as permitted in Florida’s Self Defense Statute (F.S. 776.012, F.S 776.013) is asserted and proven by a preponderance of the evidence at a hearing. It effectively gives the defendant a chance to have the case dismissed by a judge before trial.

What makes it a great criminal defense tool is just that: it is a shortcut to ending a criminal problem. A well-prepared criminal defense lawyer can have his client’s case dismissed by a judge and avoid the risks of a trial. The key is an understanding of the mechanics of how to conduct a Stand Your Ground hearing in Florida. I know something of this as I was the criminal defense lawyer in the Velasquez case, and I took it up on appeal. Start by understanding this…the statute has nothing to do with the level of violence used: whether it is waiving a gun (an assault) or a homicide (taking a human life). It has everything to do with the reasonableness of the fear. Important to understand as well is it is a territorial statute: that means where you are can be a home run. What does that mean? The statute assumes if you are in your residence the issue of reasonableness of fear.

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That means you can read FS 776.012, F.S 776.013 and F.S. 776.032 together to the judge and if you were in your residence then your fear is reasonable almost without exception. Step One is done! When I say done I mean the first and most difficult high ground has been taken. In all other Stand Your Ground hearings you have to convince the judge that you were not the instigator or first one to use or threaten violence. Here we have to take into consideration that judges are often looking at the outcome (is someone dead here or wounded, or was there no injury) and may be prone (and I have seen this repeatedly) to toss out a case where no one was hurt and so, basically, no touch no foul no prosecution.

If you don’t have the statutory presumption that the fear was reasonable (in a residence) the next hill to take is either there was a trespass or that you had a right to be where you were. Here the statutes again give you an easier route to establishing that your fear was reasonable.

I often, which means all the time, file a Stand Your Ground motion when the issue of self-defense is part of the case. Two reasons: first if your motion is denied you can immediately stay the proceedings and file an appeal. Now everything stops while the appellate court takes a few weeks to read the statute. Also your prosecutor may read it, which is in itself a rarity. Next, if there is only an issue of proof you may win because the burden is a low one: a mere preponderance (think 51%), not beyond a reasonable doubt. Add to that the standard for review is an abuse of discretion standard and you now have three appellate judges looking at who did what to whom and weighing in with an often-practical approach (no touch no foul no trial). Also the legal standard which applies to the trial judge’s findings is a goldmine for a well-prepared lawyer on appeal. Read a few cases on “competent and substantial” and you can drive a large truck through that standard on your way to having an appellate court let the case be dismissed without a trial. Another benefit of a Stand Your Ground motion is it gives the criminal defense lawyer a preview of the testimony they will have to rebut at trial.

A concerted drive by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a task force comprised of State and Federal agencies, police and sheriff agencies in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach County has resulted in over a dozen major cases in Florida and U.S. District Court in the Middle and Southern District(s) of Florida. (DEA’s “Operation Pill Nation” and “Operation Pill Nation 2“) pills.jpg

The initial investigation by the joint federal and state task force resolves with a criminal case filed in Florida court or Federal Court. The press calls them “Pill Mill” cases. (See CNN Article)

Doctors, Physician Assistants, Pharmacists and nurse practitioners are the focus. The federal agencies have succeeded in many instances by charging conspiracy counts coupled to sale, distribution and trafficking charges (Florida criminal courts). The objective is to stem what was a rising number of deaths by drug overdose of oxycodone, oxycontin, and a slew of opioids drug cocktails by accidental overdose and in some instances, suicide. As a result, doctors have abandoned the practice of pain medicine resulting in a lack of medical services for those suffering from chronic pain from cancer, injuries and long term disabling diseases such as arthritis, joint conditions, automobile accidents and end of life issues. (See “Florida’s pill mill crackdowns hurting those in real pain”)

South Florida has been the focus of these cases and a small cadre of criminal defense lawyers in Miami and Fort Lauderdale have developed an expertise in these cases due to the number of cases filed in this district. Political pressures and excessive prosecutorial zeal has resulted in a rush to charge and charges by the medical establishment that patients are suffering because doctors are afraid to prescribe pain medications for fear of prison.

Florida provides a limited opportunity to seal and or expunge criminal records. The good news is not as good as one would hope and the bad news is a deal breaker. Here’s what is going on…

First: sealing and expunging doesn’t erase your arrest or the result. It doesn’t eliminate your biggest issue: getting it off of Google. The State of Florida will permit you to seal and or expunge but only if it is a non-violent crime, and only once. The list is very long and includes any crime involving children, seniors, crimes of dishonesty and a long list which you can get by viewing the statute. But, even if you get the State to seal or expunge, it doesn’t disappear. Any state agency can get at it, all law enforcement, any Federal agency, any employer where you are working with children, seniors, or people with mental disabilities. Worse still, it only applies to records kept by the State, it doesn’t apply to records kept by non-State entities. For example, when I Google your name it will always come up on any website that dumped the arrest: which is all of them. So if we get your records sealed and you apply for a job, a loan, a rental, a credit card: they will find it on a search engine.

The sealing and expunging gives you, under the Statutes (Florida Statute §943.0585 & Florida Statute §943.059), the right to say that the event didn’t occur, but not really, it says you can say the records were expunged: which is as a practical matter useless. Worse still, if anyone has looked online and asks you if you have any criminal event in your history and you deny it…game over. It is your lack of candor that will harm you and probably more than the actual fact that you were arrested or convicted. What to do???

First: understand the very limited advantage you get with a sealing and expunging. You get the moral high-ground to say that you are so concerned with your record that you sought to have it sealed and expunged. Second, know that it will never go away: like a bell cannot be “un-rung”.

My advice is to relax and know that arrests and convictions have become so common in our society that most companies have to deal with the fact that a high percentage of Americans have a criminal history and so you can realize that having a record is not always a deal breaker. Just acknowledge that you have a criminal event in your history, that you have changed and are now a better person and that you want them to know so they don’t think you’re hiding anything. If you interviewed me you would be okay with getting past the fact that I had an arrest and look at the whole person. An employer interviewing 20 people will find that a majority have a crime in their background and that is the reality of our times.

The process: first sent a fee to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and they will respond by telling you that your record is, or is not, eligible for sealing and or expunging. Step two: file a motion in your local circuit court for a sealing and expunging. You will get a case number and a judge. Next: the State Attorney has to be approached and asked if they have a position either opposing or not opposing. Next: get a court hearing date and then a Judge will either grant or deny your petition. Once granted then you send it to FDLE and they will, in about three months, seal and expunge. They don’t notify you when it’s done and you get nothing formal. Most people need a lawyer to help them through the process which, years ago was much simpler, but now requires two court hearings and a motion in written form to get it done.

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