Moving Forward With Your Future After A Florida Arrest

Moving Forward With Your Future After A Florida Arrest

You have a clean record, except for that one arrest years ago. You were hanging around with the wrong group of friends and you made a stupid mistake. It was so out of character, but that one bad judgment call seems to be haunting the rest of your life. Nobody will let you forget it. Every time you are subject to a background check (ex. you applied for a new job, submitted a loan application, applied to a new school), this arrest history shows up and you are again labeled a “criminal.” Is there anything you can do to let the past be the past?

First, look into whether sealing or expunging your criminal record is an option. Florida statutes allow for sealing and expunging for certain crimes. You should consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer to determine whether you are eligible. If you are successful in getting your criminal record sealed or expunged, in most situations, you are permitted to lawfully deny to a potential employer, school, etc. that the criminal arrest ever occurred!

The sealing and expungement process involves applying to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The application and processing will take about four to six months, so you should get started as soon as you know you qualify.

In the event that you don’t qualify or are otherwise unsuccessful in getting your record sealed or expunged, remember that you should not lie on any application. At most, leave the portion of the application blank and provide an explanation by way of a separate letter if you think that would help the situation.

If you are looking for a job, try to use your contacts instead of submitted blind applications. You want someone to view you as an entire person, not just a form, especially when your form contains less than ideal points. In this job market, an applicant with an arrest record is going to be an automatic “no.” However, a reference from your contact who is a mutual friend can greatly increase your credibility with potential employees.

Never let the potential employer/school etc. discover the arrest information on their own. Instead, you should be ready to discuss what occurred and prepare some sort of explanation. You want to demonstrate that you learned from your past mistakes and have since changed for the better.

If the problem is a school or loan application, you need to make sure everything else on your application is strong. For example, for schools, focus on good grades and impressive extra-curriculars. Obtain letters of recommendations from well-regarded individuals. You may even ask them to briefly address the arrest to explain how much you’ve changed since then, and how that incident does not define the kind of person you are today. Similarly, for a loan application, you need strong financials and credit.

How easily you are able to move forward with your life will come down to your resilience, time, and the unique facts of your case.

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