It is often asked how long it takes to seal or expunge a record in Florida. We tell potential clients that it takes on average 5-8 months to go through the sealing or expunge process. The reasons can vary, however, some of the factors to consider are:
- Sealing vs. Expungement - An expungement takes a bit longer than a sealing because there are extra steps that must be taken when a record is being expunged instead of sealed. In an expungement, the state attorney has to certify on the application for certificate of eligibility what the outcome of the case was. Some state attorney offices have a quick turn around time when you send them the form for them to sign off on, and some are slow. Some of the slower counties are Palm Beach, Broward (misdemeanor cases), and Miami Dade County (misdemeanor cases). In these counties, this simple request can take months! On average the state will take 4-6 weeks to review, sign, and return the form to our offices.
- FDLE backlogs. When an application to seal or expunge is submitted to the FDLE, the FDLE can take 3-4 months to process these applications. Their website states that the turn around time is a month, but that is very rare. They have so many cases to deal with, that the true turn around time is more like 3-4 months. The FDLE also many times makes a request for additional information if they can't verify the outcome of another criminal case.
- State attorney responses once the petition is filed. Once the petition to seal or expunge is filed with the court, the court will usually ask the state attorney to file a response to the petition (objecting or not). The court usually gives the state about a month to respond in our experience. Many judges won't allow a case to be set for hearing until the state attorney has responded, or until a month has passed.
- Getting a hearing date. Sometimes a judge will provide a quick hearing date within a couple of weeks of placing the request. Others will give you a hearing date sometimes a month or more in the future.
- How long it takes the clerk's office to finalize the order and send the order out to the attorney for the defendant.
Many attorneys offering record sealing and expungement services promise that a case can be sealed in 2-3 months. Based on our experience, that is highly unlikely and simply not true. They may be saying that to merely get your business. Once they have your business, they will tell you that there are unforseen delays. These delays are not unforeseen, they are just part of the process. They were just not being honest with you.
In conclusion, there are alot of variables that go into the time required to have a case sealed or expunged. We have clients tell us, "well, The Smith law office said they could do it in 3 months....". We tell them to ask the Smith Law Firm if they would put that promise in writing. Many clients come back to our office indicating that they won't put that in writing. The truth is they can't. No one can promise a specific time to complete a sealing or expungement because alot of the steps are out of the control of the attorney handlling the case. If anyone states that they can complete a sealing or expungement in 3 months ask them to put their promise in writing and see what they say.
Our office has been doing sealing and expungements since 2003. We don't make promises we can't keep.