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Expunging Criminal Records and Domestic Violence – Some Rules On Domestic Violence Records

Florida treats the crime of domestic violence (“DV”) in a distinct manner from other crimes. Floridians accused of DV typically go before specialized DV judges within the criminal court system (most counties have” domestic violence divisions”), are prosecuted by district attorneys who try only DV cases, and are subject to different rules of criminal procedure (for example, in many cases a person can bond out of jail after an arrest prior to seeing a judge, but this is not an option in DV arrests). It should come as no surprise, then, that the laws governing Florida record sealing or expungement also single out domestic violence arrests for special treatment.

The Florida statutes define domestic violence as any “assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.” “Family” or “household member” are terms given rather broad meanings under Florida law, and include: spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married. With the exception of persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same single dwelling unit. So if you get into an argument with your ex-girlfriend or boyfriend that you used to live with….guess what? You can be arrested for domestic battery instead of simple battery. Same thing with a parent of your child, whether you ever lived together or not.

Good news first. If you are arrested for DV, but the charges against you are later dropped, never filed, or dismissed, you caneligible for Florida expungement, assuming you meet all other eligibility requirements. However, if the prosecutor decides to proceed against you, that DV arrest will remain on your record forever, unless you are acquitted at trial. Usually, if you meet all other eligibility requirements, you can seal a Florida record if you receive a withholding of adjudication after entering a no contest or guilty plea. Many arrestees, after twenty, thirty, sixty days or more sitting in custody awaiting trial, opt to plea, take a deal, and be released from jail (the criminal justice system is not known for moving quickly). Most deals offered are usually “time served” with adjudication withheld. In the case of simple battery or assault, this would be a good deal in terms of Florida expungement, because you could get out of jail(!), not risk going to trial if the evidence against you is strong, and later seal your record.

However, what is often not communicated by public defenders and even many private attorneys is that if you plead guilty or no contest to a DV charge, even a misdemeanor DV charge, you can never have your record sealed or expunged, whether or not adjudication is withheld. Under the Florida expungement statutes, domestic violence is listed as an “ineligible offense,” meaning any plea to a DV charge will automatically make you ineligible to seal or expunge the record.

While deterring domestic violence is a good public policy, permanently affecting someone’s life in this manner can be excessive, especially since there is no judicial remedy to address unjust results. Imagine that you get into a fight with your live-in partner. Things get heated and you are arguing loudly. Your neighbors call the police. Before the police arrive, you end up dumping your glass of water on your partner’s head. Not a nice thing to do, admittedly. But when the police arrive, they arrest you for domestic violence. You plea to misdemeanor domestic battery, time served and adjudication withheld. Now you are stuck with that arrest on your record forever. Any background check that is run in connection with a job search, apartment search, loan application, etc. will reveal that you are a perpetrator of domestic violence. Do you think you will get the chance to explain that it was only a one-time incident and only a glass of water…?

Please keep in mind, however, a lot of people are arrested for domestic battery and then plea down to simple battery and get adjudication withheld on that charge. Then you may eligible to seal under Florida law. It is the charge that you ultimately plea to and have adjudication withheld on, not your arrest charge, that determines your eligibility for record sealing and expungement. Also, it may happen that you are arrested and charged for domestic violence for a fight with a significant other, when you have never lived together. Challenge it and fight it if you don’t fall under the domestic violence statutory definitions of “family member” or “household member”- if you don’t, it can have long reaching consequences for your life and future.

If you want to learn more about Florida expungement and record sealing, in domestic violence or all other cases, please visit You don’t have to let the past ruin your future. Take a free expunge record eligibility evaluation and find out from an experienced Florida expungement attorney whether you can begin the process of moving on today!

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Question by Jane: When applying for naturalization, should one reveal an expungement record?
The person was not convicted, and the case was expunged by the court. Will the FBI still see this record?
Will this affect the ‘good moral’ part of the application and result in a denial?

Best answer:

Answer by MikeGolf
Yes, a Federal records check can and will see through any expungment or sealed record.

Give your answer to this question below!
Washington County Offers Free Legal Workshops
… takes place from 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Oakdale Library. The final installment of the series is “Expungement of Criminal Records.” That takes place from 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at R.H. Stafford Library in Woodbury. To register, call 651 …

Over 50 years after his conviction , Attorney Lynne Torgerson secures an expungement for Grady Shockley, a wonderful gentleman nearly 80 years old. Watch this heart warming story

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