Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys are pleased that first time offenders may benefit from a new program being tested in Florida which would give nonviolent criminal offenders the opportunity to avoid an arrest record by abiding by the terms of a new civil citation program, as excerpted here: 

The program aims to save taxpayer money by reducing costs associated with arrest and jail time. Also, the recipient of a civil citation pays for the cost of their treatment…
Leon County is the first county in Florida to give law enforcement officers the discretion to hand out adult civil citations…
Under the civil-citation program, the offender would have to undergo an assessment within 72 hours, perform 25 hours of community service, undergo treatment for any underlying issues that contributed to the offense, pay all costs to the program and face arrest if the conditions of the program are not met.

the first nonviolent criminal act in Florida could be eliminated by using the civil citation program
Gogh, Self Portrait, 1887

This program would go further to protect those making once in a lifetime mistakes than the current Pretrial Intervention Programs provided by State Attorney’s Offices in nonviolent drug cases and select misdemeanors and felonies in Florida. 

While Pretrial Intervention Programs if successfully completed result in dismissal of filed charges, Civil Citation Programs are better in that no criminal charges are filed by the prosecution nor is there an arrest. Because there is no criminal record, there’s no longer any need for expungement or sealing of records nor should there be any problems with future employment opportunities which an arrest and criminal record would mar.
The catch? This is Florida, of course you knew there was a catch…you’ll need to plan to do your criminal act in Leon County, Florida as that’s the only county far sighted enough to launch the program. Tampa Bay will continue to rely only on Pretrial Intervention Programs until the results of the Civil Citation Program are tabulated, debated and eventually adopted. 
Clearwater Criminal Lawyers would opt to give our Tampa Bay law enforcement officers discretion to handout Civil Citations now rather than waiting for the obvious beneficial results from Leon County, not only saving money, but saving the reputations, jobs and happiness of good folks who make one foolish mistake.


Your Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer was asked yesterday how to obtain a sealing or expungement of criminal records in Florida. Today we’ll look at how to obtain a pardon for a criminal act in Florida; but if, and only if, you promise that you won’t go committing a rampage of criminal acts just because I’m showing you how to obtain a pardon.

a successful pardon gives reasons why the Governor should grant it from Clearwater criminal lawyer Robert hambrick in Largo, St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay Florida
Van Gogh, Self Portrait 

Obtaining a pardon in Florida is more difficult than sealing or expungement of criminal records, because a pardon is in its nature a political act. Therefore successful Applications for Clemency in Florida will show the decision makers in the Governor’s office and Cabinet why it is in their best interest to grant the pardon. Successful applications possess a political overtone based on a clear showing of the failure of the judicial process with a well defined change of heart demonstrated by the creative civic actions of the Defendant linked with a showing of simple fairness to address a wrong. 
A pardon restores civil rights that a Florida felony conviction takes away. The Governor and cabinet have great leeway under Florida to grant pardons. Upon taking office the Governor’s office issued a press release on the pardon procedure which would be followed during his term of office noting that “…civil rights will not be restored automatically for any offenses,” and delineating categories of crime that would require a hearing (aggravated felonies, drug trafficking, RICO, sexual battery) and which could be obtained without a hearing (simple felonies). A partial sample for the application for Clemency below shows the options available to begin the pardon procedure:

Check box for type of clemency desired. All applications must have the proper court documents attached.
Restoration of Civil Rights for Florida conviction
Restoration of Civil Rights in Florida for Federal, Military, or Out-of-State conviction
Restoration of Alien Status Under Florida Law Remission of Fine or Forfeiture
Specific Authority to Own, Possess or Use Firearms (Eligible 8 years after completion of sentence)
Full Pardon (Eligible 10 years after completion of sentence)
Pardon Without Firearm Authority
(Eligible 10 years after completion of sentence)
Commutation of Sentence (Use Form “Request for Review”)
If you have applied for a Full Pardon, Pardon Without Firearm Authority or Specific Authority to Own, Possess or Use Firearms and are determined ineligible due to not meeting the time requirement, you will be processed for Restoration of Civil Rights. If you have already received Restoration of Civil Rights, a Certificate for Restoration of Civil Rights will be mailed to you.

The Governor’s office has an application for clemency form (see above) which you send to the Governor’s office with the records of your criminal case from the clerk’s office as without the records some folks have been known to fib. 
For failures in the Florida criminal justice system there is the safety valve of commutation of sentence, which can be applied for in Florida criminal cases where the law has too harshly dealt with a given set of facts, for example where a harsh minimum mandatory sentence applies in a mere nonviolent hand to hand drug deal.  For a successful pardon in Florida contact a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney who will show the Florida Governor and Cabinet why justice demands that a pardon be granted.


A reader recently asks a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney about sealing and expunging of criminal history records in Tampa Bay Florida:

Clearwater Criminal Lawyer Robert Hambrick recommends self awareness & honesty to get a job after a criminal client gets a grand theft conviction in Tampa Bay Florida at the Pinellas criminal court complex in Largo
Van Gogh, Self Portrait & Hat

I’m only in my twenties but I think I already ruined my life. I pled guilty to a felony Grand Theft in Florida two years ago to avoid a trial. I was sentenced to probation and I was given an adjudication of guilt. I believe I was innocent, but I know it’s long too late to withdraw the plea. I didn’t think things would be this difficult later. Because of that charge on the record it’s been really tough to find a decent job. I want to get my life back and make something of myself. Is it possible to have my record cleared by having the charges expunged or sealed? Should I move to another state?

Sealing and expungement are tools to restrict access to criminal records in Florida. Here’s the difference between sealing and expungement:

A sealing of a criminal history means that the public will not have access to it though law enforcement and other governmental entities as found at FS 943.059(4)(a) will still have access to sealed record information in its entirety.An expungement goes much further by giving those entities which would have access to the sealed record notice that the subject of the record has had a record expunged, with no access given to the actual criminal history records without a court order. 

For the official record of a crime to be sealed under Florida Law the charge had to be resolved with either a dismissal or with the Judge withholding adjudication at sentencing. Because you state that you were convicted with an adjudication of guilt your record for grand theft can not be sealed under Florida law. 

For a charge to be expunged one of the following things must happen:
1. The State of Florida nolle prossed or dropped the charge. 
2. The charge was dismissed by the Court.
3. A jury found you not guilty of all of the charges at trial.
4. The records were successfully sealed and a term of at least ten years have passed.

Since you don’t meet any of these criteria, your official record can not be expunged nor sealed even with the help of Clearwater Criminal Defense LawyerWhat can you do to get your life back? You could ask the Governor and cabinet for a Florida Pardon, but it’s political and no longer an automatic process. Finding work is tough even without a Grand Theft in your background. To persuade someone to risk hiring you focus on what you’ve learned and what you’ve gained from the humiliating experience of being arrested, pleading guilty and being punished with probation. Show how the things you’ve experienced makes you the best fit for the job. Make an honest self appraisal of your life. Focus on how the arrest changed your life in ways that have made you stronger, wiser, more reliable and more empathetic. And never give up.