In the case of Scott Baker versus the State of Florida, a judge denied Mr. Baker’s petition to expunge his criminal-history record even though the prosecutor’s office had previously decided to not file any charges in his case. The judge did so because Mr. Baker worked at a car wash where he had contact with members of the public, children included. The judge’s opinion was that “the public’s compelling interest in knowing the character of those who provide a service to the community, particularly the children of the community” justified her denying Mr. Baker’s request.
Mr. Baker appealed the judge’s ruling to Florida’s First District Court of Appeal. That appellate court agreed with Mr. Baker that the judge’s reasons for denying his request were not sufficiently related to the particular facts and circumstances of his case. In so doing, the Court stated that:
1. Although Florida law does not give anyone the right to have his criminal-history record expunged, satisfying the legal requirements for having one’s record expunged does create a presumption in favor of expunction;
2. When someone has satisfied the legal requirements for having his record expunged, a judge abuses her discretion in denying a request for expunction if she does not have a factual basis for doing so;
3. When deciding whether to expunge a record, a judge must weigh the policy of public access to records against the “long-standing public policy of providing a second chance to criminal defendants who have not been adjudicated guilty”;
4. A judge must base her decision on the facts and circumstances of each particular case and not solely on the nature of the charge.
5. It is improper for a judge to deny someone’s request to expunge his record based upon facts that would apply to any person who is trying to expunge his record.
6. In Mr. Baker’s case, the judge erred in denying his request to expunge his record because there was no evidence indicating that Mr. Baker worked in a position of trust, that he had more contact with children than the average person, or that his job placed him in the position of having unsupervised contact with children.
The First District Court of Appeal concluded by sending Mr. Baker’s request for expunction back to the trial judge so that she could reconsider her decision in light of the appellate court’s ruling.
If you are interested in getting your criminal record sealed or expunged in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, St. Lucie County, Martin County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, or Miami-Dade County, please call me, attorney Ron Chapman, at 561-832-4348 to discuss your case and see how I might be able to help you.