How to Get Your Criminal Records Expunged or Sealed

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DARRIN T. MISH:  Welcome to the IRS resolution show. I’m Darrin Mish, and I’m joined by my cohost Katrina Madewell. How are you doing Katrina?

KRISTINA MADEWELL: That’s me! Doing good. Welcome to the show.

DARRIN T. MISH:  I’m so pumped up today. I’m so excited.. One of my dear lifelong friends is here today. Attorney Jim Souza is her today. How you doing Jim?

JIM SOUZA: Hey, great Darrin. Thanks a lot, I love to be with you and Katrina.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: So nice, we had to do it twice, right?

DARRIN T. MISH:  Absolutely, Jim was a guest on Katrina’s show last week, and Jim was gracious enough, I liked the show so much, that I asked for him to come be with me today. Jim, tell us a little bit about what your practice area is, we’re going to depart what I normally talk about today because I typically talk about IRS tax problems and how people can solve those. But you help regular people with a different kind of problem, don’t you?

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JIM SOUZA: Yeah Darrin, as you know we both started out as criminal lawyers representing people accused of crime.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Hold on, I’m going to interject right here.  I don’t like the term criminal lawyer okay?  Criminal Defense Attorney is the better phrase I think so go ahead.

JIM SOUZA: Simply put, we represent people who come into the crosshairs of our government and we help them manage through and many times, get them out of the harm the government has bestowed upon them.

DARRIN T. MISH:  We started out together as fresh face barely needing to shave public defenders in the Hillsborough County Public Defender’s Office.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Are you saying he actually had peach fuzz Darrin? Is that what you’re saying?

DARRIN T. MISH:  Yeah that is before I had a goatee and a mustache and Jim and I basically got hired, if not the first day, certainly the first week, and I can remember meeting him and I was reaching out for a lifeline kinda. I was kind of looking for someone who knew what was going on, and I’m not sure what Jim knew was really going on either.

JIM SOUZA: We were both faking it, if you recall that most of the time, we would practice on each other.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: New kids on the block, I love it.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Thank goodness we weren’t surgeons right?

JIM SOUZA: As you may remember Darrin, we represent people who are arrested and they go through the court system and many of those people find themselves in a position where their case that was brought against them was either dismissed or terminated or simply they just didn’t do it, and what that led to was creating a practice area in our office that would seal and expunge criminal records. Now, seal and expunge is just a fancy term for removing and erasing an arrest record.

DARRIN T. MISH:  So that’s what you do now right? You do some criminal defense. I think Jim Sousa is one of the most excellent criminal defense attorneys in the Tampa Bay area, if not the state of Florida.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: So, how does that work from the attorney perspective, you’re not allowed to say that to yourself, because I’m not the attorney so I can say a lot of stuff.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Yeah, you actually have full, impinged first amendment rights, Jim and I don’t actually. We’re not allowed to make self-auditory statements so

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Well, I can tell you that I had Jim on my show last week, and I thought he was a rock star, which is no wonder we invited him to the show this week.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Oh yeah absolutely. Jim is a rock star. He’s an excellent attorney, and now you have taken a bit of a turn in your practice, and you are now focusing on helping people remove and erase their criminal record, is that right?

JIM SOUZA: Darrin, you hit the nail right on the head. It’s helping people. Everyone that comes to us whether we represented them or they were represented by someone else, comes to a common pain and they all ask for the same thing. Please remove this arrest record, please help restore my name.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Why is it such a big deal.. help us understand why having a criminal arrest or having a criminal record is such a negative thing in our society today.

JIM SOUZA: Well to clarify up a few misconceptions, many people think that once a case gets dismissed, it goes away. Unfortunately in the state of Florida, as you know Darrin, all criminal records and arrest records are public records. That means that anyone can see them. And in this day and age, anyone that has access that has a computer, types in your name, and what often first appears on a Google search or a search engine is the arrest booking photo, and the arrest record.

DARRIN T. MISH:  It kind of leads me to this funny story. When I used to do criminal defense work back in the 90’s someone would call my office and they would be charged with a crime. I would ask them if they had any priors because that told me how much I would charge them or how difficult the case was going to be.

JIM SOUZA: Or what the prosecutors were going to say to you when you went to see them.


KRISTINA MADEWELL: So you can see what the rap sheet looks like right.

DARRIN T. MISH:  See how hard the deal was going to make, and that kind of thing. And before the internet, I mean, I’ve been practicing law since before Al Gore invented the internet…

KATRINA MADEWELL: I was going to say, before the dinosaur, before the public records right.

DARRIN T. MISH:  So we couldn’t easily look up their arrest records so they would say “Oh no man, this is the first time I’ve ever been in trouble. Then I’d get to the courthouse, and the prosecutor would pull up the rap sheet, and it fell to the floor it was so long. And then once the internet came along, I was able to ask them the same question. They still said they had no prior record. I would say what about this prior procession what about this prior procession… and the point I’m trying to make is all those records are now online and on the sheriff’s website you can see their mugshot what they were charged with and where they were arrested at, where they lived, lots of things like that right?

KRISTINA MADEWELL: In this day and age of social media and just with the Internet and the web, and these arrest records showing up on some of these bookings sites. I can see how just one would do a lot more damage than back in the day where you might have a ton of what you were talking about.

JIM SOUZA: And can you imagine, being in a job interview, and you’re qualified, your capable, you have the experience, they want to hire you, and somebody sitting at the desk next to you, pulls up a booking photo of the worst day or the worst night of your life and says explain this.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: It’s not going to be a glamour shot, right, like none of those mugshot photos were ever the best photos you taken.

JIM SOUZA: And there are no do-overs

DARRIN T. MISH:  You get to explain why you were arrested for disorderly conduct, urinating in public, or some relatively innocuous offense that probably doesn’t get prosecuted because there isn’t enough resources at the state attorney’s office to even go through with it.

JIM SOUZA: We just represented a lady that walked out of a store here in Tampa that had the security tag attached to it. Mind you, this is an article of clothing she purchased, has a receipt for, she’s tackled by the security folks, and when law enforcement arrives, they charge her with resisting arrest without violence because she wouldn’t give them her name.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: My mouth is dropping right now. I can imagine what that would be like for me, and that is just insane.

JIM SOUZA: One would think the receipt would have shown everyone what was happening, but unfortunately it didn’t.

DARRIN T. MISH:  One would also think, that perhaps a lawsuit would be forthcoming for false imprisonment, but that’s a different show.

KATRINA MADEWELL: That’s what happens when you have 2 attorneys on a show!

JIM SOUZA: Will that get their picture of the internet?

DARRIN T. MISH:  No it won’t.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: No, that’s the whole point, and that’s what you do Jim.

JIM SOUZA: Absolutely, and what we find is the same thing. People, they need help, the state has a program that will remove arrest records but unfortunately, it’s very complicated…there are many steps, and very few people can successfully do it on their own.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: When you step back and look at this whole thing from a common sense perspective, and you think about what our forefathers, what they had in mind when they created the judicial system. They never were thinking of the web…right, and these mugshot photos, in reality, you think about how long ago that stuff was written and how much technology has changed the way we live. Its relevant.

JIM SOUZA: Let me ask you, is that going to help you get a job when you say “oh yes, that’s my photo. I did get arrested, but the state dropped the charges, because they got it wrong.” Give me a case when anyone ever rent furniture from a rental company, and it doesn’t come back or there was a mistake, well you can be prosecuted in the state of Florida, and Darrin, you and I’ve represented clients just like that. That are charged with grand theft….

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Because they didn’t return furniture?

JIM SOUZA: Because there was a mistake by the furniture company, and you’re arrested, charged with grand theft, and try to get a job with a grand theft charge out there.


DARRIN T. MISH:  You know, I make no bones about this. I’m no bleeding heart liberal. But when I was…

KRISTINA MADEWELL: I have to keep the political stuff in check on the show you know.

DARRIN T. MISH:  When I was doing criminal defense work, I was regularly appalled at how many bogus charges came through the system and how much injustice there really is. Now, were there guilty people that were represented?  Absolutely, I mean probably most of them to be honest with you. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make. There were lots of cases that were like that from big box stores even. We won’t name the store, but there was one store in particular, that everyone shops at, that has the lowest prices and they have a tendency to cover charge petty thefts all the time. Lots of robberies, very small dollar amount, say a candy bar, and the kid maybe pushes the security guard on the way out the store, as he’s trying to run away, and that actually, that theft combined with the force is actually, technically a robbery. Well, a robbery, we’d call a strong arm robbery that robbery takes the petty theft which is punishable by a maximum of up to 60 days in jail… all the way up to a second degree felony which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison!, so that’s one of the things I wanted to bring up on the other show.

JIM SOUZA: Well also Darrin, but the real world effect is that people are being judged by others who know very little about what happened to them, and are simply denying them opportunities whether it’s a job, or a place to live, or to be able to serve in a charitable organization or to give of themselves. I mean Darrin, how many times have we seen the woman shopping at the grocery store or at a large store with a child in the stroller. And another child next to them…. The child besides the mother takes the cds in the stroller, they’re going out…

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Hey Jim, hold that thought, you’re listening to the IRS solution attorney.. we have to take a break.. we’ll be back in just a minute.

(commercial break)

KRISTINA MADEWELL: You’re listening to the IRS solution attorney show, with Mr. Darrin T. Mish. I’m your co-host, Katrina Madewell, so Jim, repeat what you were just saying because this is so right on track, and I can relate to this as a mom.

JIM SOUZA: No matter where you practice, if you’re in Florida or anywhere else, we encounter clients that have what we consider outrageous situations. You have a mom who has her kids in the stroller in a store. Unbeknownst to the mom, the little boy or little girl puts things in the stroller with the child. Security watches it as mother goes through the checkout line, pays for the things she takes, and as they’re about to leave, security jumps on all of them, and charges the mother with shoplifting.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Ok, I have to chime in on that because that is just nuts. Like my little daughter, I’m just to laugh at myself, and throw myself under the bus for a minute. My little daughter, we joke around and say she was like a Barbie because every time I wasn’t paying attention, and on the phone, she would literally pick something up and we would take it back to the store, because they had no idea. I I’m literally having flashbacks, I can’t even imagine that.

DARRIN T. MISH:  I’ve seen the more common, and that is people with kids, and they give the kids some grapes, or some crackers while they’re in the store, just to get them to shut up, and keep them busy, and they intend to pay for those items at the checkout and maybe the wrapper falls on the floor or they forget, or maybe they don’t even forget, and the store in many cases, retail security charges them with petty theft before they even attempt to even make it out the store. So when my kids were small, and my wife would be pushing them in the grocery cart, I’d be like “No baby, we’re not going to feed the kids anything we haven’t paid for because I have seen too many cases like that.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: See, you attorneys, you guys think about that stuff, I don’t. Like for me, it’s no big deal, because I’m not going to steal anything so it wouldn’t even wouldn’t dawn on me

DARRIN T. MISH: And you don’t even think of it, because it’s so outrageously ludicrous. But it happens time and time again.

KRISTINA MADEWELL:  Where’s the common sense in the statute, that’s what I want to know.

JIM SOUZA: Well the common sense comes from the explanation, and this is what people can’t do on their own. This is why they hire capable attorneys who can give the explanation, because if you’ve ever been asked on the spot, to tell exactly what happened, you rarely say it well. At the end of the day, people have arrest records out there that shouldn’t been seen by others because it gives others an unfair glimpse of what may have happened to them, and doesn’t allow the person a fair chance at the things we were talking about.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: I mean, that makes sense for a lot of people, even people who know what they’re doing. And even myself… like I am one of those people that are going to answer every question a lot better if I have a few minutes to think about it, versus in the middle of the chaos, the mayhem situation you were talking about.

JIM SOUZA: Well, that’s where our office comes into play. We assist people who have been arrested and trying to get their records sealed and expunged. The state of Florida allows people to remove and erase arrest records in certain search situations. If a person had a case dismissed or the state attorney would prosecute, than they might qualify as having their case expunged. Likewise, if they went through a pre-trial diversion program and completed it…

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Talk about that, because most people don’t know what a pre-trial diversion program is. I don’t even know if I know what that is.

JIM SOUZA: The state attorney’s office gives first time offenders a chance to go through a mini probation, performs community service, at the end of it, if they don’t commit a new crime, than the state attorney will drop the case against them. It gives them one free chance. We see it mainly for younger people with minor offenses. When people take advantage of it, their cases are dropped. Now when a case is dropped, it doesn’t go away. We have to petition the state of Florida to remove that record and that’s where our office comes in, to help people.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Now, when you say, it doesn’t go away, you mean I can look it up on the booking website, or Google their name, and that stuff will come up?

JIM SOUZA: Absolutely, it will come up. When they Google their name, the first thing that usually comes up is an arrest/booking photo.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Where they look really perfect, and totally put together, and their makeup is perfect.

JIM SOUZA: What we do is help people and if we get a record sealed and expunged, if it comes off from county sites and if it’s taken away from public view, than that gives people the fair chance at a painting of employment, it gives them a fair chance at obtaining employment, it gives them a fair chance at being able to find a place to live. The state of Florida law allows people to have their record sealed and expunged, to legally deny the arrest…

KRISTINA MADEWELL: That’s a key point… you should probably chime in on that a little bit more.

JIM SOUZA: And being able to legally deny the arrest, in most situations, the difference between in getting a job, being able to volunteer and serve with social groups and charitable organizations also, it really comes down  to housing of their choice.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: I see a lot.. I do a lot of real estate, I’m the only odd person in the room, I’m not an attorney. I help people buy and sell real estate, we occasionally help with the rental process, and we don’t give the ultimate decision. We let the owner have the final say. But I can see a lot of the times people can’t overlook that because they don’t even understand the whole story,

DARRIN T. MISH:  Aren’t criminal records starting to impact credit scores even?

JIM SOUZA: Absolutely, in fact, the far reaching effects really mean that an arrest record stays with you for life, and we are talking about a sensible approach to lets remove the program entirely. And sealing/expunging a record takes that out of the game.

DARRIN T. MISH:  It almost sounds like you’re a lawyer/magician. Like you can make stuff disappear, sounds expensive too, is it?

JIM SOUZA: No, in fact, well come to see anybody and asking a lawyer to help you is expensive, but what we try to do is price this at $970, inclusive of all fees and costs. If you come to the office and listen to the show, come down to the office, and let us know you were listening, we’ll take $150 off that fee.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Let me chime in on that. Because me and you have talked about this before. And with my background, I think with public record, if they have something crazy, there’s a million pages that can change that fee slightly.

JIM SOUZA: And on that rare occasion, where you went to trial, and say you were found not guilty. In Florida, you’d be allowed to seal the record. Well the clerks, the clerk’s office charges a fee per page of your entire file. We will pay up to $100 which covers 99% of the cases but if it’s beyond that, you have to understand there’s an additional cost because of the trail or because of the large volume of the documents.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: I was kind of curious as to what the logistics are behind that, because for me, I had a field trip a few years ago with my kids, and we went to the Pioneer museum, and I could literally see the first records that were recorded in Pascal county, and so I think, I’m trying to get a visual of what you’re talking about so like, if you sealed and expunged back in the day, you could just rip that page out, right? What’s it look like now, like how? Everything’s so digitized, what exactly changes when you seal and expunge?

JIM SOUZA: When a record is sealed its hidden from the public view, but that doesn’t mean the record is available to law enforcement. If a record is expunged, than it’s removed entirely, and law enforcement in many cases would have to get a court order to open it. If you are an individual and accessing the clerk’s website, type in the name and if it’s sealed and expunged, it’s not going to appear. And that is what we are doing. We are removing from official records, and giving people a chance to be able to legally deny the arrest which they should under Florida law and gives them a chance to be able to obtain the employment, and able to live where they want to live, and do the things they need to do.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Sounds to me like expunged means sort of/kind of erased and sealed means sort of/kind of closed like no one can see it.

JIM SOUZA: Well it is but there is two different types of requirements that pertain to each. If you were arrested on a charge that is covered in the Florida law enforcement of charges. if you are arrested and plead no contest or are guilty, if the judge does something called withhold judication, which means they don’t formally convict you, you may have an opportunity to seal that record and expungement can only take place if you completed a diversion program for first time offenders to help you out, if the state of Florida discontinues the prosecution or if the judge grants a judgement of acquittal, so if the case has to be completely dismissed to be expunged, if you have a withhold on certain cases, it can be sealed.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Jim, can you give out your office number so people can know how to reach you?

JIM SOUZA: Sure, you can call us anytime at 813 254 9205 and we don’t charge you for the consultation, many times people call us thinking they don’t qualify, and we find a way to make that happen.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: And what was that number again?

JIM SOUZA: 813 254 9205 or you can find us on the web at That’s

KRISTINA MADEWELL: You’re listening to the IRS solution attorney show. It’s about that time, we have to take a quick break. Stick around, don’t go anywhere, we have some fun stories coming back after the break. Those are always the things people can relate to, we’ll be back in a minute.

(commercial break)

DARRIN T. MISH: I am the IRS Solution Attorney Darrin T. Mish.

KATRINA MADEWELL: I’m your co-host Katrina Madewell. Thanks so much for sticking with us through the break. We have in the studio with us attorney Jim Souza.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Attorney Jim Souza. Attorney Extraordinaire. Jim focuses on removing and erasing criminal records isn’t that right?

JIM SOUZA: That’s right, and what we do is we’re able to help people restore their names that were sullied or put down because of criminal arrests.

DARRIN T. MISH:  So during the break, we were talking about some pretty interesting stuff and we were kind of bummed out actually, and we weren’t running tape so what can people do, like there are a lot of people I heard of that get really confused. They look at the statute, they try to understand how they can try to remove and erase their record, remove their picture off the Internet, and they don’t know what to do, and they get really discouraged. What can those people do?

JIM SOUZA: Often times, people call us and they’ll say “I’ve had an arrest, but it went away. I contacted the clerk’s office or was told by another lawyer that I couldn’t seal or expunge my record because I had a traffic charge where I was ajudicated which means the judge convicted me. Often times when they contact us, they don’t think there’s anything that can be done. What I want them to understand is if they have ajudication, just one of them for something small, you may still have your record seal, because oftentimes we can get in front the judge, explain the situation and we can turn that ajudication back into a withhold, making you qualify. People shouldn’t give up on themselves. Contact our office, give us your story. 813 254 9205,, contact us, we want to hear what happened to you.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: I want to chime in on this too. Sometimes I think the riches are in the niches. So somebody could ask a question about whatever, but how many attorneys are like general practice, they’re not going to know so much about things that you do every day, whereas Darrin does when it comes to the IRS. Would you agree?

JIM SOUZA: Well, we learn something every single day. Last night, I was looking at material I did not know that existed before. You see it in closing on a house, making a deal work. You are able to anticipate solutions before anyone knows there’s a problem, and that’s the same thing in our office. People think this happened to me, so their first reaction is I don’t qualify so I’m not going to look at it when the reality is we’re able to resurrect a case, get in front of the judge that’s sympathetic, and many times, finding out the state attorney’s office is doing the right thing and the prosecutors are standing silent, allowing us to help somebody remove a record that justifiably needs to be removed.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: What I notice about you and what I heard on the show last week, when we were talking about some of these stories, was you really care. I could feel it and hear it in your voice. And when people are sharing their story you genuinely care how it impacts their lives.

JIM SOUZA: Their lives are our lives. These are our friends, these are our family members, our neighbors, and these are people we went to school with, folks we work with. When they have something that hurts them like an arrest record, and it can be removed, than we should do everything we can.  Our communities are better off when people are fully employed, when people are allow to live in the places they want to live, they are able to get loans and mortgages… their business are allowed to expand. All these things are possible when they are able to have a previous record removed and their names restored, so yeah, we’re all affected by it. More than 850,000 people are arrested in the state of Florida every year. An arrest record for too many of these people is a lifetime sentence. Even after they’ve paid a debt to society. Even if they had plead guilty, gotten a withhold of adjudication, that was done so they could have a second chance.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: What percentage of that number do you think are stupid little misunderstanding arrests?

JIM SOUZA: Now if you just said 25% of them, you’re still talking about hundreds of thousands of people. And you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people who aren’t able to complete their education, complete school, get a job that they are qualified to be in. That hurts companies, and it hurts businesses everywhere. What it does in the end is destroy families. Darrin and I know what the affects and the stigma of being arrested, how not only affects the individual, but the families and their kids as well.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Now, let’s talk about how you know each other. We skipped over this a little bit, I should say we brushed through it at the beginning part of the show. You’ve known each other for many years.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Yeah, for 20 years. Jim’s actually the godfather to my daughter. That’s how close, we’re really good buddies, and he’s a fine, fine individual. But we both started out doing criminal defense work…

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Is that where all attorneys start out? Just a curious question.

DARRIN T. MISH: No, not necessarily. And for me, I did criminal defense work because I felt proud to be just a cog in the wheel of justice. I felt like my job was to make sure the police didn’t lie, that the police followed procedure, they did what was supposed to be done. Because without criminal defense attorneys, than law enforcement and state attorney’s office can really run roughshod over individuals rights, and that kind of ties in to what I do now with representing people who owe money to the IRS, a lot of people ask me why did I go from criminal defense work to fighting with the IRS? Well its pretty similar kind of practice, and then I usually get a dumbfounded look when I say that. I say, well in criminal defense work I learn to rules and defend the little guy against the government. Well in tax practice, I learn the rules and help defend the little guy against the government. The only difference is in my old practice we’d fight about prison time, or jail time or fines and penalties. And now we just fight over money. So in many…

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Isn’t that every attorneys dream? To fight over money?

JIM SOUZA: Only if you get a third of it

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Quit being the funny guy in the room.

DARRIN T. MISH: Yeah, if I got a third of all the money I help people save with the IRS, I would probably not be working anymore, but that’s beside the point. In my mind, it’s all about sticking up for the little guy, against the big bad government who likes to abuse their power, when not kept in check. Jim does what he does for a slightly different reasons.

JIM SOUZA: Well, I agree with you. The only way our freedoms are protected is when you have a well-rounded, very astute, very rigorous defense to every government charge. Darrin, knowing you, you passionately defend people’s rights and we all feel connected and through my standpoint, I look at it, and you do too and we’ve talked about this many times is that everyone deserves a chance. Everybody deserves a second chance in many cases. The government’s not going to give people a second chance on their own.

DARRIN T. MISH:  So in the tax practice, there is something very similar to a criminal record and that’s a federal tax lien. I would say about 80% of all my clients have a federal tax lien filed in that very same office where the criminal records are kept in, and so that is their scarlet letter.  That’s a notice to the world that they owe the money to the IRS and that the IRS has certain rights to any money they come into, so in a way it’s what you do for a living. And when we get an offer in compromise, which for example is when we make a deal to settle for less,

KRISTINA MADEWELL: when you make a deal with the devil…

DARRIN T. MISH:  We’re able to get that lien released.

JIM SOUZA: And you’re right, the tax lien is a notice to the world about the debt. What does an arrest record say to you? What is that a notice to the world of…

DARRIN T. MISH:  Well, in today’s information age, man it’s like a life sentence, it says there’s almost a presumption and I’m thinking normal society, not criminal defense lawyers, but I think there’s a presumption you did something wrong.

JIM SOUZA: But it doesn’t allow people to have a fair shake with others, you’re moving in across the street, you see the name, you run back in your house, and what do you do? You type in their name, you do a Google search, what comes up, if an arrest record comes up, you’ve already made the judgements about the person even before you’ve met them.

DARRIN T. MISH:  How common is this? Quite frequently, a law enforcement overcharges the individual, now back to the petty theft analogy, you know, you get charged with a robbery, it gets reduced to a petty theft because that’s really all that was. It might ultimately even get dismissed. But hang it out there on the sheriffs website, is this really bad picture of you being charged with robbery which is a felony.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: The Internet has kind of made it if something happens, than everyone is going to know about it, so the web, the arrest records and the third party sites that have them online, that basically makes it the same for anybody, no matter what city you live in.

JIM SOUZA: And that leads me to something else. If you had it an arrest record that was sealed and expunged, and you type your name in it, and your name appears on one of these commercial websites demanding that you pay money to take it off. Do not pay them money. Call my office, get the advice that is needed. Many times, we can get them to take off your picture, in ways that don’t cost you money, in ways that will do it permanently.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Is that how they make their money? Because they basically buy their data from the county right?

JIM SOUZA: There’s gotta be a loophole that we’re going to ask for the legislature to change if someone has a record sealed and expunged, commercial websites should not be ransoming their booking photos to have them pay. It’s a form of extortion and it harms our clients. It’s a bad practice. Hopefully the state of Florida will correct it. If not, we’re going to push them in that direction.

DARRIN T. MISH: Let’s get back to that for a second. Do those sites actually buy that data or do they just scrape it off the Internet?

JIM SOUZA: Many times, they scrape it off the Internet, but also some companies have sold information that lead them to it.


KRISTINA MADEWELL: Now we’re selling public records.

DARRIN T. MISH:  That’s scandalous.

JIM SOUZA: But how does someone take a public record and then have a commercial incentive to say to you “Darrin we want you to pay us money, or we’re going to keep the booking photo out there” when you have got the state of Florida to remove it from their websites.

DARRIN T. MISH: Wow, I’ve really learned a lot today, I had no idea that was happening, do you have any idea what counties are doing that?

JIM SOUZA: Just about all of them.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Wow that is not a good thing. That does something the legislature should take off.

JIM SOUZA: And you can see every day. Why are the county websites publishing booking photos? Where is the public interest in a booking photo?

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Why are they doing it? To add money to their bottom line?

JIM SOUZA: I think the people thinks it’s a deterrent to crime. I think it just harms people in our communities, it harms our neighbors and it harms our families.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: This society as a whole I would say. Well you’re listening to the IRS solution attorney. We have to take a real quick break, we will be back in just a few minutes. Stick around, because when we come back, we’re going to talk about some of these stories that you guys actually see in the field. We’ll be back in a minute.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Welcome back to the IRS solution attorney show.

I’m your IRS solution attorney Darrin T. Mish. I’m learning a lot about arrest records and I thought I should have known, but I guess it’s been a long time and things have changed, right Jim?

KRISTINA MADEWELL: And I’m your cohost Katrina Madewell. In studio today, we have Jim Sousa in case you have missed the earlier part of the show, the whole thing will be available on Darrin’s podcast as well.

DARRIN T. MISH:  That’s the IRS problem solver podcast on ITunes.

JIM SOUZA: Anyone who is involved in any online dating…

KRISTINA MADEWELL: I was going to say, you didn’t talk about any of the dating part.

JIM SOUZA: And you know you who are, either your friends, coworkers, family members, the online dating world is persuasive. One of the things that come up…

KRISTINA MADEWELL: So that’s how people meet. I’ve been married for 18 years, okay, and granted, I met my husband in a bar, and at the time I never dated guys in bars. So now people meet online more than any other place is that right?

JIM SOUZA: It’s everywhere. In particular, with people over the age of 30, over 40 age group, one of the things that came up and comes up a lot is I have an arrest record, but it was dropped. Well what kind of case did you have? Well it was a domestic battery case but it was taken care of but I didn’t do it. The problem is I’ve been involved in online dating, I’ve met some really nice girls, and the minute they find out my name, they’re going to see that I was arrested for battery.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Let me get this straight Jim, somebody like me. Let’s say I’m single, and I’m on these online dating sites, I went out on a date with this guy, and it’s starting to flow well, and mister charming here seems too good to be true, so let me just Google him and check him out. If I’m a single female, I’m trying to check this person out, and they have a domestic abuse charge, how is that fair to me?

JIM SOUZA: It goes back to the old adage, it’s a charge… maybe it didn’t happen, but are you going to give the guy a second look? Because perhaps the explanation is truthful, is honest. It was an exaggeration. You’re not going to give the guy a chance. That could be Prince Charming, that could be the guy you spend the rest of your life with. You’re going to drop him once you see the charge. And that’s what I talk about when people judge you unfairly.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: And let’s face it, how many crazy psycho people are out there really? I mean, we talked about this on my show, last week. If the Police get called, somebody’s going to jail. That’s how they look at it.

JIM SOUZA: But we’re also saying too, and I get what you’re saying, on who the person is, you can’t seal and expunge records if you’re found guilty.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: That’s the difference, right there.

JIM SOUZA: Right, but we’re also saying you’re going to judge that person quickly and you might judge that person unfairly just because of that booking photo out there.

DARRIN T. MISH:  We’re running out of time here.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: That’s why you guys exist really. I mean, this is what the justice system is supposed to be about, am I not correct?

DARRIN T. MISH:  You are correct. That’s why you need special expertise with these kind of situations, but we are running out of time. We’ve been promising a war story. Now Jim, have you ever represented someone who had convictions who ultimately able to get those things thrown out or overturned, and helped them improve their life.

JIM SOUZA: We had a young man who had a felony charge who went through diversion program, which offered first time offenders a chance to clear their name. He went through the program, we started to expunge his record, but found out he had a traffic charge from a few years earlier when he was 18… He went to court, paid a fine. He was no longer eligible, when he came to us, we saw a solution, went to the judge, tell the reason we needed the judges help to take the adjudication, place a hold and put it in a place to allow us to do our job and he was able to restore his name and clear his name.

DARRIN T. MISH:  During the break, without naming names, there are some judges in the county who are starting to slowly understand what you’re getting at, right?

JIM SOUZA: You know, I haven’t had one single judge tell me no. Every single judge that I’ve explained what we’re doing regarding sealing and expunging records, the judges have been understanding and sympathetic, they understand the public good. So when we say to judges, adjudicate sparingly, they get it. The judges I’ve spoken to in Hillsborough county have been right on point and they understand and they’ve been making the changes as to how they deal with people and their cases.

DARRIN T. MISH:  That’s really great. Most judges aren’t judges because they want to put people in the slammer and lock them up and ruin their lives. I think most judges are uniquely qualified to understand…

KRISTINA MADEWELL: Use common sense, is that what you’re saying?

DARRIN T. MISH:  Yeah, and since they’re dealing with crime day in and out they see what a record can do to people.

JIM SOUZA: The point we make to people is don’t wait two to three years, don’t wait beyond the affected dates. Get to us right away. If you think you can get your record unsealed and expunged, contact us… Even if you don’t think you qualify, many times we’re able to change that and we’re able to make it happen for you. Contact us at 813-254-9205. That’s 813-254-9205. We don’t charge you to talk to us. Tell us your story. If you don’t want to talk to us, go to, that’s, write down your situation, we’ll get back in touch with you.

DARRIN T. MISH:  We only have a couple minutes left. What do you think the big takeaway on today’s show is with regards to criminal records and how they impact people’s lives and getting those things erased or removed?

JIM SOUZA: Well, we’re all better people if we are not hampered and hindered by anything that sets us back. Criminal records stay with people their entire lives. Sometimes criminal records should be erased and removed for deserving people. When that happens, it not only affects the individual, but also their families, children and parents, everyone’s able to live more freely and usually more successful.

DARRIN T. MISH:  It’s bad for the economy, it’s bad for the society, it’s just bad overall

KRISTINA MADEWELL: We didn’t touch base on the kids either. On my show, we talked about how if you had a child, and you wanted to be a volunteer at girl scouts or boy scouts, or a community organization, it can hinder you.

DARRIN T. MISH:  Even school districts do background checks for parents to just show up on campus to volunteer to hand out pencils or something.

JIM SOUZA: What we’re trying to do is inject a bit of fairness into this. If you don’t have to explain this you don’t. In Florida, if your record is sealed or expunged, you can legally deny being arrested.

DARRIN T. MISH:  That’s great.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: That’s justice, that’s what it’s about.

DARRIN T. MISH:  I’ve really learned a lot today, Jim. I appreciate you coming by. I hope you continue to be my friend because I value your friendship very much. You have my whole-hearted endorsement. If anybody out there has these problems, they should give Jim a call. They should visit his website at

JIM SOUZA: 813-254-9205. While we’re talking about people that help people with problems, IRS problems, don’t let them linger. They don’t go away on their own. Call Darrin Mish.

KRISTINA MADEWELL: The “Mish-ter”. The IRS Solution Attorney show. We gotta wrap it up guys. I’m your co-host Katrina Madewell. Mr. Jim Souza. We are out.

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