State v. D.H.W.

Citation686 So.2d 1331
Decision Date19 December 1996
Docket NumberNo. 87173,87173
Parties21 Fla. L. Weekly S545 STATE of Florida, Petitioner, v. D.H.W., Respondent.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida

Robert A. Butterworth, Attorney General; and Robert J. Krauss, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Chief of Criminal Law, and Patricia E. Davenport, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Petitioner.

Paula J. Rhoads of Vega, Stanley, Zelman & Hanlon, Naples, for Respondent.

WELLS, Justice.

We have for review State v. D.H.W., 666 So.2d 564 (Fla. 2d DCA 1995), in which the Second District Court of Appeal certified the following to be questions of great public importance:

DOES THE LEGISLATURE VIOLATE EITHER THE SEPARATION OF POWERS PROVISION IN ARTICLE II, SECTION 3, FLORIDA CONSTITUTION, OR THE COURT'S RULE-MAKING AUTHORITY UNDER ARTICLE V, SECTION 2, FLORIDA CONSTITUTION, WHEN IT ESTABLISHES A PROCEDURE THAT IS A CONDITION PRECEDENT TO THE SEALING OF CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORDS MAINTAINED OUTSIDE THE JUDICIAL BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT?

MAY A COURT SEAL ALL COURT RECORDS UNDER FLORIDA RULE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE 3.692 WITHOUT FIRST COMPLYING WITH THE TESTS DESCRIBED IN STATE v. P.D.A., 618 So.2d 282 (Fla. 2D DCA 1993)?

State v. D.H.W., 666 So.2d at 565. We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const. For the reasons expressed, we answer the first certified question in the negative and the second question in the affirmative.

D.H.W. was charged in 1983 with committing grand theft. After he pled nolo contendere, the trial court withheld adjudication and placed D.H.W. on probation. In 1994, D.H.W. filed a petition pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.692 and section 943.059, Florida Statutes (1993), to seal all criminal history records relating to his case which were in the custody of both courts and nonjudicial agencies. His petition conformed to the requirements of rule 3.692 but not to those of section 943.059, Florida Statutes (1993).

The trial court's initial order sealed "[a]ll nonjudicial criminal records" but no judicial records relating to D.H.W.'s case. Without explanation, the trial court later issued an amended order pursuant to the form order in rule 3.989(c), sealing "[a]ll court records" and ordering certain law enforcement agencies to seal nonjudicial criminal history records. 1

After receiving the amended order, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) refused to enforce the order because D.H.W. had not applied for a certificate of eligibility for sealing his records pursuant to section 943.059(2), Florida Statutes (1993), which requires a petitioner for court-ordered sealing to pay a $75 processing fee and to obtain a certificate of eligibility from FDLE. The state attorney filed a motion to clarify the order sealing the criminal history records. 2 After a hearing, the trial court ordered FDLE to process the order to seal its records relating to D.H.W. without requiring D.H.W. to obtain a certificate of eligibility or pay a $75 processing fee. The trial court concluded that the Supreme Court had rejected the statutory certificate and fee requirements as procedural in nature and that, therefore, section 943.059(2), Florida Statutes (1993), was unconstitutional. See Amendments to Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.133, 3.692, 3.986, 3.987 and 3.989, 630 So.2d 552 (Fla.1993), modified, 639 So.2d 15 (Fla.1994). The State appealed, and the district court affirmed the trial court's holding. The district court, seeking clarification of this Court's opinion regarding legislative requirements for sealing nonjudicial records and of its standard for sealing judicial records, certified the above questions to this Court as being of great public importance. D.H.W., 666 So.2d at 565.

In answer to the first question, the State contends that the statutory provision requiring a fee and certificate of eligibility from FDLE is constitutional because it is a substantive matter subject to legislative authority. See Johnson v. State, 336 So.2d 93 (Fla.1976). Creating requirements relating to the sealing of records held in the custody of nonjudicial agencies is within the legislature's exclusive control because the Florida Constitution delegates the right to establish court-related procedural law to the judiciary and requirements relating to substantive law to the legislature. State v. Garcia, 229 So.2d 236 (Fla.1969). Therefore, the State argues that the statutory fee and certificate requirements are constitutional because they govern the substantive right, based on legislative enactment, to the sealing of nonjudicial records. We agree.

In Johnson, this Court found unconstitutional a statute that attempted to establish court procedures regarding the right to have criminal records expunged. 336 So.2d at 95. We recognized that the constitution grants to the legislature the power to enact substantive laws such as a statute granting the right to sealing or expungement of criminal history records. Id. However, because only the courts have the power to administer the court system, we have the exclusive ability to initiate judicial rules of practice and procedure designed to enforce substantive rights. Id. Therefore, we have the discretion to decide whether and how to seal or expunge court records without interference from legislative requirements. Id. Thus, we drew a clear line between judicial and nonjudicial records containing criminal history information that a petitioner seeks to have sealed or expunged.

Accordingly, this Court in 1977 promulgated Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.692 3 and 3.989, 4 providing procedures governing expungement or sealing of criminal history records held in the custody of courts. Subsequently, the legislature in 1992 repealed section 943.058, Florida Statutes (1991) (governing petitions to expunge and seal), 5 and enacted sections 943.0585 (to expunge) 6 and 943.059 (to seal), 7 providing the new requirements that a petitioner must pay a $75 processing fee and obtain a certificate of eligibility from FDLE to inform trial courts whether specified criminal history records held in nonjudicial agencies are eligible for expunction or sealing. §§ 943.0585, 943.059, Fla.Stat. (1993). To obtain a certificate and complete a petition for the sealing of a criminal history record held in nonjudicial agencies, a petitioner must demonstrate to FDLE that the petitioner: (1) has never previously been adjudicated guilty of a criminal offense or comparable ordinance violation; (2) has not been adjudicated guilty of any of the charges stemming from the arrest or alleged criminal activity to which the petition to seal pertains; (3) has never secured a prior sealing or expunction of a criminal history record; and (4) is no longer under court supervision relating to the disposition of the arrest or alleged criminal activity to which the petition to seal pertains. § 943.059(1)(a), Fla.Stat. (1993). We conclude that the statute imposes appropriate conditions to the substantive right to obtain court-ordered sealing of nonjudicial criminal history records not held in the custody of courts.

We here specifically point out that this Court's holding in our 1993 Amendments opinion applies only to judicial records and not to nonjudicial records which are not in the custody of courts. 630 So.2d 552. 8

The district court below agreed with the trial court's interpretation of Amendments, 630 So.2d 552, and stated that this Court's opinions "appear to hold that the certificate of eligibility requirement is an unconstitutional legislative intrusion into judicial procedure." D.H.W., 666 So.2d at 564. We quash the district court's decision as it pertains to nonjudicial records not in the custody of courts. The certificate-of-eligibility requirement as well as the fee and statement of no court supervision are constitutional as applied to applicants for sealing of nonjudicial criminal history records.

As we determined in Johnson, the judiciary has exclusive power and responsibility over court records. The legislature has distinguished between judicial records and other criminal history records and has acknowledged this Court's function in establishing its own procedures regarding sealing of judicial records. § 943.059, Fla.Stat. (1993). We likewise recognize that under the separation-of-powers doctrine, the courts' power to order the sealing of nonjudicial criminal history records not in the custody of the courts derives only from a legislative grant by statute.

The courts' role regarding nonjudicial criminal history records is to safeguard a citizen's right to strict enforcement of the statute, which provides the right to petition the court for sealing of such records. In respect to nonjudicial records, the State agreed at oral argument that if a citizen complies with the statutory conditions for sealing such records, the citizen is entitled to a court order requiring that the records be sealed. For that reason, we also hold that a citizen who contends that an agency has not issued a certificate of eligibility in accord with section 943.059(2) may petition the court for compliance and have the issue adjudicated. However, we do not interfere with the statutory requirement for the FDLE certificate, which we respect as a legislative prerogative.

Therefore, we answer the first certified question in the negative, with the proviso that a petitioner has the right to file a petition to require compliance with the statute if an agency refuses to seal the specified records. We hold that the trial court and the district court erred in determining that rule 3.692 superseded the provisions of section 943.059(2), Florida Statutes (1993), requiring a $75 processing fee and an FDLE certificate of eligibility before allowing a petition to order the sealing of nonjudicial criminal history records. Because the sealing order did not meet the requirements of section 943.059(2), the trial court also erred in ordering FDLE to comply with the sealing order.

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