You can potentially get a juvenile criminal record sealed if you are eligible. Sometimes this process also is known as expungement. However, some states use expungement to refer to the permanent destruction of the record, while using sealing to refer to the process of making the record nearly inaccessible. The main benefit of sealing a record is that a former juvenile delinquent will not need to report their record to landlords, employers, and other key parties in their personal and professional lives. Thus, they will not need to overcome the stigma that can be associated with even juvenile criminal records.
A juvenile criminal record still may have an impact in some situations. It may be used as a sentencing enhancement for certain offenses, or a former juvenile offender who wants to work in law enforcement may need to disclose it in a background check. Sometimes a juvenile offense related to an individual’s driving record can be visible to an insurance company. This may affect the premiums that they need to pay as an adult driver.
Record Sealing vs. Expungement
In many states, record sealing is different from expungement. Expungement typically refers to the actual deletion of records, while sealing refers to making records much harder to access. An individual can benefit immensely from record sealing, but sealed records are still accessible in some instances.
Eligibility for Sealing a Juvenile Record
First, you will need to establish that you meet the requirements to have your juvenile record sealed. These tend to be technical, so you may need to get advice from a lawyer. A few basic requirements involve the age of the petitioner, time elements, and the type of offense. You must be an adult if you are seeking to seal your juvenile record, which usually means that you are at least 18 years old. A certain period of time may need to have passed as well. This may be defined by the date when the juvenile completed their penalty for the offense, which might be a period of probation or a term of confinement in a juvenile detention facility. (If the juvenile was not found delinquent, the timing might be different.)
Sometimes only certain types of offenses can be sealed. A juvenile might not be allowed to seal a record of a violent crime or another serious offense. If a crime would have been a felony if it had been committed by an adult, it may not be eligible for sealing. The court also may consider any other criminal history of the former juvenile delinquent. If they continued to commit crimes as an adult, or even if they were arrested but not convicted, they may not be able to seal their juvenile record.
The Process of Sealing
You may need to file a petition with the juvenile court in the county where the offense was committed to get your record sealed. This might just involve completing a simple form and paying a fee. The court will review the petition and make sure that the record is eligible for sealing, but no hearing will be required. In some states, the juvenile court system may seal a juvenile’s record automatically once they reach a certain age.
If your state offers sealing and expungement as separate options, you will want to determine whether you are eligible for both of them. If you are eligible for expungement, you likely will get greater benefits through expungement than through sealing.
Expungement Forms: 50-State Resources
Justia provides a comprehensive 50-state survey on expungement and record sealing, including relief for juvenile records, as well as forms and resources for each state.