In Virginia, the public has limited access to juvenile records, except records for violent felonies committed by juveniles who are at least fourteen years old. For other types of offenses, most juvenile records can be viewed only by certain agencies and individuals as designated by Virginia law or by court order.
In addition, your Virginia juvenile record may qualify for destruction or expungement under the circumstances described below. An expunged juvenile record may be viewed only by court order under very limited circumstances. Generally, expunged juvenile records are treated as though they never existed. You are not required to disclose information about your sealed juvenile record to anyone -- for instance, to colleges or potential employers.
Does Your Juvenile Court Record Qualify for Automatic Destruction?
Most juvenile records will be automatically destroyed if you are nineteen or older and at least five years have passed since the end of your involvement with juvenile court. If your record was reported to the DMV, it will be automatically destroyed when you turn twenty-nine.
Your record does not qualify for automatic destruction if:
- you were fourteen or older when you committed the offense, and
- you were adjudicated delinquent for an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult, or you were found guilty of a felony in adult court.
(Virginia Statutes §§ 16.1-306 to -307.)
Does Your Juvenile Court Record Qualify for Expungement?
If your juvenile record does not qualify for automatic destruction under the rules above, you may request that a court expunge your record. To qualify, one of the following must be true:
- you were acquitted of the charges against you, or
- the charges against you were “nolle prossed” or otherwise dismissed.
If your juvenile arrest was for a misdemeanor and you don’t have a prior record, the court must order your record expunged unless the Commonwealth of Virginia can demonstrate a good reason why it should not be. For other types of cases, the court will grant your petition only if it finds that leaving your record open would “constitute a manifest injustice” to you.
(Virginia Statutes § 19.2-392.2.)
How to File
To expunge your juvenile court record, you must file a petition with the court in the county where your case was handled. For more information, contact the court clerk’s office.
Getting Legal Help
Clearing a juvenile record can be complicated. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for expungement in Virginia -- or for help completing the necessary paperwork or presenting your case to the court -- you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can guide you each step of the way.