Expunging or Sealing a Juvenile Court Record

If you are a former juvenile offender, you may be able to clear your record by having your juvenile court record expunged -- that is sealed or destroyed. Expunged records are generally treated as though they never existed. That means you can tell potential landlords, employers, licensing agencies and others that you were never arrested or adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile.

However, expungement does not always eliminate the consequences of juvenile delinquency. In some states, for example, your record will be unsealed if you are found guilty of a later offense, and your juvenile record may be used against you when you are sentenced. That said, there are a number of advantages to expunging your juvenile records. Read on to learn whether your records qualify for expungement and how to have them expunged.

Does Your Juvenile Record Qualify for Expungement or Sealing?

The rules for expunging or sealing juvenile records vary from state to state. Whether or not your record can be cleared typically depends on the following.

Age. Some states provide for automatic expungement of certain juvenile records regardless of age but, usually, you must be an adult to have your record expunged. In most states, this means you must be at least 18 years old.

When you committed the offense. Often, a juvenile record can’t be sealed until a certain length of time has passed since the end of the juvenile case. For example, the waiting period may be one, two, or five years depending on the state and on the offense committed.

Seriousness of the offense. Most states place some restrictions on the types of offenses that can be expunged. Many states won’t allow you to expunge serious juvenile offenses -- for instance, those that would be considered felonies if committed by an adult.

Later arrests or convictions. In most states, you won’t be permitted to expunge your juvenile record if you had subsequent juvenile adjudications or adult criminal convictions -- or if such proceedings are pending against you.

How to Expunge Your Juvenile Records

As mentioned above, a handful of states automatically seal some types of juvenile records at the end of the court proceedings or after the juvenile reaches a certain age. In most states, however, you must file a request with the court asking that your record be expunged. The process varies from state to state, but you will usually need to file a petition with the court that handled your case. Some courts provide forms, with instructions, that you can complete. Usually, you will be required to pay a fee when you file your papers, and there are often requirements about certain people you must notify of your request to expunge. Contact the court clerk’s office for details, or consult a qualified criminal law attorney in your area.

After Your Records Are Expunged or Sealed

If the court expunges your record, that means your record will -- for most purposes -- be treated as though it never existed. One of the greatest benefits of this is that if you are asked whether you have a criminal history, you can legally say no. (Assuming, of course, that you didn’t get into trouble afterward.) And if a prospective employer, college, government agency, or other agency or individual checks your background, your juvenile court history will not usually show up. (There are limited exceptions to this rule, discussed just below.) Having your juvenile record expunged can be a great advantage when you later apply for a job, professional license, or in any other situation where having a criminal history might negatively affect you.

Keep in mind, however, that expungement or sealing is not always permanent. In many states, your record may still be accessible under some circumstances. For instance, if you apply for a job in law enforcement or another sensitive area, the agency that interviews you may have access to your record. In extreme cases, your record may even be unsealed at a later date. This is usually the case if you are later found guilty of another juvenile offense or convicted of a crime as an adult. Even if your record is not officially unsealed, courts will still have access to it, and it may increase the severity of your sentence if you are convicted of a later offense.

For More Information on Your State's Law

To learn more about expunging or sealing juvenile records, read the overview for your state below. To learn whether you can expunge an arrest or conviction record where you live, and for tips on getting started, follow the link to the state article itself.

State

Laws At-a-Glance

Alabama

To seal a juvenile record, you must wait two years from the end date of legal custody or supervision or, if there was no custody or supervision, two years from the date of any other court order.

Alaska

In Alaska, almost all juvenile court records are automatically sealed within 30 days of a person’s eighteenth birthday. If court supervision continues past a person’s eighteenth birthday, the records will be sealed within 30 days from the date court supervision ends.

Arizona

In Arizona, there are many circumstances under which you may have your juvenile court record expunged -- that is, completely destroyed. If your record does not qualify for destruction, you may be able to have your juvenile adjudication “set aside” by a court. 

Arkansas

In Arkansas, most juvenile records are automatically sealed. The primary exception is for delinquency adjudications in which the juvenile could have been tried as an adult..

California

In California, it is possible to seal juvenile court records for all but very serious offenses. If a juvenile court record is sealed, it may still be accessed in a few situations -- for example, when you apply for a job in the field of law enforcement or health care, if you committed a driving offense, or when the DMV checks your background.

Colorado

In Colorado, many juvenile records qualify for expungement. If your record is expunged, it is not physically destroyed, but it is sealed or specially marked and treated as though it never existed.

Connecticut

In Connecticut, you can ask to have your juvenile record “erased.” Erased records are not destroyed, but they are removed from agency, institution, and official files. After a record is erased, it is as though you were never arrested, and you need not say anything to others about your record.

Delaware

In Delaware, you may ask a judge to sign an order directing that your juvenile record be expunged. If the court grants your request, your record will be removed from all official files and kept confidential by the State Bureau of Identification. 

District of Columbia

In the District of Columbia, you may ask a court to seal your juvenile record. If your record is sealed, it is as though it never existed. You are not required to disclose your juvenile delinquency history to others, including in applications for education, employment, or housing.

Florida

In Florida, your juvenile record may be sealed or expunged, depending on the circumstances. You may petition for sealing or expunging only once, unless a judge decides that a subsequent arrest is directly related to the arrest that was originally sealed or expunged. 

Georgia

In Georgia, many juvenile court records can be sealed. Sealed records can be accessed only by court order or by criminal justice officials for judicial or criminal justice purposes. 

Hawaii

In Hawaii, you may request that your juvenile arrest record be expunged -- that is, segregated from official files or completely destroyed.

Idaho

In Idaho, you may ask a court to expunge your juvenile record if you meet the requirements described below. Your records will not be destroyed, but they will be sealed and kept confidential.

Illinois

In Illinois, juvenile court records are generally kept confidential, but they may be disclosed in a variety of circumstances, including to potential employers who check your background.

Indiana

In Indiana, anyone may petition a juvenile court at any time to expunge juvenile court records. If your petition for expungement is approved, your juvenile record will be removed from court files, law enforcement agency files, and the files of any other person who provided services to you under court order.

Iowa

In Iowa, your juvenile record can be more easily accessed by the public than in many other states. In most cases, however, your record will be automatically expunged when you reach the age of twenty-one.

Kansas

If your record is expunged, it is treated as though it never existed and you are generally not required to disclose its existence to others. However, your record will not be destroyed.

Kentucky

In Kentucky, you may be able to have your juvenile court record expunged or sealed, depending on the circumstances of your case. If you were adjudicated delinquent, your records may qualify for expungement. 

Louisiana

In Louisiana, If your record is expunged, it will for the most part be destroyed. Some items that cannot be destroyed -- including certain references, documents, recordings, or other materials -- will be kept strictly confidential.

Maine

Sealed juvenile records are available only to courts, criminal justice agencies, and the Victims’ Compensation Board, unless you give explicit permission for someone else to view them. Generally, if your record is sealed, it is treated as though it never existed. 

Maryland

In Maryland, juvenile court records are not made available to the public, but government agencies and even some private employers may have access to them.

Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, your juvenile court records may qualify for either expungement or sealing. Expunged records are completely destroyed, while sealed records are made unavailable to the public.

Michigan

In Michigan, the process of expunging a juvenile record is called “setting aside a juvenile adjudication.” You may be able to set aside your juvenile adjudication if you committed only one offense and meet additional requirements.

Minnesota

Minnesota courts have broad discretion to expunge juvenile court records. Unfortunately, the process for applying to expunge a Minnesota juvenile record is not clear. Most sources suggest that you follow the same process used to expunge adult criminal records. 

Mississippi

In Mississippi, juvenile records are kept confidential under most circumstances, but to ensure confidentiality, you can ask a court to seal your record. If your record is sealed, it is treated as though it never existed. 

Missouri

In Missouri, most juvenile court records -- except those for very serious crimes -- are hidden from public view. To ensure maximum confidentiality, however, you can apply to have your juvenile record officially sealed.

Montana

In Montana, most youth court records are automatically sealed on your eighteenth birthday.  There are several exceptions to this rule, however.

Nebraska

In Nebraska, your juvenile court record may be seen by the public unless it is officially sealed under certain circumstances. If your record is sealed, it is hidden from public view and you are not required to disclose its existence to anyone.

Nevada

In Nevada, most juvenile court records are hidden from public view. To ensure maximum confidentiality, however, you can ask to have your juvenile record officially sealed. If your record is sealed, it may be viewed only with the court’s permission in very limited circumstances.

New Hampshire

When you turn twenty-one, your juvenile court record and any police records will be automatically sealed and placed in an inactive file. You do not need to take any action to seal your record.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, juvenile records -- other than those for very serious crimes -- are generally hidden from public view. To ensure confidentiality, your records may also be officially sealed or expunged. There are only a few circumstances under which information in a sealed or expunged juvenile record may be disclosed.

New Mexico

In New Mexico, juvenile records are usually open to public inspection, so it may be to your benefit to ask that your record be officially sealed. If your juvenile record is sealed, it can be viewed only by court order in very limited circumstances -- for example, by a clinic, hospital, or agency that is treating you.

New York

In New York, the public has limited access to juvenile records, except for certain records involving very serious crimes. In addition, many juvenile records -- such as the records of those found to be only “youthful offenders” -- qualify for automatic sealing.

North Carolina

In North Carolina, the public has limited access to juvenile records. In addition, juvenile court judges have the authority to seal records at the time of the court proceedings. Sealed records may later be viewed only by court order.

North Dakota

In North Dakota, juvenile court records are automatically sealed when the court proceedings end; they may be viewed only in very limited circumstances.

Ohio

In Ohio, the public has limited access to juvenile records, though they are available to certain agencies and entities, including public boards of education. To ensure greater confidentiality, your records may be officially sealed and then, later, expunged. 

Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the public has limited access to juvenile court records. To ensure the greatest confidentiality, however, you can apply to have your juvenile record sealed or expunged under certain circumstances.

Oregon

In Oregon, after your record is sealed or expunged, it is treated as though it never existed. You are not required to disclose information about your sealed or expunged juvenile record to anyone -- for instance, to colleges or potential employers.

Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, an expunged juvenile record is completely destroyed and removed from the juvenile records system. Information about your expunged juvenile case may later be obtained only for very limited court and law enforcement-related purposes.

Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, young people who are charged with very serious crimes may be transferred to adult court and subject to adult criminal penalties. For juvenile adjudications, court records are automatically sealed at the end of the juvenile case.

South Carolina

An expunged juvenile record is completely destroyed and removed from the juvenile records system. You are not required to disclose information about your expunged juvenile record to anyone -- for instance, to colleges or potential employers.

South Dakota

A sealed juvenile record may be accessed only by court order and only upon request from you, the South Dakota state attorney, or court services officers. The court may also use a sealed juvenile record in other juvenile court proceedings or in subsequent criminal proceedings against you, for the purposes of determining the proper sentence.

Tennessee

Expunged juvenile records are completely destroyed and treated as though they never existed. You are not required to disclose information about your expunged juvenile record to anyone -- for instance, to colleges or potential employers.

Texas

Your Texas juvenile record may be sealed in one of two ways. Certain records are automatically restricted from view by everyone but criminal justice agencies. You can also ask a court to seal your records, which provides more complete confidentiality.

Utah

Your juvenile records may qualify for expungement if all of the following are true: you are at least eighteen years old, it has been one year since the end of your case and you have paid any fines, fees, or restitution, and since the end of your case, you have not been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, and no criminal proceedings are pending against you.

Vermont

If you are not a repeat offender, you can request that your juvenile record be sealed. How your record is handled usually depends on the date of the juvenile proceeding.

Virginia

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.

Washington

A sealed juvenile record may be viewed only by prosecutors or court clerks. Generally, sealed 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.

West Virginia

In West Virginia, the public is prohibited from viewing juvenile court records. In addition, most juvenile records are automatically sealed one year following your eighteenth birthday or one year after your case ends, whichever comes later. Unlike many other states, West Virginia does not require you to take any action to seal your record.

Wisconsin

Generally, expunged juvenile records are treated as though they never existed, though if you are later involved in another juvenile or adult criminal case, your expunged record may be considered for sentencing purposes. 

Wyoming

In Wyoming, the public is generally prohibited from viewing juvenile court records. There are a number of exceptions to this rule, however, including cases in which the court decides that releasing information is in the best interests of the public or that it may deter others from committing the same offense. Juvenile justice agencies, court officials, and other individuals may also access juvenile records under certain circumstances.

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