A juvenile criminal record can follow you for the rest of your life, making it difficult for you to get a job or join the military. Expunging your juvenile record can give you a fresh start in adult life.
If you meet the eligibility requirements to have your juvenile record expunged or erased, you'll be able to pass the criminal background check required by most employers. The laws governing the expungement process differ from state to state.
Age Limits Vary
Each state adopts its own laws and guidelines that govern how juvenile offenders are handled. However, a juvenile court judge may send a young offender to adult criminal court if a serious crime was committed and the minor is at least 14 years old. If your case was transferred to adult court, you must file your request for expungement there instead of the juvenile court system.
Expungement, also called expunction, means that documents related to your case are sealed, erased, or destroyed. These documents may include police reports, fingerprints, photographs, probation reports, court records and juvenile detention records.
When records are expunged, it's as if your involvement with the juvenile court system never happened. The juvenile records will not show up on a criminal background check and you are not legally required to reveal that information to anyone.
Eligibility for Expungement
The laws on expungement vary from state to state. In general, you will be eligible if you were arrested but not, or if the conviction was your first offense. You must also show:
- You are now at least 18 years of age,
- It has been at least five years since you were involved with the juvenile court system, and
- You haven't committed any crimes as an adult.
The judge will make a decision based on your age, criminal activity, substance abuse history, the type of crime involved, and whether or not expunging the records would affect public safety.
Procedure for Expungement
Expungements are almost never done automatically. Instead, you must file a motion asking the court to expunge your records. Each state has its own process, but typically, the court checks your criminal record to see if you've been convicted of a crime in the previous five years.
If not, the court sets a hearing and notifies the police department and other officials of your request. In most states, you don't need to attend the hearing unless someone objects to your request. If the judge grants your request, you'll receive notice by mail.
A Criminal Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding expungement of juvenile records is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a criminal lawyer.