Expungement vs. Sealing Criminal Records

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Many people mistakenly believe that juvenile records are automatically sealed when the offender turns 18. Beware, this is not always the case! While it is true that some juvenile records are sealed automatically, many are not. For information about how to seal a juvenile record and for an explanation of what that actually means, continue reading the general information provided below and then contact a local criminal defense lawyer to discuss your case specifically.

Expungement vs. Sealing Criminal Records

When a juvenile criminal record is sealed, the record no longer “exists by law.” This means that after your record is sealed, it can only be accessed in a very limited number of circumstances (for example if you apply to join the military or to obtain a federal security clearance), and that in most instances, you can truthfully say that you do not have a criminal record.

In other words, a sealed criminal record still exists in reality but cannot be accessed by normal means and will not appear during ordinary background checks conducted by a prospective employer, a financial institution, etc. On the other hand, an expungement of a criminal record literally wipes your slate clean and it is as if you never went to court for the crime in the first place. Therefore, expungement and sealing serve essentially the same function, but the first makes it as if the criminal offense never existed while the latter does not.

Sealing Juvenile Records

In certain circumstances, the court will automatically seal your juvenile criminal record. The website of the judicial branch in your state should have that information. Many states generally have some version of the following policies:

·       Less serious cases that were dismissed: If your juvenile case was dismissed after a certain date established by your state, you did not commit certain offenses, and the court finds that you completed your probation successfully, then the court will automatically seal the record of your juvenile case.

·       Deferred Entry of Judgment: If the court finds that you adhered to the terms of your probation agreement under deferred entry of judgment, then the court will automatically seal the record of your juvenile case.

Even if your juvenile criminal case was not automatically sealed by the court, you can still petition the court to seal your records in some circumstances. However, the court is only able to seal your juvenile criminal record if you are over 18 or it has been five or more years since your case was closed or since your prior experience with probation and a judge determines that successful rehabilitation has occurred.

Additionally, a court will NOT seal your juvenile criminal record if:

·       You committed certain offenses when you were 14 or older

·       Your record is for conviction as an adult

·       Your conviction was for one that involved moral turpitude.

Reach Out to Us for Help

If you were charged with a crime as a juvenile, contact an experienced lawyer, for help in expunging or sealing these charges.