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Can a juvenile record be sealed or expunged?

Many people in Florida have the mistaken belief that juvenile records automatically go away once the youth reaches the age of 18. This is not the case, however. When a person has a juvenile criminal record, he or she must apply to have the record either sealed or expunged after they have successfully completed all terms of their adjudication.

If a person's record is sealed, it cannot be accessed by most people and is hidden. The record is still there, however, and can be viewed by law enforcement agencies, courts and certain other agencies. A sealed record may not be included on a regular employment background check, however.

Expungement is available in certain cases. If a record is expunged, it is destroyed completely. In other words, documentation of it will be removed from the state's criminal repository and destroyed. Expungement is only available in certain cases, however. In order to get an expungement, the juvenile must have first successfully completed a diversion program. Certain felonies are not eligible, but most misdemeanors and felonies are if the person was sentenced to diversion.

Sealing or expunging a juvenile record is a very good idea. Criminal convictions, including adjudications for juvenile crimes, can have lasting collateral consequences. People who have criminal records that others are able to see or access can face problems with obtaining educational grants or loans, getting approved for housing and obtaining employment. Those who have questions regarding applying to seal or expunge a juvenile record, they may benefit by speaking with a criminal defense attorney. The attorney may be able to help determine under which category a juvenile adjudication may be eligible.

Source: Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, "For Youth", November 02, 2014

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