We all make mistakes during our foolish and misspent youths, but some mistakes are more permanent than others. No, we're not talking about unfortunate tattoos or poor piercing choices. We mean activities that result in a criminal record.
At least if you were a young criminal, it's easier to cover up your sordid past. Removing a tattoo is much more expensive and painful than expunging or clearing your juvenile record.
Don't take that to mean that it's necessarily easy. But with some determination and patience with the paperwork, you'll be able to get your juvenile record expunged.
Juvy Records v. Adult Records
The law recognizes that children have the ability to learn from their mistakes and outgrow a troubled youth. That's part of the reason why juvenile courts are separate from the regular criminal system.
As a result, a juvenile record is separated from an adult criminal record. Unlike a criminal record, juvenile courts records aren't public.
The records are generally sealed, but that doesn't mean they are inaccessible. The information can be disclosed in certain circumstances.
Most states allow certain juvenile offenses to be used in sentencing as evidence of prior convictions. Some states also require that schools be notified if a student is found delinquent although the details remain private.
That record can continue to haunt you on job applications and rental agreements throughout your adult life. While the details are private, the fact that you got convicted may not be.
That is, unless you expunge your record.
Petitioning the Court
Once you've turned 18, your juvenile record is set and there's no going back. At that point, you can petition the court to get rid of it.
Each state has its own requirements on how to expunge a juvenile record, so it will help to consult a local attorney about the exact rules. But the general requirements are often the same. They include:
- Waiting the required amount of time,
- Filing the correct paperwork, and
- Staying out of trouble.
If you can follow those rules as they're worded in your local laws, you should be able to get rid of your juvenile record for good. That means you can move on and leave your past where it belongs.
- Juvenile Justice: Background (FindLaw)
- Juvenile "Waiver" (Transfer to Adult Court) (FindLaw)
- Juvenile Record Haunts Defendant in Child Porn Sentence (FindLaw's U.S. Eighth Circuit Blog)
- High School Kid, 17, Busted in $3M Pot Ring (FindLaw's Blotter)