Growing up is an adventure. We all took too many risks and did too many dumb things – but we were kids. Unfortunately, some of us got caught. These one-time mistakes should not follow you for the rest of your life. A juvenile expungement erases that one time learning moment.
Juvenile Record Expungements
We are taught to believe that juvenile records are confidential and exempt from public records. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement sells all records of juveniles who have been charged with a felony. They used to sell misdemeanor cases up until recently. Juvenile record confidentiality is complex and subject to many interpretations by different government agencies. That’s why FDLE believes it can sell juvenile records and the Department of Juvenile Justice does not. The bottom line, it doesn’t matter how many agencies sell the information – a juvenile expungement can stop it.
Standard Expungement and Sealing
The good news is that your child can take advantage of the sealing (s. 943.059, Fla. Stat.) and expungement (s. 943.0585, Fla. Stat.) statutes. These are one time requests to the court to have an arrest record removed from the public records. One of these would need to be used to remove a juvenile felony arrest (unless the charges were dropped to a qualified misdemeanor and the child successfully completed pretrial diversion).
Qualified Juvenile Expungement
In addition, the law also provides for a juvenile diversion expungement (s. 943.0582, Fla. Stat.) if your child has completed a juvenile diversion program for a non-violent misdemeanor offense. This is a one time procedure for relief. It does not count against the ability to use the standard seal or expunge procedure (mentioned above). However, it must be completed within one year of the completion of the diversion program. See, FDLE website.
Understand that the qualified juvenile expungement only applies to records that FDLE cannot sell (non-violent misdemeanors). This means that the record should remain confidential whether the record is expunged or not.
Automatic Expungement of Juvenile Records
Under section 943.0515, Florida Statutes, a juvenile’s record is administratively expunged upon reaching the age of 21 or 26 automatically, depending on the circumstances of the case. However, if the juvenile commits a crime as an adult, prior to either age that applies, his or her juvenile record will be merged with his or her adult record.
This law must be considered when deciding whether to expunge your child’s arrest. If the standard expungement/sealing method must be used, you need to consider that this is a once in a lifetime benefit. It cannot be used again. How these statutes interplay must be understood before you can make an informed decision.
As of 2017, there is also a provision to allow the automatic juvenile expungement to take place before the age of 21. There is an application process for this and the information can be found on FDLE’s website.
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It is not easy to decide whether or not your child needs to have the juvenile expungement procedure done. It depends a lot on the facts surrounding your child’s case. If you would like my advice please fill out the form below. I try to reply within 24 hours.