The public has the right to see criminal records. Criminal records include both convictions and arrests, even if the charges were dismissed. Florida law allows a juvenile criminal record to be expunged or sealed in some cases, meaning that access to the record is restricted. Generally, criminal records may only be sealed or expunged once. But Florida law provides two important exceptions for juveniles. In some juvenile cases, Florida allows one free expungement, and as long as the juvenile has not committed a forcible felony, the juvenile record will be automatically expunged once the juvenile reaches a certain age. If your child has a juvenile criminal record, you should speak with an attorney about your options.Sealing and Expungement
In Florida, when a record is sealed, that means that tight restrictions regarding who can access the record are put in place. Only a few entities can see it, including law enforcement, the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Bar, and the Florida Board of Education.
Expungement means removing the criminal records from the public record. The agencies listed above can learn that there is an expunged record, but can only view the documents with a court order. A person may only apply for sealing or expungement once, with the exception of juvenile expungement.One Free Expungement
Though normally a person can only seal or expunge a criminal record once, Florida provides a free expungement for qualifying juvenile offenses. A juvenile will qualify if:
- The offense was a nonviolent misdemeanor; and
- The minor completed a juvenile diversion program that expressly permits the free expungement.
Diversion programs are a sentencing alternative and include requirements such as community service, counselling, substance abuse or mental health treatment, and paying restitution to the victim.
In order to use the free expungement, the juvenile must file for expungement within 12 months of completing diversion. The juvenile expungement does not count toward the limit of one sealing or expungement.Automatic Expungement
In Florida, most juvenile records are automatically expunged once the minor reaches a certain age. The record will be expunged when the minor reaches the age of 26 if he or she:
- Is classified as a serious or habitual juvenile offender; or
- Has been incarcerated in a juvenile prison or juvenile correctional facility.
Otherwise, the juvenile record will be expunged at when the juvenile reaches age 24.
An automatic juvenile expungement is not available if the minor:
- Commits a forcible felony, e.g. burglary, sexual assault, or murder, after turning 18 but before the juvenile record has been expunged; or
- Commits a forcible felony and is adjudicated as an adult.
In those cases, the offense is merged with the adult criminal record, which means that the juvenile record will be preserved part of the offender’s adult record.
Juvenile criminal records can have a serious effect on a young person’s life. If you want your child’s juvenile record sealed or expunged, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.