Are Juvenile Records Automatically Sealed?

It is a common misconception that juvenile records disappear, whether sealed or automatically expunged, when an individual turns 18. Unfortunately, that is not the case in a wide variety of scenarios. This article will look into what records are available, who can obtain those records, how juvenile delinquency records can affect someone, and what you can do to try and make sure those records are sealed so you or your child will not face the collateral consequences of a juvenile adjudication.

Who Can Obtain Juvenile Delinquency Records

Under Indiana Code 31-39-2-8, the records of the juvenile court are available without a court order to the public if a petition has been filed alleging a child is delinquent as the result of an alleged: (1) murder or an act that would be considered a felony as an adult, (2) an aggregate of two unrelated acts that would be misdemeanors if committed by an adult if the child was at least twelve years old when the acts were committed, or (3) an aggregate of five unrelated acts that would be misdemeanors if committed by an adult if the child was less than 12 years of age when the acts were committed. Therefore, if you or your child fit into one of these three categories, it is likely those records are available to the public without court intervention.

Additionally, even if your situation does not fall into one of the above categories, the following agencies may still exchange child in need of services and delinquent adjudication records if not otherwise confidential: a court, law enforcement agency, department of child services, a primary or secondary school (including a public or nonpublic schools), the office of the secretary of family and social services, and the department of child services.

What is Available When Someone Looks up a Juvenile Record

The following information may be released if requested under I.C. 31-39-2-8:

  1. The child’s name
  2. The child’s age
  3. The nature of the offense
  4. Chronological case summaries
  5. Index entries
  6. Summonses
  7. Warrants
  8. Petitions
  9. Orders
  10. Motions filed (excluding motions concerning psychological evaluations or child abuse and neglect)
  11. Decrees from the judge
  12. If the child is adjudicated as a delinquent child for an act, the child’s photograph will also be available.

Consequences of Having a Juvenile Record

Loss of Eligibility for Public Housing

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that public housing authorities may evict families in which a youth has engaged in delinquent behavior. Dep’t of Hous. & Urban Dev. v. Rucker, 535 U.S. 125, 133-36 (2002). More specifically regarding sex offenses, public housing authorities shall deny admission to public housing if any member of the household is subject to a lifetime sex offender registration requirement. 42 U.S.C. § 13663(a).  Also, juveniles may be banned from public housing for up to three years when evicted for drug-related activity, including drug abuse. 42 U.S.C. § 13661(a); 24 C.F.R. § 982.553; 42 U.S.C. § 13361(b). The housing provider may make an exception for a family if the juvenile successfully completes a supervised drug rehabilitation program approved by the local public housing authority or the circumstances leading to the eviction no longer exist, for example, if the juvenile is removed and no longer resides at the residence. 42 U.S.C. § 13662.

Persons involved in the manufacturing of or otherwise producing methamphetamine on the premises of a federally-assisted housing program may also permanently be banned. 42 U.S.C. § 1437(f); 24 C.F.R. § 966.4(1)(iii)(A). Finally, Public housing authorities may deny admission to public housing if the juvenile has engaged within a reasonable time in any drug-related or violent criminal activity or other criminal activity which would adversely affect the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by others. 42 U.S.C. § 13661(c); 24 C.F.R. § 982.553.

Consequences on Primary/Secondary School Education

If a child is arrested or taken into custody for an act listed in I.C. 31-37-3-4(a), the arresting law enforcement agency shall notify the chief administrative officer of the school, including public or nonpublic, the child is enrolled in that the child was taken into custody and the reason why. Some more popular offenses that require notice to school include domestic battery, battery, arson, burglary, robbery, sexual misconduct with a minor, and any controlled substance offense. Additionally, if the child is adjudicated, the court will notify the school of the adjudication and what sentence of disposition was decreed.

According to I.C. 20-33-8-14 (b), the grounds for suspension or expulsion apply when a student is: (1) on school grounds immediately before or during school hours, or immediately after school hours, or any other time when the school is being used by a school group; (2) off school grounds at a school activity, function, or event; or (3) traveling to or from school or a school activity, function, or event. Additionally, a student may be suspended or expelled pursuant to I.C. 20-33-8-15 if  the student engaged in unlawful activity on or off school ground an (1) the unlawful activity may reasonably be considered to be an interference with school purposes or an educational function; or (2) the student’s removal is necessary to restore order or protect persons on school property; including an unlawful activity during weekends, holidays, or other school breaks (including the summer period) when a student may not be attending classes or school functions.

Impact on Higher Education, Financial Aid, and College Opportunities

Along with the misconception juvenile records disappear when a student turns 18, a lot of people we have talked to think juvenile adjudication and disciplinary records will not be released when they apply to college or for military service. In case you haven’t picked up on the theme of this article, that is also not the case.

An application for military service requires a criminal background check, which would include all juvenile citations, arrests, and adjudications. The applications for the military require that the applicant sign releases of information to provide access to the juvenile record, and may disclose psychological information if the child received services as part of a disposition. A juvenile record may require that the applicant receive a waiver in order to join the military, depending on the circumstances and the branch.

The two biggest state educational institutions, Indiana University and Purdue University, also ask questions that relate to an individual’s juvenile history. At Indiana University, their undergraduate application asked the question “Have you ever been charged with or convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony or have you engaged in behavior that resulted in mental or physical injury to a person or personal property.” At Purdue, their application asks many in-depth “Personal Conduct” questions including “Have you ever been disciplined (e.g., placed on probation, suspended or expelled) by any secondary school, college, or university you have attended because of academic dishonesty, research misconduct, financial impropriety, or an offense that harmed or had the potential to harm others. Have you ever pleaded guilty or no contest, participated in a pre-sentencing diversion program, and/or been convicted of a criminal offense (including a juvenile court), or are there criminal charges pending against you at this time?” Purdue and Indiana universities are not the only schools that ask about juvenile and criminal history.

If you have not had your record expunged, you will have to disclose these records and the records will be available to the schools for consideration in admittance. Also, if you or your child planned to get a scholarship and attend college via the Indiana Twenty-first Century Scholars Program, they may be disqualified with a record that the individual illegally used controlled substance, consumed alcoholic beverages, or committed any other crime or delinquent act.

What can I do About My Juvenile Record?

At any time an individual may request the juvenile court judge review their entire juvenile record for the purposes of an expungement. If granted an expungement, the records shall be destroyed and the data shall be maintained by the court on a secure database that does not enable identification of the juvenile to the public. The purpose of the secure database is only for statistical analysis, research, and auditing purposes.

You must petition the court which originally had jurisdiction of the case when juvenile delinquency or child in need of services proceedings were filed. When considering whether to grant the petition, the juvenile court will review: (1) the best interests of the child; (2) the age of the person during the person’s contact with the juvenile court or law enforcement agency; (3) the nature of any allegations; (4) whether there was an informal adjustment or an adjudication; (5) the disposition of the case; (6) the manner in which the person participated in any court ordered or supervised services; (7) the time during which the person has been without contact with the juvenile court or with any law enforcement agency; (8) whether the person acquired a criminal record; and (9) the person’s current status.

The hearing is just like any other legal matter where you will present evidence according to the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure, based on the above factors, to explain to the judge why you are a good candidate for expungement. Because evidence rules are followed, there are certain parties that must be properly served in order to be properly considered for expungement, and the county prosecutor’s office of department of child services attorney often object to these petitions, it is highly recommended to consult with an attorney experienced with juvenile expungement to guide you through the process.

In your consultation, be prepared to discuss anything that can help paint you in a positive light to help your attorney show the judge why you deserve the expungement. This can be anything from your most current report card, high school diploma, college acceptance letters, pay stubs, proof of rent payment, and explanation as to why you want the records expunged.

Finally, once your petition is granted, the court’s files, the files of law enforcement agencies, and the files of any other person who has provided services to a child under a court order, and records pertaining to the person’s involvement in juvenile court proceedings must be removed from their database and redacted of all personal identifying information. In the event your petition is denied, it is possible to petition the court again, assuming there is new evidence to present, for reconsideration.

As you can see the law may very well allow you to seal or expunge a prior indiscretion that may be tainting your otherwise squeaky clean record.  If you are interested in learning more about expunging or sealing your record, call the Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower today and they will help guide you through the process. Give us a call at 317-870-0019.