THE MYTH OF THE MAGICAL EXPUNCTION FAIRY AND
THE AVENUE TO EXPUNGING JUVENILE CASES
Facing and resolving a juvenile offense is a difficult task with far-reaching consequences. If this is the first offense, it is important to know that there may be options that address any immediate issues the child may have and opportunities to make sure an isolated incident does not negatively impact their future. A juvenile record can cause problems when completing college applications, Bright Futures applications, Federal Student Aid, and job applications. Where possible, the resolution of a juvenile charge that will allow the record to be expunged should be pursued.
THE MYTH OF CONFIDENTIAL JUVENILE RECORDS
Many people believe that once they turn eighteen years old their juvenile record is automatically destroyed. This is a common misconception. There is no magical expunction fairy that visits the courthouse on your 18th birthday and wipes out your record. Some juvenile records are required by statute to be maintained until the juvenile turns 26 years of age. Additionally, if a person is arrested again before they turn 24 years old, their juvenile record may be used against them in the new case unless it has been destroyed. Florida Statute 943.0515.
Another common misconception is that all juvenile records are confidential. By Statute, juvenile records are confidential; however, there are a number of exceptions. Under Florida law, the following records are not confidential-
If a juvenile offense is a felony;
If there are three or more misdemeanors; or
If the charge is transferred to the adult system.
Additionally, a law enforcement agency may release a copy of the offense report to the victim of the offense and other entities such as authorized personnel of the Court, The Department of Corrections, The Parole Commission, Law Enforcement Agents, School Superintendents and any licensed professional or licensed community agency representative participating in the assessment or treatment of a juvenile.
Florida Statutes make clear that juvenile records are much more public than people have come to believe. As such, the importance of resolving and expunging these records is more important than expected. One method of resolving a juvenile case that enables it to be expunged is Juvenile Diversion.
THE IMPORTANCE OF JUVENILE DIVERSION PROGRAMS
Juvenile Diversion programs give juveniles who are new to the criminal justice system or who commit non-violent offenses an opportunity to get their life in order before heading down a road that can cause them significant problems in adulthood. Juveniles who are referred to a Diversion Program and successfully complete it, either have adjudication of the offense withheld or may earn a complete dismissal of the charges.
There are a wide variety of diversion programs available to the first-time juvenile offender, such as Drug, Alcohol & Tobacco Awareness, Gang Awareness and Prevention, To Catch A Thief, Maximum Security Jail Tour, and Drop Out Prevention. In addition, STOP, Service, and Treatment for Offender Prevention is geared towards repeat misdemeanor offenders and some third-degree felony offenders. The goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate, and these programs are specifically designed to that end.
In short, Juvenile Diversion Programs are well thought-out, appropriately implemented programs that help direct a juvenile offender down a path that leads away from a life of crime towards a life of fulfillment by providing the juvenile offender with the skills necessary to make more appropriate decisions in life. Most importantly, Diversion Programs allow a juvenile to expunge the charge once completed.
THE AVENUE TO EXPUNGING JUVENILE CASES
Expunging a juvenile record under Florida Statute 943.0582, is similar to the adult process. However, there are a few important differences. There is a unique Application form. It is also important to note that the Application to expunge juvenile cases must be submitted within six (6) months of completion of a Diversion Program. Additionally, a juvenile case that has been expunged does not count as a prior expunction if you later have an adult arrest you want to be sealed or expunged. The expunction process is lengthy. As such, it is a good idea to hire an experienced attorney to prepare and shepherd the application through the process. Hiring knowledgeable counsel ensures all forms are completed correctly, submitted to the correct agencies, and processed without delay.
Given the open nature of public records in today’s digital world, expunging juvenile records is more important than ever. An isolated juvenile event should not haunt a person throughout their life, and Florida law provides relief for a first-time offender who successfully completes a Diversion Program. When addressing a juvenile arrest, it is important to evaluate the immediate needs of the client and keep an eye on the long-term consequences of any resolution. To that end, Juvenile Diversion Programs offer the necessary resources to help children with the particular issue they are faced with while providing the ability to keep their future open.
Bruce Denson is a criminal defense attorney who handles adult and juvenile cases. His website, www.therecordsealer.com, is designed to be a user-friendly solution for determining whether a person’s record can be sealed or expunged.
To learn more on the topic, check out our blog on 12 things that every civil lawyer should know about expunging.
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