Your minor child’s juvenile court case is strictly confidential. Confidentiality is one of the main ways that the juvenile court system protects the children and promotes rehabilitation. It is far easier to address problem behaviors in confidence without being in the public spotlight.
Future employers, colleges, and the general public will not learn about your child’s juvenile case. If your child is arrested by the police for a juvenile offense, their arrest record will not be made public. Their name will not be published in the local newspaper. The fact that they even have a juvenile case will not be disclosed to anyone.
Disclosure of Information
Juvenile courts are protective environments focused on the behaviors of minor children and the necessary care and treatment needed for rehabilitation. Records of juvenile courts are kept confidential. There is no general public right of access to juvenile courts or juvenile court records. Disclosure of information about a juvenile case is limited to those directly involved in the case – like parents, lawyers, and juvenile court officials. Redisclosure of information about a juvenile case is prohibited absent a direct court order. This means that no one involved in the juvenile court case can talk about it to anyone not involved under penalty of law.
The protected information includes:
- The file of the juvenile court clerk.
- Records kept by court officials, such as juvenile probation officers.
- Outpatient providers and state agencies contracted by the juvenile court to provide evaluations and services to juveniles and their families.
- Police records, including fingerprints, photographs, and physical descriptions.
- Medical, educational, and social worker records and reports relating to a case.
Erasure of Information
At the end of your minor child’s juvenile offender case, it might be possible to permanently erase your child’s case from the juvenile court system. You might want to consider this, because even though the case will never be public knowledge, law enforcement and the court system will likely know your child’s juvenile offense history. When a juvenile case is “erased” from the system, it is like it never occurred. There are several steps involved.
First, if your child’s delinquency case ended without a formal adjudication or because of a “nolle” (decision not to prosecute) by a juvenile prosecutor, erasure takes effect by operation of law. In cases without any formal adjudication, the erasure should take place immediately when the case is closed. In the case of a nolle, the erasure takes effect after thirteen months have passed.
If your child’s juvenile delinquency case resolved through formal adjudication (a juvenile offender plea), or your child was involved in a Families With Service Needs matter, then you must petition for an erasure. You can do so provided the following is met:
- Your child must be discharged from supervision.
- At least two years has passed since the discharge (or four years in the case of a serious offense).
- No subsequent juvenile cases.
- Your child must be an adult over 18 years old to file the petition.