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Seal or Expunge Juvenile Arrest Records

Pursuant to Chapter 943 of the Florida Statutes, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is the official keeper of the criminal arrest records in the State of Florida. The juvenile defense attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm represent young people charged with criminal and juvenile offenses throughout the Tampa Bay area. In these cases, it is particularly important to make sure that the child's future educational and career opportunities are not hampered by an arrest or prosecution in juvenile court.

The information below is not legal advice. For specific legal advice you must contact an attorney to discuss the particular facts of your case. The general information provided below is for informational purposes only to help the juvenile or his parents understand potential issues.

If you wish to seal or expunge a juvenile record then contact an experienced attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. Call 813-250-0500 to discuss the case today.

Implications of Juvenile Arrest Records on Employment

The first question many parents have is whether their child will have to disclose the juvenile arrest or prosecution records when filing out a typical job application. The employer emphasizes the importance of not misrepresenting any information on the application. An employment application may ask, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony or crime of dishonest?"

For most juveniles, the case was resolved through a diversion program (which usually means that the charges were dropped) or after the child served a term of probation (which usually means that the court withheld any finding of deliquency). Clearly, in those cases, the child should answer the question "No" since the child has never been convicted of any felony.

When the Court adjudicated the child delinquent for an offense that would have been a felony if committed by an adult, the question is more difficult. Chapter 985 of the Florida Statutes provides that an "adjudication of delinquency" in a juvenile court proceeding is not considered a "conviction." However, in other contexts this distinction has been lost on an employer who concludes that the applicants failure to disclose the juvenile records is improper.

Some employers attempt to get around this problem by asking "Have you ever been arrested?" However, Florida Statute Section 985.101(4) provides that any child "taken into custody" for an alleged delinquent act is not technically "arrested." Although, employers may not recognize this fine distinction if they later find out about the juvenile records that "adjudicates as delinquent" the applicant for an offense that would have been a felony if committed by an adult.

Juvenile and other Criminal History Records from the FDLE

The FDLE's Criminal Justice Information program is Florida's central criminal justice information repository. CJIP receives fingerprints from individuals charged with or convicted of felonies and certain types of misdemeanors. For minors charged in juvenile court, Florida Statutes Section 943.051 requires fingerprints be submitted for all felony charges and many misdemeanor charges including the following:

  • any weapon charge;
  • any firearm charge;
  • petit theft or shoplifting;
  • battery;
  • assault; and
  • exposure of sexual organs.

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is required to provide the CJIP with any dispositions for juvenile charges that would be felonies and any of th listed misdemeanors pursuant to Florida Statute 943.052. In fact, CJIP may retain the juvenile arrest and prosecution records until the individual turns 26 or 24 years old depending on the seriousness of the charges according to Florida Statute 943.0515.

So for any juvenile that was fingerprinted while in custody, then FDLE will have a record of the arrest. Because criminal histories are "public" then the FDLE may be required to provide that information to any individual requesting the information including prospective employers.

Obtaining a Juvenile Records under Florida Statute Section 943.053(3)

"(a) Criminal history information, including information relating to minors... shall be available on a priority basis to criminal justice agencies for criminal justice purposes free of charge. After providing the [CJIP] with all known identifying information, persons in the private sector and noncriminal justice agencies may be provided criminal history information upon tender of fees as established by this subsection and in the manner prescribed by the rule of the Department of Law Enforcement [FDLE]....

(b) The fee per record from criminal history information provided pursuant to this section is $23 per name submitted, except that the fee for vendors of [DCF, DJJ and DEA] shall be $8 for each name submitted. See Rule 11C-6.004, F.A.C.

Role of Law Enforcement in Releasing Florida Juvenile Records

Under Florida Statute Section 985.04(3), a law enforcement agency may release a copy of the juvenile offense report to the victim of the offense. Likewise, when a child or juvenile is taken into custody for a felony offense or a crime of violence, the arresting law enforcement agency must notify the superintendent of the alleged offender's school. Florida Statute Section 985.04(4).

Expunction or Sealing Juvenile Records under Florida Law

When a parent finds out that that there is a way for the public to inspect a juvenile record, the next question is whether Florida law provides any relief that would prevent the public disclosure of a juvenile record. Fortunately, there are several methods of protecting a juvenile records from being released to the public, including the petition to seal or expunge the juvenile record.

As a preliminary matter, sealing and expunction of a juvenile record is not ordinarily available to any individual who was adjudicated delinquent for any juvenile charge.

Juvenile Court Ordered Expunction

"Expunction" is defined under Florida law as the court-ordered physical obliteration or destruction of a record or any portion of the record by a criminal justice agency having custody of that record. See Florida Statute Section 943.045(13). Of course, FDLE must retain the record as confidential and exempt from Chapter 119 disclosure.

A criminal justice agency such as DJJ is permitted to retain a notation indicating compliance with an expunction order. Likewise, FDLE is also authorized to disclose the existence of the record to criminal justice agencies for criminal justice purposes and to the listed entities such as the Florida Bar or the Department of Education for certain licensing and employment decisions under Florida Statute Section 943.0585(4).

Juvenile Court Ordered Sealing

"Sealing" is defined under Florida law as the "preservation of a record under such circumstances that it is secure and inaccessible to any person not having a legal right of access." See Florida Statute 943.045(14). Furthermore, sealing is usually available only for those juveniles who received a "withhold" from any adjudication of delinquency while expunction is available for juveniles who were not brought to trial under one of the following circumstances:

  1. a petition to formally file the charges were never filed by the State Attorney's Office;
  2. the charges were filed in a petition but then dropped by the State Attorney's Office prior to trial; or
  3. the court dismissed the charges during pre-trial hearings.

When sealed, a criminal history records is considered confidential and is not subject to public record disclosure under Florida Statute Chapter 119. Such a juvenile record can only be made available to:

  1. the person who is subject of the record;
  2. to criminal justice agencies "for their respective criminal justice purposes";
  3. to listed entities who are authorized to consider the sealed record in making licensing determinations under Florida Statute Section 943.059(4) (such as the Florida Bar or the Department of Education, for example).

Definitions

  • "Criminal history record" is defined to include any nonjudicial record maintained by a criminal justice agency containing criminal history information, including notations or descriptions of detentions, arrests, formal criminal charges, or the ultimate disposition of such charges. See Florida Statute Section 943.045(4).
  • "Record" is defined to include all microfilm, writings, documents, computer memory or any other forms in which facts are memorialized, regardless of whether such records are a public record, admissible record, official record, or merely a copy thereof. See Florida Statute Section 943.045(7).

Types of Juvenile Expunctions - The Automatic Expunction

One type of expunction of juvenile records in Florida occurs naturally with the passage of time which requires no effort on the parent or young person's part. The criminal history records of juveniles are retained by the FDLE's Criminal Justice Information Program until a young person turns 24 years old, if the young person was not classified as a "serious habitual offender" or committed to juvenile prison or a juvenile correctional facility.

If the juvenile was a serious habitual offender or committed to a juvenile prison or correctional facility, then the record is retained until the youth turns 26 years old. See Florida Statute Section 943.0515. The following types of juvenile offenses will not be automatically expunged under this provision:

  • certain types of lewd and lascivious acts; or
  • sexual battery.

Likewise, if the juvenile is subsequently convicted for a forcible felony after becoming an adult then the juvenile records will not be automatically expunged.

Non-judicial Juvenile Expunctions under Florida Law

Florida law recognizes two forms of nonjudicial expunctions:

  1. The administrative expunction; and
  2. The prearrest or post arrest diversion program expunction.

The non-judicial expunction is accomplished by the FDLE without resorting to any court filing or proceeding and covers only nonjudicial records of arrest which does not include court records related to the prosecution of the juvenile offense.

These administrative expunctions are intended to provide a simple method of removing records that were made contrary to the law or by mistake. An application by law enforcement may be made directly to the FDLE through a procedure set out in Florida Statute Section 943.0581 and in the Florida Administrative Code rule 11C-7.008.

Pre-arrest or Post-arrest Diversion Program Expunction under Florida Law

The pre-arrest or post-arrest diversion program expunction is available only one time after completion of a diversion program for a nonviolent misdemeanor pursuant to Florida Statute Section 943.0582. Not all diversion programs are subject to this provision and the youth must have successfully completed one of the diversion programs described in section 943.0582 and in Florida Administrative Code Rule 11C-7.009.

Under Florida Statute 943.0582(2)(a)1, once expunged under this section, the criminal history record may only be made available to criminal justice agencies for one of the following purposes:

  1. determining eligibility for a subsequent pre-arrest or post-arrest diversion program
  2. when the record is requested as part of a criminal investigation, or
  3. when the individual seeks employment with a criminal justice agency.

Conclusion

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm represent juveniles charged with offenses throughout the Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Hernando County, Polk County, and Manatee County, Florida. Call us today at 813-250-0500 to discuss your case.