We all make mistakes, and the physical and psychological development of teens and younger people means that many of us will take actions and make decisions under the mistaken impression that they seem like a good idea at the time. This assumption, however, can often turn out to be wrong.
The good news is that a juvenile office does not have to blight your entire future; there are options available which allow you to enjoy a clean slate. Expungement is a process that will enable you to virtually eliminate your record and move forward with a fresh start.
What Is an Expungement?
In short, an expungement allows you to act as though your offenses never existed. Records are either sealed or destroyed, and this means that landlords, employers, and licensing agencies will never know you were arrested or adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile.
There are some situations that will require your records to be exposed and unsealed, but these revolve primarily around later offenses.
Will I Qualify for Expungement?
There are a few requirements which will need to be met before you will qualify for expungement, and these include:
- Age – you will need to reach adult age to be eligible for expungement – in Massachusetts, this is 18.
- When you committed the offense – a minimum of three years must have elapsed since the termination of any court disposition, including court supervision, probation, commitment, or parole.
- Any other offenses – if there are any other delinquency cases, juvenile adjudications, or convictions pending against you, or these have been committed within the last three years, you will not be able to apply for an expungement.
- Nature of the offense – serious juvenile crimes are considered those who would be deemed felonies if committed by an adult. Cases of this nature will not be eligible for expungement.
How Can I Expunge My Juvenile Records?
If you are eligible, the process of expungement in Massachusetts is relatively straightforward. The party in question will need to fill out a ‘Petition to Seal’ form – this is the same type as the one used in adult cases. The main difference is that you will need to tick box number 1 to indicate that the relevant record applies to juvenile cases instead of adults. This is then filed with the court, and, if successful, your expungement will be granted.
Do I Have to Get an Expungement?
While an expungement or sealing of the records is a popular option for starting afresh, it is essential to note that even when open, juvenile records are treated very differently to adult criminal records, with higher protection levels.
Even if your records are not sealed or expunged, you will still be entitled to answer ‘no record’ regarding any juvenile case which was not transferred to the Superior Court for prosecution. Also, the Commissioner of Probation will also answer ‘no record’ when asked about your record for most employers. However, if they are approached for information by the courts, police, or other relevant authorities – e.g., a child’s summer camp employer – they must disclose any offenses unless your record has been sealed.