Juvenile Records Adult Expungement Sealing

Florida Sealing and Expungement Eligibility: Do Juvenile Records Matter?

How Juvenile Records Impact Eligibility for Expungement

Juvenile criminal records often raise complicated legal questions about their impact on eligibility for adult record sealing or expungement. Many worry that a juvenile record might hinder their future, particularly when it comes to clearing their adult criminal record. It’s crucial to understand how juvenile records are treated under Florida law to dispel some common myths and provide clear guidance.

Understanding Florida Juvenile Delinquency

First, it’s crucial to clarify a common misconception: there are no juvenile “convictions” in Florida. Instead, juveniles are “adjudicated delinquent.” This might sound complicated, but the distinction is significant. Unlike adults who are “convicted” of a crime, a juvenile’s “adjudication of delinquency” is not considered a criminal conviction under Florida law. § 985.35(6), Fla. Stat. (2023).

Despite this clear distinction, juvenile adjudications and adult convictions can sometimes be treated similarly in practice, which can lead to confusion. It’s important to understand that the primary goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation, not punishment. This is in stark contrast to the adult justice system, which aims to punish offenders. By focusing on rehabilitation, the juvenile system seeks to ensure that young offenders are given the opportunity to reform without the lasting consequences of a criminal record.

Relevant Florida Statutes

There are several sections codified in Florida Statutes, that address the matter of how juvenile records affect an applicant’s eligibility to expunge or seal an adult record.

  • Section 943.0585: This section sets forth the expungement process.
  • Section 943.059: This section sets forth the sealing process.
  • Section 943.0584: This section outlines certain criminal offenses that cannot be sealed or expunged.
  • Section 943.0515: This section details the collection of juvenile records and automatic expungement.

Eligibility for Adult Expungement or Sealing

Under section 943.0585, Florida Statutes, a criminal record can be expunged if (and only if) the charges were dropped, dismissed, abandoned, or the defendant was found “not guilty,” or acquitted.

If the charges were not dropped, dismissed, or abandoned but instead adjudication was withheld, then the record may qualify for sealing instead of expungement. The process of court-ordered sealing, as outlined under section 943.059, is similar to expungement but includes some distinctions. To determine eligibility for a sealing, we need to take an additional step. Section 943.0584 lays out a list of offenses that cannot be sealed, even if adjudication was withheld. The list can be found on our Florida expungement and sealing page.

Juvenile Records And Adult Expungement and Sealing

Where the Confusion Lies

Understanding the eligibility for adult expungement or sealing involves navigating several legal nuances, particularly around past convictions or adjudications. Pursuant to section 943.0585(1)(d), for expungement, and section 943.059(1)(b), for sealing, a petitioner must not have been previously convicted of a criminal offense or adjudicated delinquent for any felony or specific misdemeanors. This is where the confusion starts.

On its face, the law appears to say that if you have been adjudicated delinquent as a minor for any felony, or for certain misdemeanors, then you are ineligible for sealing or expungement. But let’s take a closer look at the statutory language:

The person has never, as of the date the application for a certificate of expunction is filed, been adjudicated guilty in this state of a criminal offense or been adjudicated delinquent in this state for committing any felony or any of the following misdemeanors, unless the record of such adjudication of delinquency has been expunged pursuant to s. 943.0515.

§ 943.0585(1)(d), Fla. Stat. (2023) (for expungement); § 943.059(1)(b), Fla. Stat. (2023) (for sealing).

In the last sentence, there is an exception. The statute tells us that one cannot have a record expunged (or sealed) if they have an adjudication of delinquency for any felony or certain misdemeanors, unless the juvenile offense has been automatically expunged pursuant to Florida Statutes, section 943.0515. So, let’s assume that you do have a juvenile record. In fact, you were adjudicated delinquent for committing a felony. This doesn’t mean you are disqualified if that offense was automatically expunged under section 943.0515. This brings us to our next question. what exactly is automatic expungement?

Automatic Expungment of Florida Juvenile Records

Section 943.0515, Florida Statutes, lays out the mechanism for how juvenile records are automatically expunged in Florida. To summarize, a juvenile record will be automatically expunged at the age of 21. § 943.0515, Fla. Stat. (2023). Or, if you were classified as a “serious habitual juvenile offender,” or you were sentenced to serve time in a juvenile corrections facility, it will be automatically expunged at the age of 26. Id. There are, however, some exceptions to this general rule.

Exceptions to Automatic Expungement of Juvenile Records

  • If a person 18 years of age or older is charged with or convicted of a forcible felony and the person’s criminal history record as a minor has not yet been destroyed, there will be no automatic expungement.
  • If, at any time, a minor is adjudicated as an adult for a forcible felony, there will be no future automatic expungement.
  • If as a minor, you are adjudicated delinquent for committing a crime that would require you to register as a sex offender, there will be no automatic expungement.

What is a forcible felony under Florida law?

Section 776.08, Florida Statutes, defines “forcible felony” as “treason, murder, manslaughter, sexual battery, carjacking, home-invasion robbery, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, aggravated stalking, aircraft piracy, unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb, and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.” § 776.08, Fla. Stat. (2022).

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a juvenile record prevent me from expunging or sealing my adult criminal record?

Not usually. In Florida, juvenile records are not treated as criminal convictions, and most are automatically expunged by age 21 or 26, depending on certain factors. If your juvenile record was automatically expunged under section 943.0515, Fla. Stat., it will not prevent you from seeking expungement or sealing of your adult record.

What is automatic expungement of juvenile records?

Automatic expungement refers to the process where juvenile records are expunged automatically when an individual reaches age 21, or age 26 if they were classified as a serious habitual offender or incarcerated in a juvenile facility. Exceptions include charges or convictions for forcible felonies as an adult before the record is expunged, or being adjudicated as an adult for such offenses.

What offenses prevent automatic expungement of juvenile records?

Juvenile records won’t be automatically expunged if the individual was charged with or convicted of a forcible felony after turning 18 but before the record could be expunged, or if adjudicated as an adult for a forcible felony. Additionally, juvenile offenses that require sex offender registration do not qualify for automatic expungement.

What is considered a forcible felony in Florida?

Forcible felonies in Florida include offenses such as treason, murder, manslaughter, sexual battery, carjacking, home-invasion robbery, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and other felonies involving physical force or violence.

Was my juvenile record automatically expunged?

You may contact the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) or consult with a qualified attorney who can help determine the status of your juvenile record and guide you on how to proceed with an adult record expungement or sealing.

Some Final Thoughts

In summation, possessing a juvenile adjudication of delinquency on your record does not necessarily prevent you from expunging or sealing your adult record, provided that the juvenile record was automatically expunged. Most juvenile records are automatically expunged by the age of 26—earlier at 21 for most cases—unless specific exceptions apply. These exceptions include being charged with or convicted of a forcible felony after turning 18 but before the automatic expungement, or being adjudicated delinquent for a sexual offense requiring sex offender registration. This means that most people with juvenile criminal records will be eligible. Which is good news!

The Law Office of William B. Wynne provides expungement and sealing services throughout the entire state of Florida. If you would like to expunge or seal your criminal record, contact us today for a free consultation.

William Wynne, Esq.

William Wynne, Esq.

Attorney William B. Wynne practices criminal defense in the Tampa Bay area and surrounding counties. Contact us for a free consultation.

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  1. So glad to see you writing again Deb. I will look forward to reading your blogs again. Love you. Stacey Hurleigh Winwaloe

  2. I have a juvenile delinquency adjudication criminal history record on my FDLE background check…. When I was 16, I got adjudicated in Brevard County Florida for 2 felonies, but never got deemed to be a habitual youthful offender or sentenced to a juvenile prison, etc. On my adult record, I have 1 misdemeanor, never even been charged or arrested for a felony as an adult, and my misdemeanor was back in 2001…. Both the Juvenile felonies are showing up with the one Misdemeanor, it caused me to be denied on a firearm purchase, I’m now 40 years old! This happened when I was 16 in 1999! Why didn’t these felonies automatically get removed at 21 or 26 for me?? Any ideas??