Juvenile Records Adult Expungement Sealing

Florida Sealing and Expungement Eligibility: Do Juvenile Records Matter?

Will My Juvenile Record Disqualify Me from Getting My Record Expunged?

A complicated area of law that comes up from time to time, deals with juvenile criminal records, and how they impact eligibility for adult sealing or expungement. I’ve been contacted by clients before, frustrated from calling different lawyers and getting the run-around. There are a few reasons for some common misunderstandings in this area of practice.

For starters let’s dispel a common misconception: there are no juvenile convictions. Instead, there is “adjudication of delinquency.” I know, I’m using ten-dollar words, but bear with me. To put it simply, an adult is “convicted” of a crime; a juvenile is “adjudicated delinquent” for committing a crime. Under Florida law, a juvenile adjudication is not a criminal conviction. § 985.35(6), Fla. Stat. (2022).

Although—I hate to say it—they are sometimes treated the same. One way to understand this distinction is to understand the goals of these two systems. In general, the juvenile justice system seeks to rehabilitate young offenders, while the adult justice system seeks to punish. It therefore follows that the juvenile system does not wish to burden young offenders with all the attending consequences of a permanent criminal conviction.

First, let’s take a look at the Florida Statutes.

There are several sections codified in Florida Statutes, that can guide us in assessing how prior juvenile convictions might 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.

Can the Record Be Expunged or Sealed?

Remember, under section 943.0585, Florida Statutes, we can expunge a criminal record if (and only if) we can clear a few hurdles. First, the charges must have been dropped, dismissed, abandoned, or the defendant was found “not guilty,” or acquitted.

If instead you had adjudication withheld, then you are looking at a court-ordered sealing, not an expungement. A court-ordered sealing—under Florida Statutes, section 943.059—is very similar to a court-ordered expungement with just a few tiny nuances. But remember, to determine eligibility for a sealing, we need to take an additional step. Section 943.0584, Florida Statutes, 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. So, if the record you are seeking to seal is not on this list, you are okay.

Juvenile Records And Adult Expungement And Sealing

Where the Confusion Lies

Next, we must determine that we have not been previously convicted as an adult for any criminal offense in Florida, or adjudicated delinquent as a minor for a felony, or for certain listed misdemeanors. This section is where the confusion starts. On its face, it appears to say that if you have been adjudicated delinquent as a minor for any felony, or for certain misdemeanors, then you are ineligible. But let’s take a closer look. Florida Statutes, section 943.0585(1)(d) says as follows:

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. (2022).

In the last sentence, there is an exception. The statute tells us that one cannot have a record expunged 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 us assume (for the purpose of this article) that you did 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 Florida Statutes, section 943.0515. This brings us to our next question. What exactly is automatic expungement?

Automatic Expungement

Section 943.0515, Florida Statutes, lays out the mechanism for how juvenile records are automatically expunged in Florida. To summarize, your juvenile record will be automatically expunged at the age of 21. § 943.0515, Fla. Stat. (2022). Or, if you were classified as a serious or 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:

  • 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.
  • Finally, 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.

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).

In summation, you can have a juvenile adjudication of delinquency on your record, and still qualify to expunge your adult record, as long as the juvenile record was automatically expunged.


In summation, you can have a juvenile adjudication of delinquency on your record, and still qualify to expunge your adult record, as long as the juvenile record was automatically expunged. And remember, all juvenile records will be automatically expunged by the age of 26 (most at the age of 21) as long as you didn’t get charged with or convicted of a forcible felony after you turned 18 but before the automatic expungement occurred or weren’t convicted as a minor of an adult forceable felony, or adjudicated delinquent for a sexual offense requiring sex offender registration. This means that most people with juvenile adjudications 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
William Wynne

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. 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??

    • Matt, it sounds like this might require a little bit of investigation to figure out what is going on. I’ll reach out to you via the email you provided.

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