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Juveniled Justice System Structure & Process
Organization & Administration of Delinquency Services
Q: How do states vary in the circumstances under which juvenile records can be unsealed?
A: While states differ greatly in their processes for unsealing juvenile court records, most states have procedures that provide for the unsealing of juvenile court records after the commission of a specified offense or by court order.

Unsealing of juvenile court records, 2012
(Click on the state name for additional information)

State Subsequent
Offense
Specified
Offense
Court order Other No Procedure
to Unseal

Number of states 13 32 27 8 2

Alabama X
Alaska X
Arizona X

Arkansas X X
California X X
Colorado X X

Connecticut X
Delaware X X
District of Columbia X X

Florida X
Georgia X
Hawaii X

Idaho X X
Illinois X X
Indiana X

Iowa X X
Kansas X X X
Kentucky X

Louisiana X X
Maine X X
Maryland X X

Massachusetts X
Michigan X X
Minnesota X X

Mississippi X
Missouri X X
Montana X X

Nebraska X X
Nevada X X X
New Hampshire X

New Jersey X X X
New Mexico X X
New York X X

North Carolina X X
North Dakota X
Ohio X

Oklahoma X X
Oregon X
Pennsylvania X

Rhode Island*
South Carolina X
South Dakota X X

Tennessee X
Texas X X
Utah X

Vermont X X
Virginia X X
Washington X X

West Virginia X X
Wisconsin X
Wyoming X

  • Typically, juvenile court records, except those for serious and/or violent offenses, are sealed. This means that they are not accessible to the general public. Records can also be expunged (deemed to have never existed) or actually destroyed. Rhode Island is the only state that does not have procedures that provide for the sealing, expungement, or destruction of juvenile court records.
  • While most states have procedures for sealing juvenile records, the process may not be permanent. Certain circumstances, such as a specified offense or a court order, provide for the unsealing of court records. A few states allow for sealed records to be viewed by specified persons or for specified reasons.
  • In Arizona, records can be kept for research purposes.
  • In Hawaii, juvenile records can be expunged only if no charges were filed or the juvenile was not referred to court.
  • In Illinois, certain parties can gain access to sealed records pursuant to their official duties, including judges, probation officers, attorneys, and law enforcement.
  • In Indiana, the destroyed records are given to the person to whom the records pertain.
  • In Kansas, sealed records are still available for a litany of reasons such as employment and background checks.
  • In Minnesota, sealed records are still available for a background check and an agency may petition to keep records open for public safety purposes.
  • In Nebraska, sealed records can be inspected for a number of reasons including parental support and sentencing investigations.
  • In Nevada, sealed records can be inspected upon petition by the person who the records concern, by an agency or by a district attorney; records pertaining to a juvenile sex offender can not be sealed.

Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/structure_process/qa04211.asp?qaDate=2012. Released on September 24, 2013.

Developed for the State Training and Technical Assistance Center by the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ), with funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The following NCJJ staff contributed to this state profile: Sean Addie, Teri Deal, Anne Fromknecht, Hunter Hurst, Anne Rackow, Crystal Robson, Lauren Vessels, and Andrew Wachter.

 

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