And such records can impinge upon a youth’s efforts to get into college or to land that coveted first job in his or her chosen field. While juvenile court records may not be easily accessible, arrest records, unless restricted, are of public record and can often be easily reviewed by anyone who surfs the internet and looks through the right database. For example, you can go to the Fulton County Jail’s record database–justice.fultoncountyga.gov–and type in a name and locate arrest records.
Fortunately, Georgia law allows juveniles who have been adjudicated as delinquent to petition the court to seal the records, and a judge will generally seal the file and records if certain requirements are met. The first and most important requirement that needs to be met is that two years must have passed since the date of final disposition of the case. Once that requirement is met, the court will consider the following factors in determining whether to seal the records:
–that the person has not been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude;
–that the person has not been found to be a delinquent or unruly child in a new juvenile court case;
–that there is no proceeding or pending charges against the person in either adult or juvenile court;
–that the person has been rehabilitated.
The motion to seal the record must show how the youth has met all of the above requirements, and the motion must be provided to relevant parties, such as the original prosecuting attorney, Department of Juvenile Justice, and officer and/or department within law enforcement who has custody of the youth’s files and records.
After the motion has been filed, the court will conduct a hearing to determine if the requirements have been met and whether the motion to seal the records should be granted. When the motion is granted, the public can no longer access or inspect the records. Similar to adult records that have been restricted, the records can still be accessed by law enforcement officials.
Record restriction is also available for youthful offender convictions that occurred before the individual turned 21. This category of record sealing deals with cases that were handled in adult, not juvenile, court, and only applies to certain misdemeanor charges.
To qualify, one must have successfully completed the terms of the sentence and in the five years before requesting restriction, cannot have been charged with any other offences beyond minor traffic violations. Certain misdemeanor convictions are not eligible for restriction, such as driving under the influence or reckless/aggressive driving, as well as a wide number of sexually related crimes.
In sum, the process for record restriction for juveniles can be different depending on the final disposition of the case, and depending on the court system in which the case was handled.
For more information about record restriction for adults, please see my Jan. 8, 2014 blog: “Expungement in Georgia: What Is It?”