In Florida, Juvenile Criminal Records May Not Be Confidential
Teenagers who have been charged with a juvenile offense, such as a DUI or a drug charge, can benefit from the assistance of an experienced Florida juvenile defense attorney to navigate the juvenile justice system. For most juvenile offenses, rehabilitative options such as community service and diversion programs are available to help young individuals move past allegations of crime. Further, in many states, juvenile offenses are often expunged or kept confidential to help rehabilitated offenders move on in their lives.
Juvenile Records May Become Public
However, according to a recent report by the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, serious flaws in Florida’s juvenile justice system allow juvenile records to become public and prevent timely expungement of juvenile records. Although, by default, juvenile records are confidential, any felony offenses, or any three misdemeanor offenses, automatically result in the public disclosure of a juvenile offender’s records. Further, records of juvenile offenders with two or fewer misdemeanor offenses can be accessed by several state agencies and the superintendent of the child’s school. In fact, the child’s teacher will be actively notified if the child has been placed in a probation program. According to the report, no statutory consequences for unlawfully sharing confidential information were found. As a result of these loopholes, Florida scored lower than most states in regard to the confidentiality of juvenile records.
Florida received average scores in regard to the availability of full expungement of criminal records. Most Florida juvenile records are to be automatically expunged, either as soon as possible (for non-delinquent traffic offenses), at age 24 (for most juveniles) or at age 26 (for serious or habitual offenders). Sexual offenses and crimes where an offender was charged as an adult are not expunged. Further, disclosure of expunged records is a first-degree misdemeanor.
Despite the broad definition of what may be expunged, many juvenile records are still available after expungement. In many states, expungement of a juvenile’s criminal record can mean the full physical destruction of all relevant files. However, in Florida, “expunged” records must be retained, and may still be viewed under numerous exceptions, such as when the offender seeks employment with a criminal justice agency, during future criminal prosecutions, and when the offender applies to work with any agency that serves children, the disabled, or the elderly.
Further, the report revealed that, despite good policies in regard to expungement, it can take years longer than it should for records to be expunged. Although juvenile offenders can petition for the expungement of their records, Florida received 0 out of 10 points for its failure to notify juvenile offenders of the availability of early expungement. In that regard, a petition for expungement of records will be successful if the child has:
- Completed a diversion program, at a cost of $75;
- Obtained an official written statement from a state attorney that the diversion program has been completed, that the offense was non-violent, and that the minor was not charged with any other offense;
- Submitted an application for expungement signed by the child’s legal guardian, within six months of completion of the diversion program.
Reach Out to an Attorney for Help
If you or your child has been charged with a juvenile offense, an experienced Florida juvenile defense attorney can help you explore your options in regard to contesting guilt, finding a rehabilitative solution, seeking expungement of records, and ensuring confidentiality. For juvenile criminal advice, please contact the Florida Law Office of Julia Kefalinos, Attorney, P.A. today.