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Sealing of Juvenile Arrests, Convictions and Records

Juvenile records relating to the juvenile’s arrest and disposition in New York are kept separate from adult records and are not accessible to the public, with certain limited exceptions. Juvenile records are not available online in any way. This benefit afforded juveniles and children in New York is something you should discuss in greater detail with your Family Court attorney or juvenile crime defense lawyer. After all, a college or employer will likely care very little about the technicalities of whether a young person was found to be a" juvenile delinquent" or "convicted of a crime" in the event this information becomes publicly available. Such a person's primary concern will be what the underling allegations were and what, in their eyes, “crime” the young person “committed.” For this reason, the privacy, sealing and potential destruction of juvenile delinquency records in New York is a critical issue if the goals of establishing this parallel system of justice are to be realized.

Understanding Juvenile Sealing Procedure and Process

The rules and laws regarding the sealing and destruction of juvenile justice files in Family Court are numerous, often overlapping, and complex. Whether a child is accused of being a juvenile delinquent in Rockland County, Westchester County, or New York City, if a delinquency proceeding ends in favor of the child, the record will be sealed automatically, unless within eight days any party or the court on its own motion demonstrates that it would be against the interests of justice. This is the goal for the child in any delinquency proceeding that makes its way to trial. Automatic sealing is, of course, fundamentally fair and essential in this situation, and if another party or the court seeks to have the file remain unsealed in the interest of justice, a strong opposition to such a motion is essential.

If, on the other hand, a child is found guilty and adjudicated a juvenile delinquent, the record will not be automatically sealed as with a dismissal or an acquittal after trial. However, with only a few exceptions, the Family Court can still seal the record of the juvenile delinquency proceeding upon the written motion of the child, typically by his or her attorney, once the child has turned 16 years of age. Notice of the motion must be sent to “the presentment agency” at least eight days before the return date of the motion, and answering affidavits are served at least two days before. This requirement is to ensure that the agency responsible for the prosecution, such as the County Attorney's Office in Rockland or Westchester, or the Corporation Counsel in New York City including Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, has an opportunity to review the motion and oppose it if they feel an opposition is warranted. If the motion to seal the record even after a conviction is granted, and once the record is sealed, it may still be made available only to the child, or his or her designated agent. In addition, the records and papers of the probation department relating to the juvenile justice case may still be used by any probation department for adjustment of cases, but the probation department may not use the records for the purpose of preparing an investigation or report.

Juvenile Sealing: Complete or Partial

One major concern is that police records are not covered by these statutes and laws relating to the sealing and expunging of court records. Family Court has the authority to expunge its own records, but does not generally have the authority to expunge police records. However, at least one court decision has established some authority of the Family Court to order police records of a meritless arrest destroyed. This is a high bar to meet, given that a police officer needs only probable cause for an arrest to be "merited," and the child need not have been guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or even by a preponderance of the evidence. That said, “expungement” is certainly available for fingerprints, palmprints and photographs, if a person was adjudicated a juvenile delinquent for a felony is presently at least 21 years old and has no subsequent criminal convictions. Again, should a case in a New York Family Court resolve itself favorably to the benefit of the youth or juvenile, your Family Court attorney can pursue these post disposition or resolution remedies and benefits.

When a child or youth is accused of a crime, their entire future is at risk. Be smart, prepared and diligent in your effort to protect him or her from a damaged life or even incarceration. Because an alleged mistake a child makes today should not define him or her forever, contact the New York criminal lawyers, juvenile delinquency and youthful offender attorneys, and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC to put your child’s interests, rights and future first.

Call the Former Manhattan Prosecutors and Juvenile Defense Lawyers at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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