If Juvenile Records are Sealed, Why Do I Need an Expungement?

If you have a juvenile criminal record, you may believe that your past is firmly behind you. After all, the Oklahoma Juvenile Code requires confidentiality of juvenile records. However, there are some juvenile records that are not sealed, and even if your record is sealed, there are certain circumstances under which the record could be obtained with a court order. There are even specific individuals and agencies who can access juvenile records without a court order.

If record of a crime committed when you were younger is keeping you out of college, preventing you from getting financial aid, or showing up on employment background checks, you may be eligible to have your juvenile record expunged under certain circumstances.

First, let's look at the difference between being adjudicated delinquent and being convicted as a youthful offender or as an adult.

Most children and teens under 18 who commit minor offenses are adjudicated delinquent in juvenile court. When this happens, the minor is given probation or held in a juvenile detention facility and released prior to his or her 18th birthday. A delinquent adjudication is not considered a conviction, and therefore, if a college or employment application asks if the applicant has ever been convicted of a felony, the person can truthfully answer, "No."

However, just because a crime is committed before a person turns 18 does not mean that the will be offense will be treated as a juvenile delinquency. If a minor over the age of 13 commits certain violent felonies, he or she may be certified as a youthful offender. Youthful offender status serves as sort of a middle ground between juvenile delinquency and adult punishment, when the penalties for being adjudicated delinquent are too light for serious offenses, but the adult punishment would be inappropriate for a minor.

  • Age 13 or 14: Murder
  • Age 15, 16, or 17: Second degree murder, attempted murder, first degree manslaughter, kidnapping, armed robbery, first degree robbery, first degree rape, rape by instrumentation, lewd molestation, forcible sodomy
  • Age 16 or 17: first degree burglary or attempted, assault of a state employee while in custody or supervision of the Office of Juvenile Affairs, aggravated assault of a police officer, intimidating a witness, drug trafficking, assault with a deadly weapon, maiming, second or subsequent offense of residential burglary, second degree rape, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony

Minors aged 13 or 14 who are charged with first degree murder may be charged as either an adult or a youthful offender. Minors aged 15 to 17 who are charged with first degree murder will be charged as adults.

The American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section also lists four circumstances under which juvenile records are not protected by confidentiality:

"Exceptions to this rule are court records and law enforcement records pertaining to the following: (1) charging or certification of a youth as an adult or youthful offender; (2) a violation of a traffic or motor vehicle ordinance; (3) a juvenile who is fourteen or older, has one delinquent adjudication, and has a subsequent delinquent charge; (4) a juvenile arrested for an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult; (5) a violation of the Access to Tobacco Act; (6) a juvenile who is accepted for placement in a facility within Oklahoma following an out-of-state adjudication that would have qualified the juvenile as a youthful offender had the crime occurred in this state."  

Juvenile record expungement is explained in 10A O.S. § 2-6-109 of the Oklahoma Children and Juvenile Code. Under this statute, juvenile records may be expunged if four specific criteria are met:

  1. The person has attained twenty-one (21) years of age or older;
  2. The person has not been arrested for any adult criminal offense and no charge, indictment, or information has been filed or is pending against the person at the time of the petition for an expungement;
  3. The person has not been subject to any deferred prosecution or deferred sentence, and has not been convicted of any criminal offense; and
  4. All court costs, restitution, fines and other court-ordered requirements have been completed for all juvenile proceedings.

When a petition for expungement is successful, state law says the offense is "deemed never to have occurred," and that "no such record exists" of the offense. This gives the person plagued by a juvenile record the chance for a clean slate.

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