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Why should I seal my juvenile records?

Ohio law makes sealing juvenile records easier than sealing adult criminal records. Nonetheless, a person with a juvenile record may deny employment, benefits or enrollment based on the record.

Juvenile records do not automatically seal. A juvenile may request their record be sealed as soon as six months after completing their sentence, or immediately when they turn 18, as long as they are no longer under an order from juvenile court, such as probation. A “sealed record” only can be seen by the Court. Once a record has been sealed, a juvenile may petition the court to expunge it, which means to permanently destroy it.

The Court does not automatically grant a request to seal a juvenile record. The burden of proving a record should be sealed can be hard for a young person to meet, especially without the support of a mentor or representation by an attorney. “For youth without a support network, it’s totally upon them to demonstrate they are sufficiently rehabilitated,” says Attorney Ponce de Leon. If a prosecutor objects that a juvenile petitioner must demonstrate maturity, responsibility, and productive plans for the future to successfully seal it.

The process of applying to have a juvenile record sealed can be empowering for young adults, by teaching them about the justice system, explained Legal Aid Society Attorney Danielle Gadomski Littleton. Most people mistakenly believe that a juvenile adjudication is a conviction. But when an employer asks if you have a criminal conviction, if your only offense is a juvenile record, you can honestly answer “no.”

Another important lesson is that court costs can be waived. Before the Court can seal a juvenile record, a petitioner must pay any outstanding court costs and fees. Attorney Gadomski Littleton advised that petitioners can always ask the Court to waive these fees after petitioning to seal their records but it’s up to the court whether to grant that request.

More information about sealing juvenile records can be found at this link. To apply for help from Legal Aid with sealing a juvenile record, call 1-888-817-3777.

By Rachel Kalayjian

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