Everybody makes mistakes, especially when they are still growing up. But when a prosecutor or police officer takes notice, a young person could be detained, arrested, and adjudicated guilty of serious crimes, leaving them with a damaging juvenile record.

While Florida automatically destroys most juvenile records once a youth reaches a certain age, a record can make it difficult to join the military, get a job, or secure financial aid for higher education. However, you do not have to let your record define you: you may be able to wipe the slate clean through expungement.

Juvenile Record Expungement in Florida

Juvenile Records FolderIf you, or a loved one, have been adjudicated guilty of an offense in juvenile crime, you might believe your record is automatically sealed when you turn 18.

Unfortunately, this is a misconception. If you have a juvenile record, there is a good chance it will show up on background checks. Florida only automatically expunges certain offenses at specified ages. While most records are destroyed at age 21, there are some exceptions that can cause a record to stay public:

  • If the juvenile was ever remanded to a juvenile prison or adult correctional facility
  • If the juvenile committed a serious crime
  • If the juvenile was declared a habitual offender
  • If the juvenile was charged with specified crimes after turning 18
  • If the juvenile committed a sexual offense on or after their 14th birthday

If the juvenile served time in prison or was designated a serious or habitual offender, then their records may still be automatically destroyed at age 26.

Why You May Still Need to Expunge Your Record

Even if your record is destroyed when you turn 21 or 26, your juvenile offenses could still impact your ability to:

  • Get a job
  • Join the military
  • Work in law enforcement
  • Secure a professional license
  • Go to college
  • Rent an apartment

However, you do not have to wait years to regain your future.

Your Options for Expungement

Florida law provides several methods for early expungement, or the process of formally sealing and erasing your juvenile record. They include:

  • Administrative Expungement. You could expunge nonjudicial records, such as an arrest that did not result in adjudication, through an administrative appeal. However, administrative expungements are rarely granted and are usually reserved for juveniles who were wrongfully arrested.
  • Automatic Expungement. Law enforcement must destroy records of juvenile offenses when the youth turns 24, provided their case was dismissed, or they received a “withhold of adjudication.” However, law enforcement could refuse to expunge these records if the juvenile is charged with or convicted of a forcible felony before their 24th birthday.
  • Court-Ordered Expungement. Persons with juvenile records can petition the court to expunge individual adjudications. If you are interested in pursuing a court-ordered expungement, you should always contact an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney—the court will not give you a second chance to prove your case if it rules against you.
  • Diversion Program Expungement. You may be eligible to have your records destroyed early if you successfully completed a pre- or post-arrest diversion program for a non-violent misdemeanor. Any request for a diversion program expungement must be filed within 12 months of the program’s completion.
  • Human Trafficking Victim Expungement. Juvenile victims of human trafficking can often expunge arrest and adjudication records for any non-violent criminal act they committed while being trafficked.

Have You or a Loved One Been Arrested For a Juvenile Offense in Florida?

If you've been arrested for juvenile offense in Fort Walton Beach, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097 for a free, confidential case review.


Tim Flaherty
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
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