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Juvenile Records:  Can they be expunged?

Did you know that there are two court files created for every juvenile court case in Arizona?  These two files are known as the “legal file” and the “social file” and they remain on your record until the court orders their destruction or sets aside the adjudication.

The legal file is a record of the court proceedings in a juvenile case, including all pleadings, motions, minute entries and court orders.  This file is open to public inspection unless the court specifically orders the juvenile legal file to be withheld from public inspection.[1]

The probation department maintains the social file and it consists of social records used by the court to formulate and implement a rehabilitation plan for the juvenile and his or her family.  The social file of the juvenile is confidential and withheld from public inspection unless the court specifically orders otherwise.[2]

The two files of a juvenile law case remain in the system unless you request the court expunge your record or set aside the judgment.  Pursuant to A.R.S. §8-349, you may request the court expunge your Arizona juvenile record.  Expunged records are treated as if they did not exist and the record is destroyed.  To qualify, you must be over eighteen years old, your record must involve a referral or citation that resulted in diversion, did not result in further action, placed you in a community based alternative program, or resulted in adjudication of delinquency for an offense other than serious felonies.  The following must also be true: you must not have any adult felony convictions or pending adult criminal charges; you were not adjudicated for driving under the influence or for a serious felony; you have successfully completed all the terms of your probation or received a discharge from the department of juvenile corrections; and you paid all required restitution and fines.  If you meet these requirements, the court may destroy your juvenile record.

If your record does not qualify for destruction, you may be able to have your juvenile adjudication set aside by the court.  A set aside will not remove the adjudication from your record but will indicate you satisfied all the conditions of your probation or sentence, that a court vacated the delinquency finding, and dismissed all charges against you.

If you are at least eighteen years old, you may ask a court to set aside an adjudication of delinquency.  Pursuant to A.R.S. §8-348, the court may set aside your adjudication if you have not been convicted of an adult felony, you do not have pending adult criminal charges, you successfully completed all the terms of your probation or received a discharge from the department of juvenile corrections, and you paid all required restitution and fines.  If you meet these requirements, a judge may set aside your adjudication.

Removing a juvenile record is a complex but worthwhile process.  Contact a knowledgeable juvenile attorney and find out whether your juvenile record qualifies for destruction or a set aside.

[1] Arizona Rules of Procedure for the Juvenile Court, Rule 19(A)(1)
[2] Arizona Rules of Procedure for the Juvenile Court, Rule 19(A)(2)