Records of juvenile delinquency proceedings that cannot be expunged can sometimes be sealed. Sealing of records may also be a gateway to expungement of those same records. The (metaphorical) jury is still out on that issue.

Read on!

Sealing Records

Records of many, but not all, juvenile delinquency events can be expunged, just as with adults. Juvenile records that cannot be expunged on account of the nature of the adjudicated matter can be sealed, when other statutory requirements are satisfied.

Statutes relating to expungements are in Chapter 52 of the New Jersy Criminal Code. Statutes relating to sealing are not in the New Jersey Criminal Code at all. Rather, they are to be found in Article 2 of Chapter 4A in Title 2A of New Jersey statutes. Article 2 contains New Jersey's Code of Juvenile Justice.

The specific statute in the Code of Juvenile Justice that deals with sealing is N.J.S. 2A:4A-62. The relief granted by the sealing is significant. Subsection a of N.J.S. 2A:4A-62 says, in pertinent part:

On motion of a person who has been the subject of a complaint filed under this act or on its own motion, the court may vacate its order and findings and order the nondisclosure of social, medical, psychological, legal and other records of the court and probation services, and records of law enforcement agencies[.]

Since the sealing will have vacated the order and findings, the individual, logically, should be eligible to then expunge their records. Expungement Lawyers in New Jersey™ are unaware of anyone who has actually asked the court for complete expungement following sealing. It is likely the prosecutor would oppose such an effort.

To be eligible for sealing, the records must relate to matters for which court activity concluded at least two years ago. The two-year requirement is waived for juveniles about to enter the United States Armed Forces. However, if the juvenile does not in fact enter, the sealing order is nullified.

Other requirements for sealing are that there be no pending criminal or juvenile complaints, and that there were no criminal or disorderly persons convictions in the two-year period preceding the filing of the application, and no other adjudications of delinquency during that period. Following sealing, if the individual is then convicted of a crime or adjudicated delinquent, the sealing is nullified.

Published court opinions discussing sealing of juvenile records are few. In fact, not a single court opinion discusses the current sealing statute, N.J.S. 2A:4A-62. One published opinion discusses N.J.S. 2A:4-67, the predecessor statute relating to sealing of juvenile records. That opinion is State of New Jersey in the Interest of R.C.C., 151 N.J. Super. 174 (Juv.Dom.Rel.Ct., 1977). The issue that that case was whether the sealing statute then in existence, by implication, precluded R.C.C., a juvenile, from obtaining an expungement, since the sealing statute existed for the sole purpose of affording relief to juveniles.

The R.C.C. court held that availability of sealing relief did not disqualify a juvenile for expungement relief. The opinion noted that expungement provides more complete relief than sealing. Availability of sealing was not a logical reason to deny expungement, for which the juvenile in that matter also qualified.

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