What Does It Mean When Juveniles’ Records Are Sealed?
Interviewer: What does it mean for a juvenile to have their records sealed? Does that mean no one can see what happened, ever? What are the rules on sealing?
Stuart: That is a good question. The criminal procedure law says the person will be placed in the same position as they were prior to the arrest. That means their record is sealed. The record is not open to any public view, for anyone to see.
Therefore, if they take a college exam or entrance exam, they can say they have never been convicted of a crime and have no criminal record.
Interviewer: Can law enforcement and courts see into a sealed file? Do they even see that there is a file that has been sealed?
Stuart: In some instances, they can see some sealed files. In this case, law enforcement actually would not be able to see the sealed file. The file is actually sealed and set in a room where there is nothing there.
Also, the arrest is actually supposed to be sealed, as opposed to just the conviction. So unless somebody behaves improperly or gets a judge’s order to open a sealed file, in essence this one is sealed away from prying eyes as well.
Interviewer: How protective is the seal? Is it very hard to get a judge’s order to unseal a file? Will they see that the file is sealed and then assume that the person did something really bad?
Stuart: In essence, if the sealing works correctly, it is sealed very well. It should be away from everything else. The way that gets screwed up is when somebody looks at a computer screen and interprets something they are not supposed to interpret; or does something that they are not supposed to.
But, in essence, by the time it is actually sealed away from everything it would be very difficult for somebody to find it through the normal channels.