Juveniles are people under 18 years old. Your juvenile record is all the police, court, legal, and probation documents about your criminal activity before age 18.
Who can see juvenile records?
If you are convicted of breaking the law and charged as an adult, the court calls you a “criminal convict.” But, if you are convicted of breaking the law and charged as a juvenile, the court calls you an “adjudicated delinquent” instead. Juvenile records are not public information. Juvenile records should not appear on court websites or private background checks.
But, some people and organizations can access juvenile records. Juvenile records are available to police, courts and prosecutors. Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) background checks may show juvenile records for murder, aggravated murder and sex offenses that are eligible for the sex offender registry.
If you apply for a job working with children, seniors or other vulnerable people, or a job that requires a high level of security (like in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, daycare, banks, or law enforcement), a BCI background check may show unsealed violent and non-violent offenses that are considered felonies for adults.
FBI background checks may also show unsealed juvenile offenses.
If you are denied public housing because of a juvenile record or if a private background check shows a juvenile record, contact your local legal aid or the Ohio Justice & Policy Center.
What are sealing and expungement?
There are two steps you can take to reduce access to your juvenile records. Juvenile records can be:
- Sealed. Sealed records are removed from your main file. Sealed records are still available to the juvenile court. Sealed records may also be available to prosecutors, law enforcement and your school board if you're still in school. The Attorney General’s office can use sealed juvenile sex offenses to maintain a juvenile sex offender registry. Sealed records do not appear on any background checks, so employers cannot see sealed records.
- Expunged. Expunged records are destroyed (both physically and electronically). A juvenile record can only be expunged after it has been sealed. No one can see expunged records.
How to seal juvenile records
Cases that are dropped or dismissed are not sealed automatically. You must request sealing.
If you admit to a delinquency offense or are found guilty, the juvenile record is not sealed automatically, even if the offense is a misdemeanor.
To seal a juvenile record, you must:
- Wait 6 months. If you are under 18 years old, you must wait 6 months after final discharge before applying to seal juvenile records. The final discharge is the completion of your sentence or probation. If you are 18 years or older, you do not have to wait 6 months to apply for sealing. If you are applying to seal a dropped or dismissed charge, you can apply for sealing immediately, even if you are under 18.
- Pay unpaid fees. You must pay all court fees from your original case before the court can consider sealing your record.
- Complete and submit the forms. Get the juvenile record sealing forms from the clerk of courts office of the juvenile court where you were charged. There is no fee to submit juvenile record sealing forms. In Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Montgomery, Summit or Warren County, you can find the forms for your juvenile court on this page under “Forms and Letters.” For other counties, you can find the information for your juvenile court on this page under "Local Government and Community Resources."
- Attend a hearing. If the court requests a hearing, you must attend. At the hearing, the court determines whether the record can be sealed. The court considers your age at the time of the offense, the nature of your offense and your current education, work and criminal history. The prosecutor may object.
If you get a letter from the court saying that the prosecutor filed objections, your case may still be sealed. Go to the hearing to present your side, and then the judge will make the decision.
How to expunge a juvenile record
After your record is sealed, the record may be expunged. To expunge a juvenile record, you must:
- Have an eligible offense. Offenses for murder, aggravated murder and rape are not eligible to be expunged or sealed. But, if you are a human trafficking victim, all your related offenses may be eligible to expunge. Human trafficking happens when you are forced or tricked into labor or sex work. If you want to expunge offenses related to human trafficking, you should talk to a lawyer. A lawyer can help you prove you are a trafficking victim. You can find nonprofits that offer free legal help in your area on this page under "Legal Help and Lawyers."
- Wait or apply for expungement. Eligible juvenile records are expunged automatically 5 years after the record is sealed or when you turn 23 years old (whichever happens first). If you want to expunge your juvenile record sooner, you can apply for expungement at the same time you request sealing, or any time after the record is sealed. You should request expungement as soon as possible.