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Are Utah Juvenile Records Automatically Sealed?

How juvenile records are handled over time in Utah

There is a common perception that juvenile records are universally sealed in all jurisdictions in the United States, including in the state of Utah. The reality is that the manner in which juvenile records are handled and managed varies somewhat from one state to another. The concept that all juvenile records in Utah are sealed and inaccessible in all cases and in all places is not an accurate statement.

Restricted Access Versus Sealing of Juvenile Records in Utah

The provisions pertaining to the restriction of juvenile records are enumerated in Rule 4-202.02 (6) and (7) of the Utah Rules of Judicial Administration. Considering a juvenile record as sealed and inaccessible to third parties is not an accurate description of the state of the law in Utah. In Utah, access to juvenile records by third parties is restricted, but not impossible. The law in the state establishes certain classes of third parties that can access certain juvenile court records depending on the circumstances. On some level, it is accurate to note that the Utah law pertaining to access to juvenile court records is somewhat more liberal than what is on the books in other jurisdictions.

In general terms, there are certain classes of third parties outside of the judicial system and law enforcement agencies that are capable of gaining at least limited access to juvenile court records. First, Utah law permits access to juvenile records in some instances by certain types of state agencies beyond the criminal justice system. For example, if an individual is seeking certain types of public assistance or supportive services, the agency responsible for this assistance or service may be able to access that person's juvenile records as part of the eligibility screening process.

Second, and what many people find surprising, Utah law permits prospective employers the ability to access juvenile court records in a limited set of circumstances. For example, if a person with a juvenile record seeks employment in which he or she will be in a position of trust (working in a nursing care facility, for example), an employer in Utah may be able access to access a juvenile record to ascertain what types of offenses an applicant was adjudicated of committing while under the age of 18.

Transfers to Adult Court for Juveniles Over the Age of 14

If a juvenile, who is over the age of 14, is charged with a serious offense, the case can be transferred to adult court pursuant to the juvenile code in Utah. If this occurs, the records associated with the case are accessible to third parties without any automatic restrictions. The individual subject to the proceedings is treated as an adult for all purposes, including judicial records, when a transfer of this nature occurs.

Expungement of Juvenile Records

Because Utah law does not provide for the thorough sealing of juvenile court records, a person with a juvenile record may want to consider obtaining an expungement of such a record as permitted by law. Only through the expungement process will a person with a juvenile record be in the best possible position to protect against a third party gaining access to this data or information. The statutory provisions governing the expungement of a juvenile record are contained at Utah Code Ann. § 78A-6-1105.

According to Utah law, a person is able to obtain an expungement once he or she reaches the age of 18. An individual is eligible provided one of two events has occurred. A person can seek expungement if one year has passed from the date of the termination of the continuing jurisdiction of the juvenile court over the individual seeking this relief. In the alternative, a person can obtain an expungement after a year has elapsed from an unconditional release from the custody of a Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services youth corrections facility.

Pursuant to Utah statutory provisions, a petition for expungement is filed in the same court in which the individual seeking the relief was adjudicated to be a juvenile offender. The prosecuting attorney does have the opportunity to object to a proposed expungement.

Juvenile Record Expungement and Legal Assistance

Although Utah law governing expungement is rather straightforward; the process nonetheless can be complicated. Indeed, any time a person faces the prospect of "going to court," he or she is facing the possibility of complex proceedings.

For this reason, a person intent on obtaining an expungement of a Utah juvenile record should consider retaining the services of an attorney with specific experience in dealing with this type of legal process. Taking this course best ensures that a person's rights and interests will be protected during expungement proceedings. Having an attorney represent you becomes particularly important if the prosecuting attorney expresses an objection to the proposed juvenile record expungement.

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