Until recently, Michigan was one of seven states that permitted any juvenile delinquency records to be available to the public to view. However, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Public Act 362 of 2020 into law on January 4, 2021 that made records of juvenile delinquency cases non-public and restricted who may come to the courthouse to access the information therein. Effective March 24, 2021, only those “persons having a legitimate interest” will have the ability to access juvenile delinquency records. MCL 712A.28(3).
“Persons having a legitimate interest”, pursuant to MCL 712A.28(5)(d), includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- The juvenile
- The juvenile’s parent
- The juvenile’s guardian or legal custodian
- The juvenile’s guardian ad litem
- Legal counsel for the juvenile
- The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (“department”) or a licensed child caring institution or child placing agency under contract with the department to provide for the juvenile’s care and supervision if related to an investigation of child neglect or child abuse
- Law enforcement personnel
- A prosecutor
- A member of a local foster care review board
- The Indian child’s tribe if the juvenile is an Indian child
- A court of this state.
“In determining whether a person has a legitimate interest, the court shall consider the nature of the proceedings, the welfare and safety of the public, the interest of the minor, and any restriction imposed by state or federal law.” MCR 3.925(D)(2).
While the records may be non-public, “juvenile proceedings on the formal calendar and preliminary hearings shall be open to the public.” MCR 3.925(A)(1). Anyone is free to attend a court hearing and sit in the gallery to observe. However, “[t]he court, on motion of a party or a victim, may close the proceedings to the public during the testimony of a child or during the testimony of the victim to protect the welfare of either.” MCR 3.925(A)(2). “In making such a determination, the court shall consider the nature of the proceedings; the age, maturity, and preference of the witness; and, if the witness is a child, the preference of a parent, guardian, or legal custodian that the proceedings be open or closed.” Id. However, the court will not close the proceedings during the testimony of the juvenile during his or her delinquency proceedings. Id.
Please note that, even though the records of any juvenile convictions will be non-public, they are still a part of your juvenile delinquency record and will appear on legitimate background checks when applying for jobs, college or even housing. Although your record may be sealed, you will have to actually go through the expungement process to have the juvenile adjudication set aside by court order and get a fresh start.
An individual can apply to set aside juvenile adjudications to the family division of the circuit court where the adjudications occurred. MCL 712A.18e(1). However, the individual must meet the following qualifications:
- The individual has no more than three eligible misdemeanor offenses on his or her juvenile adjudication record; OR
- The individual has no more than one single eligible felony and two eligible misdemeanor offenses on his or her adjudication record.
Multiple juvenile adjudications “arising out of a series of acts that were in a continuous time sequence of 12 hours or less and that displayed a single intent and goal” will be counted as ONE offense for the purpose of this expungement statute provided that none of the juvenile adjudications constitute any of the following:
- An assaultive crime.
- An offense involving the use or possession of a weapon.
- An offense with a maximum penalty of 10 or more years imprisonment.
Even if the above qualifications are met, there are some juvenile offenses that are not permitted to be set aside by the court:
- “An adjudication for an offense that if committed by an adult would be a felony for which the maximum punishment is life imprisonment.” MCL 712A.18e(2)(a).
- A conviction arising from designated proceedings where the juvenile was tried as an adult under MCL 712A.2d. However, this prohibition doesn’t prevent the individual from seeking a set aside of this designated offense under adult expungement proceedings. MCL 712A.18e(2)(b).
An individual cannot apply for expungement unless at least one year has passed since the court relinquished their jurisdiction over the former juvenile. MCL 712A.18e(3). In addition, the applicant must not have been convicted of an adult felony offense. MCL 712A.18e(4)(d). Finally, the applicant cannot have any pending charges against them anywhere in the United States or in another country. MCL 712A.18e(4)(f).
The court may set aside eligible juvenile adjudications if it determines that the circumstances and behavior of the applicant warrant from the date of adjudication to the filing of the application warrant setting aside said adjudication and that setting aside the adjudication or adjudications is consistent with the public welfare. MCL 712A.18e(9).
Beginning July 3, 2023, certain juvenile adjudications will be automatically set aside without filing an application when 2 years have passed after the termination of court supervision or when the person becomes 18 years of age, whichever is later. MCL 712A.18t(1). Even if your juvenile adjudication is not eligible for automatic expungement, it may still be purged through the application process by the court provide that all of the other requirements under the statute are met.
If you or a loved one have any questions about accessing juvenile delinquency records, applying for expungement of your juvenile record, or need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.