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Indiana Lawyers for Expungement of Juvenile Records and DCS Files
Sometimes the past can follow you as if it still reflects who you are. When your past includes juvenile delinquency or Child in Need of Service (CHINS) proceedings, it can cloud your present and future opportunities. But your past does not have to control your future. If your past includes a juvenile record or an abuse or neglect allegation in a CHINS case, getting those records expunged may help you move forward with a clean slate.
Expungement of juvenile records and CHINS files erases records of past allegations and mistakes, paving the way for a brighter future, but only if it’s done right. Working with an experienced Indiana expungement attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP is the surest way to clear your past for a brighter tomorrow.
Your Role in the Expungement of Juvenile Records and CHINS Files
Expungement of juvenile records and CHINS files is possible, but only if you take action. For example, many are surprised to learn that expungement of such records does not happen automatically when you reach age 18. Instead, you must file a formal petition requesting the expungement of juvenile records. Similarly, CHINS records of abuse or neglect determinations remain in the system and, to an extent, are accessible by statutorily defined individuals, agencies, and groups unless you get a court order for their removal and destruction.
Meeting the technical requirements for expungement leaves little room for error if you want to clear your record. To avoid costly mistakes in the expungement process or—worse yet—the denial of your expungement request, you need to work with experienced lawyers for expungement by your side. At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, our predominately criminal defense practice makes us ideal for helping with the expungement of juvenile records and DCS files in Indiana. Read on to learn more about expungement so you know what to expect and how best to help our Indiana expungement lawyers see you through this process.
Why Expungement of Juvenile Records and DCS Files Matters
Juvenile records and determinations regarding abuse or neglect in CHINS matters can cast a long shadow. This information may be used by potential employers or schools with an admission process. In addition, consumer reporting agencies and private database companies collect data about individuals online and provide it for use by lenders, employers, and landlords, to name a few. Your juvenile delinquency adjudication or child neglect or abuse case could be included in these records and can impact many areas of your life:
- Your ability to obtain a particular job or professional licensure
- Your admission to college or vocational school
- Your housing options
- Your ability to get a loan
- Your utilities accounts (affects the size of your security deposit)
- Your credit
Who Can See Your Indiana Juvenile Records and CHINS Files
The confidentiality of juvenile delinquency and CHINS records is not as broad as you might think, although this mistaken belief is understandable. A juvenile’s name may be withheld from the newspaper in certain situations, and access to health and school records is limited to certain authorized persons. This level of confidentiality does not necessarily extend to juvenile delinquency records and CHINS files.
Certain information from juvenile delinquency records is accessible by the public:
- The nature of the offense and its factual circumstances
- The victim’s identity
- A description of the arrest or apprehension
- A statement identifying the weapon used, if any
- The identity of the investigating officers
- The age and gender of any child apprehended or pursued as a potential perpetrator of the offense
- The identity of a child apprehended or pursued for allegedly committing an offense not within the juvenile court’s jurisdiction or a felony relating to a controlled substance
Arguably CHINS files are less available than juvenile delinquency records, but they are not completely confidential. Records of CHINS determinations are included in the Indiana Child Protection Index, a state database. While not available to the general public, the index is accessible by designated agencies and individuals as provided by Indiana Code § 31-33-26-16:
- Law enforcement, for the purpose of investigating or prosecuting an alleged perpetrator of child abuse or neglect
- A childcare provider, with the permission of the individual involved who has applied to work for, works for, or volunteers to work for the provider or who is over age 18 and lives with the provider
- An individual who is the subject of the CHINS records
- Agency employees charged with licensing childcare institutions, foster homes, group homes, or child placement agencies
- Authorized individuals and juvenile courts, for the purpose of determining the appropriate out-of-home placement of a child in need of services and for conducting a criminal history check for cases involving adoption, CHINS investigation and services, foster and residential care homes
- The national child protection index
Additionally, anyone seeking employment at schools is also subject to a Child Protection Index check.
Whether you’re a young adult hoping to start fresh or well past your youth, juvenile delinquency records and CHINS files can continue to haunt you, affecting your job prospects, housing options, and other opportunities. Expunging juvenile records and CHINS files in Indiana can clear these obstacles.
The Process for Expunging Juvenile Records and CHINS Files in Indiana
Expunging juvenile records in Indiana can mean either their removal from public access (sealed) or their actual destruction. The records may be in files held by the court, the law enforcement agency, or anyone who has provided court-ordered services to a child.
In Indiana, you may ask the court to expunge (destroy) your juvenile records or CHINS files by filing a petition in the juvenile court in the county where the proceedings were originally held with copies served on the local prosecutor’s office (for delinquency cases) or Department of Child Services (DCS) (for CHINS cases). Indiana Code § 31-39-8-3 sets out the information that must be included in the petition:
- The allegations against you in the juvenile delinquency proceeding and the final adjudication (decision), if any
- The court in which the juvenile delinquency allegations were filed
- The branch of law enforcement that employed the charging officer
- The case or court file number
- Your date of birth
- Your Social Security number
- A list of all of your juvenile delinquency adjudications, child in need of services (CHINS) adjudications, and criminal case records that have occurred since the adjudication in the case for which you seek expungement
- All pending juvenile delinquency and CHINS cases, if any
The prosecutor or DCS has 30 days to file an objection to the request for expungement. The court will set the matter for hearing if the prosecutor or DCS files an objection or if the court believes a hearing is necessary.
In cases with and without a hearing, the court decides whether to grant a petition for expungement by considering factors like these:
- The best interests of the child
- The age at which the person in a juvenile delinquency case had contact with law enforcement or juvenile court
- The nature of the allegations involved, if any
- Whether there was an informal adjustment (like a probationary period) or adjudication (a final determination on the merits)
- The final disposition of the case
- The manner of the individual’s participation in court-ordered or supervised services
- The lapse in time since contact with the court or law enforcement
- Whether the individual has a criminal record, including whether the individual has been charged with or convicted of murder or another felony as an adult
- The individual’s current status
- Whether the individual was waived to adult criminal court as a juvenile
- Whether the individual’s adult sentence, if any, was not suspended because it related to a high-level felony and less than three years have passed since those acts
- Whether the individual has been adjudicated a delinquent child for conduct equating to a serious violent felony offense and the individual currently suffers from an ongoing or chronic mental health issue but has compliantly been receiving or received treatment
A court granting a request for expungement will order the law enforcement agencies and persons who provided treatment to send all such records involving the child to the court. The court will then destroy those records and the court records regarding the child. In the case of CHINS files, DCS must destroy the files within ten days of an expungement order.
Finding the Right Lawyers for Expungement
Finding the right lawyers for expungement means more than searching “expungement lawyers near me.” Expungement of juvenile records and CHINS files is not a sure thing, so you need an attorney who is fully versed and experienced in juvenile delinquency proceedings or CHINS matters and who retains and has access to files in such cases. In addition to this legal and institutional knowledge, your attorney should be a skilled litigator able to craft persuasive arguments in your favor in case the prosecutor or DCS objects to your expungement request.
Your Indiana expungement attorney at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are skilled trial lawyers with deep experience in juvenile delinquency cases, CHINS matters, and the records related to them. Expungement of juvenile records and CHINS files is too important to attempt alone or hire just anyone. Invest in your future by seeking expungement of juvenile records and CHINS files. For a consultation with one of our lawyers for expungement, call (317) 857-0160 or complete our online contact form.
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