What is the process for sealing or expunging juvenile records in Michigan?

Understanding the Process of Sealing or Expunging Juvenile Records in Michigan

In Michigan, juvenile records can significantly impact an individual's future, affecting their ability to secure employment, housing, and even higher education. Fortunately, the state provides mechanisms for individuals to seal or expunge these records, giving them a chance to move forward without the burden of past mistakes. This article outlines the process involved in sealing or expunging juvenile records in Michigan.

The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging

Sealing a record means that it is hidden from public view but still exists within the legal system. Expungement, however, refers to the complete destruction or removal of a record so that it's as if the offense never occurred.

Eligibility Criteria for Sealing or Expungement

To be eligible for sealing or expunging a juvenile record in Michigan, certain conditions must be met. Generally, the individual should not have been adjudicated for a felony offense that if committed by an adult would be punishable by life imprisonment. There must also be a sufficient period, typically several years, since the last adjudication or discharge from any disposition.

Steps to Seal Juvenile Records

The process begins with filing a motion with the court that has jurisdiction over the case. The individual must notify the prosecuting attorney and provide evidence as to why their record should be sealed. A hearing is then held where the judge considers factors such as the individual's age at the time of offense, the nature of the offense, and their behavior since then.

Expungement Procedure

Expungement in Michigan is governed by MCL 712A.18e, which outlines specific guidelines for application. An application must be submitted along with fingerprints and consent for a background check. If approved by the judge, an order of expungement is issued and the record is destroyed.

Historical Context and Examples

The laws surrounding juvenile record sealing and expungement have evolved over time to reflect a greater understanding of juvenile rehabilitation. For example, reforms in recent decades have aimed at reducing lifelong penalties for juvenile offenses, recognizing that children and teenagers have greater potential for change compared to adults.


The process of sealing or expunging juvenile records in Michigan is designed to give individuals a second chance at a clean slate. It involves demonstrating rehabilitation and satisfying legal criteria before a judge who will make the ultimate decision on whether to grant the motion for sealing or order for expungement.