MA Bill Easing Expungement of Juvenile Records Advances

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Massachusetts is one of at least 19 states that do not allow people to expunge their juvenile records. Even when the details of an arrest are sealed from public view, the record of the arrest remains accessible, the Boston Globe reports. A report issued by the Juvenile Law Center in 2014 ranked Massachusetts well below the national average in keeping juvenile records private, in part because the records “can never be physically destroyed.” Last week, the state Senate voted overwhelmingly in support of a bill that would allow people with juvenile records to ask a judge to permanently remove misdemeanor offenses from their records.

The judge could consider erasing records of offenses before a defendant turned 18, but only after any sentence is served and provided no new offenses are committed. The bill would also raise the minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 11 and ban automatic shackling of children in court except when there is concern about safety or flight risk. Advocates are now urging the House to take up the bill, but with the formal session concluding in a matter of days, it appears unlikely. Some 17,000 youths come into contact with the juvenile justice system in Massachusetts each year, according to Senator Karen Spilka, who sponsored the bill to expunge misdemeanor arrests.

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