The Vermont Statutes Online

Title 33: Human Services

Chapter 51: GENERAL PROVISIONS

33 V.S.A. § 5119. Sealing of records



§ 5119. Sealing of records

(a)(1) In matters relating to a child who has been adjudicated delinquent on or after July 1, 1996, the Court shall order the sealing of all files and records related to the proceeding if two years have elapsed since the final discharge of the person unless, on motion of the state's attorney, the Court finds:

(A) the person has been convicted of a listed crime as defined in 13 V.S.A. § 5301 or adjudicated delinquent of such an offense after such initial adjudication, or a proceeding is pending seeking such conviction or adjudication; or

(B) rehabilitation of the person has not been attained to the satisfaction of the Court.

(2) At least 60 days prior to the date upon which a person is eligible to have his or her delinquency record automatically sealed pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection, the Court shall provide such person's name and other identifying information to the state's attorney in the county in which the person was adjudicated delinquent. The state's attorney may object, and a hearing may be held to address the state's attorney's objection.

(3) The order to seal shall include all the files and records relating to the matter in accordance with subsection (d) of this section; however, the Court may limit the order to the court files and records only upon good cause shown by the state's attorney.

(4) The process of sealing files and records under this subsection for a child who was adjudicated delinquent on or after July 1, 1996, but before July 1, 2001 shall be completed by January 1, 2010. The process of sealing files and records under this subsection for a child who was adjudicated delinquent on or after July 1, 2001 but before July 1, 2004 shall be completed by January 1, 2008.

(b) In matters relating to a child who has been adjudicated delinquent prior to July 1, 1996, on application of the child or on the Court's own motion and after notice to all parties of record and hearing, the Court shall order the sealing of all files and records related to the proceeding if it finds:

(1) the person has not been convicted of a listed crime as defined in 13 V.S.A. § 5301 or adjudicated delinquent for such an offense after such initial adjudication, and no new proceeding is pending seeking such conviction or adjudication; and

(2) the person's rehabilitation has been attained to the satisfaction of the Court.

(c) On application of a person who, while a child, was found to be in need of care or supervision or, on the Court's own motion, after notice to all parties of record and hearing, the Court may order the sealing of all files and records related to the proceeding if it finds:

(1) the person has reached the age of majority; and

(2) sealing the person's record is in the interest of justice.

(d) Except as provided in subdivision (a)(3) and subsection (h) of this section or otherwise provided, orders issued in accordance with this section shall include the files and records of the Court, law enforcement, prosecution, and the Department for Children and Families related to the specific court proceeding that is the subject of the sealing.

(e)(1) Except as provided in subdivision (2) of this subsection, upon the entry of an order sealing such files and records under this section, the proceedings in the matter under this act shall be considered never to have occurred, all general index references thereto shall be deleted, and the person, the Court, and law enforcement officers and departments shall reply to any request for information that no record exists with respect to such person upon inquiry in any matter. Copies of the order shall be sent to each agency or official named in the order.

(2)(A) Any court, agency, or department that seals a record pursuant to an order under this section may keep a special index of files and records that have been sealed. This index shall only list the name and date of birth of the subject of the sealed files and records and the docket number of the proceeding which was the subject of the sealing. The special index shall be confidential and may be accessed only for purposes for which a department or agency may request to unseal a file or record pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.

(B) Access to the special index shall be restricted to the following persons:

(i) the Commissioner and general counsel of any administrative department;

(ii) the Secretary and general counsel of any administrative agency;

(iii) a sheriff;

(iv) a police chief;

(v) a state's attorney;

(vi) the Attorney General;

(vii) the director of the Vermont Crime Information Center; and

(viii) a designated clerical staff person in each office identified in subdivisions (i)-(vii) of this subdivision (B) who is necessary for establishing and maintaining the indices for persons who are permitted access.

(C) Persons authorized to access an index pursuant to subdivision (B) of this subdivision (2) may access only the index of their own department or agency.

(f)(1) Except as provided in subdivisions (2), (3), (4), and (5) of this subsection, inspection of the files and records included in the order may thereafter be permitted by the Court only upon petition by the person who is the subject of such records, and only to those persons named in the record.

(2) Upon a confidential motion of any department or agency that was required to seal files and records pursuant to subsection (d) of this section, the Court may permit the department or agency to inspect its own files and records if it finds circumstances in which the department or agency requires access to such files and records to respond to a legal action, a legal claim, or an administrative action filed against the department or agency in relation to incidents or persons that are the subject of such files and records. The files and records shall be unsealed only for the minimum time necessary to address the circumstances enumerated in this subdivision, at which time the records and files shall be resealed.

(3) Upon a confidential motion of the Department for Children and Families, the Court may permit the Department to inspect its own files and records if the Court finds extraordinary circumstances in which the State's interest in the protection of a child clearly outweighs the purposes of the juvenile sealing law and the privacy rights of the person or persons who are the subjects of the record, and the sealed record is necessary to accomplish the State's interest. The motion may be heard ex parte if the Court, based upon an affidavit, finds a compelling purpose exists to deny notice to the subject of the files and records when considering whether to grant the order. If the order to unseal is issued ex parte, the Court shall send notice of the unsealing to the subject of the files and records within 20 days unless the Department provides a compelling reason why the subject of the files and records should not receive notice. The files and records shall be unsealed only for the minimum time necessary to address the extraordinary circumstances, at which time the files and records shall be resealed.

(4) Upon a confidential motion of a law enforcement officer or prosecuting attorney, the Court may permit the department or agency to inspect its own files and records if the Court finds extraordinary circumstances in which the state's interest in public safety clearly outweighs the purposes of the juvenile sealing law and the privacy rights of the person or persons who are the subjects of the record, and the sealed record is necessary to accomplish the State's interest. The motion may be heard ex parte if the Court, based upon an affidavit, finds a compelling public safety purpose exists to deny notice to the subject of the files and records when considering whether to grant the order. If the order to unseal is issued ex parte, the Court shall send notice of the unsealing to the subject of the files and records within 20 days unless the law enforcement officer or prosecuting attorney provides a compelling public safety reason why the subject of the files and records should not receive notice. The files and records shall be unsealed only for the minimum time necessary to address the extraordinary circumstances, at which time the files and records shall be resealed.

(5) The order unsealing a record pursuant to subdivisions (2), (3), and (4) of this subsection must state whether the record is unsealed entirely or in part and the duration of the unsealing. If the Court's order unseals only part of the record or unseals the record only as to certain persons, the order must specify the particular records that are unsealed or the particular persons who may have access to the record, or both.

(6) If a person is convicted of a sex offense that requires registration pursuant to 13 V.S.A. chapter 167, subchapter 3, the Court in which the person was convicted:

(A) may inspect its own files and records included in the sealing order for the purpose of imposing sentence upon or supervising the person for the registrable offense; and

(B) shall examine Court indices developed pursuant to subdivision (e)(2)(A) of this section. If the offender appears on any of the Court indices, the Court shall unseal any Court files and records relating to the juvenile  adjudication and shall make them available to the Commissioner of Corrections for the purposes of preparing a presentence investigation, determining placement, or developing a treatment plan. The Commissioner shall use only information relating to adjudications relevant to a sex offense conviction.

(g) On application of a person who has pleaded guilty to or has been convicted of the commission of a crime under the laws of this State which the person committed prior to attaining the age of 21, or on the motion of the Court having jurisdiction over such a person, after notice to all parties of record and hearing, the Court shall order the sealing of all files and records related to the proceeding if it finds:

(1) two years have elapsed since the final discharge of the person;

(2) the person has not been convicted of a listed crime as defined in 13 V.S.A. § 5301 or adjudicated delinquent for such an offense after the initial conviction, and no new proceeding is pending seeking such conviction or adjudication; and

(3) the person's rehabilitation has been attained to the satisfaction of the Court.

(h)(1) In matters relating to a person who was charged with a criminal offense on or after July 1, 2006 and prior to the person attaining the age of majority, the files and records of the Court applicable to the proceeding shall be sealed immediately if the case is dismissed.

(2) In matters relating to a person who was charged with a criminal offense prior to July 1, 2006 and prior to the person attaining the age of majority, the person may apply to seal the files and records of the Court applicable to the proceeding. The Court shall order the sealing, provided that two years have elapsed since the dismissal of the charge.

(i) Upon receipt of a Court order to seal a record relating to an offense for which there is an identifiable victim, a state's attorney shall record the name and date of birth of the victim, the offense, and the date of the offense. The name and any identifying information regarding the defendant shall not be recorded. Victim information retained by a state's attorney pursuant to this subsection shall be available only to victims' advocates, the Victims' Compensation Program, and the victim and shall otherwise be confidential.

(j) For purposes of this section, to "seal" a file or record means to physically and electronically segregate the record in a manner that ensures confidentiality of the record and limits access only to those persons who are authorized by law or court order to view the record. A "sealed" file or record is retained and shall not be destroyed unless a Court issues an order to expunge the record.

(k) The Court shall provide assistance to persons who seek to file an application for sealing under this section.

( l ) Any entities subject to sealing orders pursuant to this section shall establish policies for implementing this section and shall provide a copy of such policies to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary no later than January 15, 2007. State's attorneys, sheriffs, municipal police, and the Judiciary are encouraged to adopt a consistent policy that may apply to each of their independent offices and may submit one policy to the General Assembly. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2009, No. 1, § 34; 2011, No. 16, § 3, eff. May 9, 2011.)