First, a few definitions.
A juvenile in this context is a person under 18 years of age.
The records we are talking about are court records related to a criminal charge or conviction when a person was a juvenile, as well as any juvenile probation or juvenile corrections records and any related records that are in the possession of the department of child safety. See A.R.S. 8-349(M).
The term used in juvenile court for “guilty” is “delinquent”.
The Process of applying to destroy juvenile records
If a person is found delinquent of a crime while a minor, the person may later apply to have the records destroyed. A person may apply to destroy the juvenile records once they have turned 18 years old. In some circumstances, the person may need to wait until they are 25 years old.
In order to apply for the destruction of records, the person must also not have any pending criminal cases, completed probation and paid any restitution. Further, the person must not be under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court or department of juvenile corrections.
An exhaustive list of requirements can be found here.
The application is made to the Superior Court in the county where the conviction occurred.
There are some charges for which the records cannot be destroyed. There are also some circumstances that make it impossible to apply for a destruction of records.
If the person is required to register as a sex offender, they cannot apply to have juvenile records destroyed.
If the records relate to a DUI conviction, those records cannot be destroyed.
If the records relate to a felony charge wherein the minor was charged as an adult. See A.R.S. 13-501.
What happens when the records are destroyed?
After the application to destroy the records is made to the appropriate court, and assuming all of the requirements have been met for the destruction, the court will issue an order to destroy the records. The court, the clerk of court, and the juvenile probation department will receive the order and destroy the records.
The department of child safety will also be notified of the order to destroy records. Within six months of receiving that order, the department of child safety should destroy all court, juvenile probation, and juvenile department of corrections records in its possession.
The court will also notify the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) that these records have been destroyed. AZDPS is who maintains records for criminal background checks in Arizona.
Records that cannot be destroyed
A record of the crime may still exist with the law enforcement agency who issued the ticket or did the investigation. The court cannot make the law enforcement agency destroy records. The court doesn’t have jurisdiction over law enforcement.
If the conviction was for a moving violation that was reportable to the Arizona Department of Transportation, a record of the violation will still exist on the person’s driving record. There is no way to clear a violation off of an MVD record.
Why apply to destroy juvenile records?
Once these records are destroyed, no one will be able to find any trace of the destroyed records. More importantly, for the person whose records were destroyed, it is now as if the whole crime, arrest, and conviction never happened. For example, this changes how one might answer questions on a job application. If asked “have you ever been arrested” or “have you ever been convicted”, the answer would now be “no” (assuming the person has no other incidents other than the one relating to the destroyed records).