Key Concepts

  • Juvenile court records are confidential and kept separately from other records, but they can still be viewed by the prosecutor, magistrates, law enforcement officers, and others in many circumstances.
  • Juvenile records maintained by a law enforcement agency or the court counselor office are also subject to examination and viewing, and in some cases disclosure of information to the juvenile’s school is mandatory.
  • A juvenile who was alleged to be delinquent but not adjudicated, or was only adjudicated for a Class F felony or lower, may be able to have that record expunged if the juvenile meets all the eligibility criteria (e.g., current age, time since adjudication, and no subsequent convictions).

Juvenile Court Records

In each county, a juvenile has only one official court record and one file number, regardless of the number and type of cases that have been filed involving that juvenile. That record typically has subfolders which contain all documents relating to each delinquency case, undisciplined juvenile case, or case involving the Interstate Compact for Juveniles. Juvenile court records are covered in Chapter 12 of the AOC’s Rules of Recordkeeping in North Carolina, which should be available in the office of every clerk of superior court.

Effective July 1, 2017 (and ordered to be in place as of July 1, 2018), Section 16D.4.(y) of the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act directs that the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) must expand access to “JWise,” the automatic electronic information management system for juvenile courts, to include prosecutors and juvenile defense attorneys. Such access must be limited to examining electronic records related to juvenile delinquency proceedings and does not include records related to abuse, neglect, and dependency or termination of parental rights cases. Section 16D.4.(z) required that by July 1, 2018, the AOC must also develop statewide inquiry access for JWise users that corresponds to the access to juvenile court records authorized by Chapter 7B.

The court may direct the clerk to “seal” any portion of a juvenile’s record, so that it may be examined only by court order. In the absence of such an order, the clerk’s record may be examined by, and copies of written parts of the record may be obtained by: (i) the juvenile and the juvenile’s attorney; (ii) the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or custodian, or that person’s authorized representative; (iii) the prosecutor; (iv) juvenile court counselors; and (v) adult probation officers (to the extent authorized by G.S. 7B-3000(e1) and 15A-1341(e)).

A prosecutor may share information from a juvenile’s record with magistrates and with law enforcement officers sworn in North Carolina, but may not allow them to photocopy any part of the record. In narrowly prescribed circumstances when someone who is criminally charged as an adult has a juvenile record, law enforcement, the magistrate, the courts, and the prosecutor may use the defendant’s juvenile record for making decisions about pretrial release, plea negotiations, and plea acceptances. G.S. 7B-3000(e). This is allowed, however, only if:

1. The defendant is criminally charged with a Class A1 misdemeanor or a felony;
2. The defendant was younger than age 21 at the time the criminal offense was committed;
3. The juvenile record relates to a delinquency adjudication for a Class A1 misdemeanor or a felony; and
4. The juvenile adjudication (not the commission of the offense) occurred after the defendant reached age 13.

G.S. 7B-3000(f) addresses the use of an adjudication of a Class A through E felony in a later adult criminal prosecution under Rule 404(b), under the Structured Sentencing Act, or at a capital sentencing hearing. A delinquency adjudication is never a “prior conviction” for purposes of adult sentencing. G.S. 7B-3000(f) provides that a juvenile's delinquency adjudication for a Class A, B1, B2, C, D, or E felony may be used in a later criminal proceeding against the juvenile – (i) on motion of the prosecutor, (ii) after an in camera hearing to determine whether the record is admissible, and (iii) by order of the court in the criminal case under either G.S. 8C-1, Rule 404(b) (prior bad acts), or to prove an aggravating factor at sentencing under G.S. 15A-1340.4(a) (repealed), 15A-1340.16(d), or 15A-2000(e). Finally, G.S. 7B-3000(b) provides for probation officers' to have limited access to an adult defendant's juvenile record as provided in G.S. 7B-3000(e1) and 15A-1341(e).

“Other Records” Concerning Juveniles

1. Law Enforcement Records: G.S. 7B-3001(b)

The following people may examine and obtain copies of “law enforcement records and files” concerning a juvenile without a court order:

a. The juvenile or the juvenile’s attorney.
b. The juvenile’s parent, guardian, or custodian, or that person’s authorized representative.
c. The prosecutor.
d. Juvenile court counselors.
e. Law enforcement officers sworn in North Carolina.

Note: see the related Juvenile entry on Discovery for a discussion of how this statute may impact the scope of materials which are considered discoverable in a juvenile case. 

2. Division of Juvenile Justice Records: G.S. 7B-3001(c)

The following people may examine and obtain copies of Division of Juvenile Justice records and files concerning a juvenile without a court order:

a. The juvenile and the juvenile’s attorney.
b. The juvenile’s parent, guardian, or custodian, or that person’s authorized representative.
c. Professionals in the Division who are directly involved in the juvenile’s case.
d. Juvenile court counselors. 

Effective 10/1/17, amended G.S. 7B-3001(a) provides that the juvenile court counselor’s record must include the juvenile’s delinquency record and consultations with law enforcement that did not result in the filing of a juvenile petition. A separate amendment to G.S. 7B-3001(a) also requires the inclusion of a gang assessment as part of this record. Additionally, new G.S. 7B-3001(a1) authorizes juvenile court counselors to share with law enforcement officers, upon request, information related to a juvenile’s delinquency record or prior consultations with law enforcement for the purpose of assisting officers during the investigation of an incident that could lead to the filing of a complaint. Law enforcement officers may not obtain copies of juvenile records and must maintain the confidentiality of information shared and keep it separately from other law enforcement records, as required by G.S. 7B-3001(b).

Disclosure of Juvenile Information

1. Agencies’ Sharing of Information About Juveniles: G.S. 7B-3100

By statute, certain agencies are required to share information about juveniles who are the subject of a delinquency petition and to continue to do so until the court’s jurisdiction ends. (The requirement applies to abuse, neglect, dependency, and undisciplined juvenile cases as well.) However, the information may be used only:

a. For the protection of the juvenile,
b. For the protection of others, or
c. To improve the juvenile’s educational opportunities.

The list of agencies authorized to share information and the rules the statute directs the Division of Juvenile Justice to issue are at 28 NCAC 01A .0301 and .0302. The district attorney is authorized to obtain information from other agencies, but the statute and rules cannot be used to require the district attorney to disclose or release information.

2. Court Counselor’s Notification to Schools When Juveniles Are Alleged or Found to be Delinquent: G.S. 7B-3101

The juvenile court counselor is required to notify the juvenile’s school, whether public or private, verbally and in writing when:

a. A petition is filed alleging that the juvenile is delinquent for a felony;
b. The juvenile’s case is transferred to superior court;
c. The court dismisses a petition that alleged a felony; or
d. The court issues, modifies, or vacates a dispositional order concerning a juvenile who was adjudicated delinquent for a felony.

Effective December 1, 2019, and applicable to offenses committed on or after that date, amended G.S. 7B-3101(a)(2) provides that a juvenile court counselor must also provide verbal and written notification to the principal of the juvenile’s school if the juvenile’s case is transferred to superior court under the new G.S. 7B-2200.5 for juveniles aged 16 or 17.

Amended G.S. 115C-404(a) requires a principal who receives confidential juvenile records under G.S. 7B-3100 to destroy them upon notification that the student’s case has been transferred to superior court under G.S. 7B-2200 or new G.S. 7B-2200.5 (previously only under G.S. 7B-2200).

Notification is not required for motor vehicle offenses under G.S. Chapter 20.

3. Court Order or Exigent Circumstances: G.S. 7B-3103
As of December 1, 2023, and applying to offenses committed on or after that date, a limited amount of information about a juvenile may also be released to the public under certain circumstances pursuant to G.S. 7B-3103. First, the court may issue an order directing the Division of Juvenile Justice or any law enforcement agency in North Carolina to release certain information to the public if the court makes three required findings: (i) a petition has been filed alleging an offense "that would subject the juvenile to transfer to superior court" for trial as an adult; (ii) the juvenile poses a danger to him- or herself or others; and (iii) there is good cause to support the disclosure. G.S. 7B-3103(a). Second, the Division of Juvenile Justice or a law enforcement agency may release such information "when exigent circumstances exist," but the releasing party must seek a court authorizing that disclosure as soon as reasonably practicable, and no later than the next available session of court in that county. G.S. 7B-3103(e).

Whether based on a court order or exigent circumstances, the information subject to public disclosure is limited to the juvenile's name and photograph, the offense alleged in a petition, whether a secure custody order has been issued, and whether the juvenile poses a threat to self or others based on the alleged offense and the agency's level of concern. G.S. 7B-3103(b). Reasonable efforts must be made to notify the juvenile's parent, guardian, or custodian before this information is released. G.S. 7B-3103(d). Once the juvenile is taken into custody, or if the court declines to issue an order after information was released based on exigent circumstances, the information must be removed from any publicly available websites or social media accounts controlled by the agency. G.S. 7B-3103(c).

Expunction of Juvenile Records

A person at least 16 years of age who was alleged but not adjudicated to be delinquent may petition for expunction of all juvenile records relating to his or her having been alleged to be delinquent if the court dismissed the petition without an adjudication. See G.S. 7B-3200(h); AOC-J-903 (Petition and Motion – Expunction); AOC-J-904 (Affidavit of Good Character).

If the juvenile was adjudicated for a Class A, B1, B2, C, D, or E felony, the records cannot be expunged. If the juvenile was adjudicated for any other offense besides an A-E felony, and that juvenile is now age 18 or older, he or she may petition for expunction of delinquency records relating to offenses other than those listed above, if: (i) at least 18 months have passed since the person was released from the juvenile court’s jurisdiction; and (ii) the person has not subsequently been adjudicated delinquent or convicted as an adult of any felony or misdemeanor other than a traffic violation under any state or federal law. A petition for expunction must be served on the district attorney in the district where the adjudication occurred. The district attorney has 10 days after service to file any objection and must be notified of the date of the hearing on the petition. See generally G.S. 7B-3200 through 7B-3202.

Even after expunction, if the person is the respondent in a delinquency proceeding and chooses to testify, or is a witness in a delinquency proceeding, he or she may still be ordered to testify about whether he or she was adjudicated delinquent. See G.S. 7B-3201(b).