Tennessee Code Annotated

Title 37: Juveniles

Chapter 1: Juvenile Courts and Proceedings

Part 1: General Provisions

TCA 37-1-153: Court files and records -- Inspection limited -- Exceptions for certain violent offenders -- Confidentiality -- Expunction.

(a) Except in cases arising under § 37-1-146, all files and records of the court in a proceeding under this part are open to inspection only by:

(1) The judge, officers and professional staff of the court;

(2) The parties to the proceeding and their counsel and representatives;

(3) A public or private agency or institution providing supervision or having custody of the child under order of the court;

(4) A court and its probation and other officials or professional staff and the attorney for the defendant for use in preparing a presentence report in a criminal case in which the defendant is convicted and who prior thereto had been a party to the proceeding in juvenile court; and

(5) With permission of the court, any other person or agency or institution having a legitimate interest in the proceeding or in the work of the court.

(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a), petitions and orders of the court in a delinquency proceeding under this part shall be opened to public inspection and their content subject to disclosure to the public if:

(1) The juvenile is fourteen (14) or more years of age at the time of the alleged act; and

(2) The conduct constituting the delinquent act, if committed by an adult, would constitute first degree murder, second degree murder, rape, aggravated rape, rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child, aggravated robbery, especially aggravated robbery, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping or especially aggravated kidnapping.

(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, if a court file or record contains any documents other than petitions and orders, including, but not limited to, a medical report, psychological evaluation or any other document, such document or record shall remain confidential.

(d) (1) Except as otherwise permitted in this section, it is an offense for a person to intentionally disclose or disseminate to the public the files and records of the juvenile court, including the child's name and address.

(2) A violation of this subsection (d) shall be punished as criminal contempt of court as otherwise authorized by law.

(e) Notwithstanding other provisions of this section, where notice is required under § 49-6-3051, an abstract of the appropriate adjudication contained in the court file or record shall be made and provided to the parent, guardian, or other custodian of the juvenile, including the department, and this abstract shall be presented to the school in which the juvenile is, or may be, enrolled, in compliance with § 49-6-3051.

(f) (1) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, any person who is tried and adjudicated delinquent or unruly by a juvenile court may subsequently petition the juvenile court for expunction of all court files and records. The court may order all or any portion of the requested expunction if, by clear and convincing evidence, the court finds that the petitioner:

(A) (i) Is currently eighteen (18) years of age or older;

(ii) Is at least one (1) year removed from the person's most recent delinquency or unruly adjudication; and

(iii) Has never been convicted of a criminal offense as an adult, has never been convicted of a criminal offense following transfer from juvenile court pursuant to § 37-1-134, and has never been convicted of a sexual offense as defined in § 40-39-202, whether in juvenile court, following transfer from juvenile court pursuant to § 37-1-134, or as an adult;

(iv) Does not have an adjudication of delinquency for a violent juvenile sexual offense as defined in § 40-39-202;

(B) Has maintained a consistent and exemplary pattern of responsible, productive and civic-minded conduct for one (1) or more years immediately preceding the filing of the expunction petition; or

(C) The juvenile has made such an adjustment of circumstances that the court, in its discretion, believes that expunction serves the best interest of the child and the community.

(2) Nothing in this subsection (f) shall be construed to apply to any law enforcement records, files, fingerprints or photographs pertaining to any delinquency or unruly adjudication.

(3) (A) In any case in which there is successful completion of an informal adjustment without adjudication under § 37-1-110, all court files and records shall be expunged by the juvenile court after one (1) year, upon a petition by the child pursuant to § 40-32-101(a), and without cost to the child. The court shall inform the child, at the time of the informal adjustment, of the need to petition for expunction after a year of successful completion of an informal adjustment and provide the child with a model expunction petition prepared by the administrative office of the courts. The administrative office of the courts shall create a petition that can be completed by a child and shall be circulated to all juvenile court clerks. All juvenile court clerks shall make this model expunction petition accessible to all petitioners.

(B) In any case that is dismissed, excluding a case dismissed after successful completion of an informal adjustment, all court files and records shall be expunged by the juvenile court as a part of the court's order of dismissal, without the filing of a petition for expunction, and at no cost to the child.

(4) Any person whose records are expunged under subdivisions (f)(1)-(3) shall be restored to the status that the person occupied before arrest, citation, the filing of a juvenile petition, or referral.

History: Acts 1970, ch. 600, § 51; T.C.A., § 37-251; Acts 1994, ch. 998, § 1; 1999, ch. 366, § 1; 2003, ch. 238, § 2; 2005, ch. 265, § 4; 2005, ch. 412, § 1; 2007, ch. 552, § 1; 2011, ch. 483, § 2; 2016, ch. 1017, §§ 1-4.