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Can a juvenile record be used against you? The answer may depend on where you live. Though a sealed juvenile or expunged record typically does not show up on background checks, federal and state laws will dictate what information an employer is able to lawfully access.
Even if a juvenile record has been sealed, it does not necessarily mean that it will disappear from all databases. Records that are publicly available may also be accessible via direct request by law enforcement agencies or private companies with specific consent to view the record.
Expungement is the one exception to whether or not an arrest or conviction will show up in a background screening. Expunged records are those that have been removed from public access, and they are treated as if the crime was never committed. Therefore, no record of conviction will exist once a juvenile record has been expunged.1
What are Criminal Juvenile Records?
Criminal juvenile records are all records of cases that involved an individual who was under the age of 18 at the time of the offense. This may include arrest records, detention facility information, juvenile court proceedings, and case disposition. Felony, misdemeanor, sex crime convictions, and arrests without conviction are part of a juvenile criminal record.
Juvenile records are considered highly confidential, and the general public does not have access to them. They may only be accessed by those who work directly with juvenile records, such as law enforcement, criminal defense lawyers and their defense teams, and child protective services. Law enforcement agencies may find it necessary to look into a record if they feel there is any kind of danger associated with a juvenile, and child protective services may need to know if a minor has a record for placement or adoption purposes.
Many states have laws that allow for the expungement of juvenile records. Expungement means that all information about an offense having occurred is removed from public access. This may include the destruction of fingerprints and other biometric data that was associated with the case.
What goes on a criminal record depends on the state. Some states make it illegal to disclose expunged or sealed juvenile records in any way. But, can a juvenile record be used against you? Employers and other professionals must be sure to follow all applicable state regulations when accessing or considering criminal juvenile records. For example, Assembly Bill No. 1843, an amended section of the California Labor Code, makes it unlawful for California juvenile records to be used in making hiring decisions.2
Understanding Sealing Juvenile Records
Many people may have some type of record from when they were a juvenile. This might be because you committed a crime or were even in detention for a period of time. While these records are retained by the government, not everyone is able to see them. These “juvenile records” are sealed so that the general public is not able to access them. Chapter 9 of the US Department of Justice’s Justice Manual and US law 18 U.S.C. § 5038 both protect against this type of disclosure of records when it pertains to a juvenile.3
Sealing records basically works to help people who were juvenile offenders go on with their lives without the interference of their past. Their criminal record is still considered and may be accessed by state and federal agencies if necessary, but it doesn’t interfere with any other part of their lives, such as housing or employment opportunities.
The entire point of sealing juvenile court records is to protect information from being disclosed to the public or other individuals. So the question remains, can a juvenile record be used against you? The reasoning behind sealing criminal juvenile records is so that society does not continue to punish people for their misdeeds and allows minors to move forward with their lives.
Some people may wonder exactly what records are hidden from public consumption when a file is sealed. This is because juvenile records encompass more than just whether you have been arrested or convicted. They will also include all charges brought against you, court proceedings you were involved in, and correspondence regarding a case against a minor. Therefore, if a case was sealed and you tried to access juvenile records information, not only would it be considered unlawful, but you could face prosecution for your actions.
There are some instances where “juvenile records” may not actually be considered as such under the law. In situations like this, you cannot have this information legally sealed. The cutoff age for what constitutes a juvenile varies from state to state. Furthermore, the nature of the crime will be taken into account when considering whether or not a record should be sealed. Serious crimes committed as a juvenile, such as felonies, those involving violence, and sex crimes often do not qualify to be sealed and remain open to public view.
Juvenile Record Expunged Versus Juvenile Records Sealed
An expunged juvenile record is different from a sealed juvenile record. The term expunged means that the records representing a person’s past mistakes or bad behavior have been destroyed, and it is as if they never existed. The term sealed means that the records still exist but they cannot be accessed by anyone except for law enforcement personnel or those who were involved in the case, except by court order. That being said, neither a juvenile record expunged nor a juvenile record sealed will completely disappear, as many people believe.
What decides whether your juvenile record can be expunged or sealed? The type of offense you committed will determine whether your juvenile record will be eligible to be expunged. If you were convicted for a minor traffic violation or something similar, your record could be expunged after a specified amount of time has elapsed. The key factors are the severity of the crime, whether no other crimes have been committed, and the charge itself.
Expunging juvenile history or delinquency involves a legal process where a lawyer or defense attorneys petition the court to have your record removed after a certain amount of time has passed. Once a court has approved the petition, you can then contact all local law enforcement agencies and request they expunge their records as well.
In most states, juvenile records will automatically be sealed after a certain number of years. Sealing juvenile records as an adult will be beneficial for young people who committed low-level offenses, such as theft or vandalism. It may also be helpful for those who were charged with more serious crimes but acquitted.
Since the justice system doesn’t consider juveniles to be fully responsible for their actions, judges often offer first-time offenders a second chance by having juvenile records sealed. Juvenile delinquency or the delinquency of a minor should not disqualify an adult from future opportunities. In turn, many states do not retain juvenile records, and some states don’t create an actual criminal record until a person is over 18 years old. The majority of states do not allow sealed or expunged juvenile records to be transferred to adult criminal cases, but there are exceptions depending on the state where you live.
Will a Juvenile Record Show on a Background Check?
When you apply for a job, can a juvenile record be used against you is an important question to consider. If an employer is searching for how to find out if someone was arrested, the company will likely run an investigation into your background and any potential criminal history. While the majority of employers will run a background check on potential employees, they will typically not search for more than what they are able to find online or within public records. Many times that is all the information an employer needs to see to know if you are a good fit for their company; however, some jobs may require more vetting.
If this is the case, then your prospective employer may request that you give the company permission to run a formal criminal background check. Due to background check regulations set forth by the FCRA, employers are restricted in how they use criminal history in their hiring decisions, there are some jobs where having a record could be disqualifying. The best examples of this would be when applying for work with the federal government, jobs that require a security clearance, or positions where you may be interacting with children.
It is a common misconception that a sealed record from when you were a juvenile won’t show up if someone runs an investigation on you, but this is often misleading. Although your juvenile history and delinquency record are sealed, the actual court documents still exist, and there is a possibility of those being viewed. Both expunged and sealed juvenile records can show up if certain court documents are accessed, but the resulting conviction won’t appear.
It is possible that a state will provide your employer with juvenile criminal records. However, it is common for states to deny the disclosure of juvenile history, and employers should always comply with privacy laws and abide by these regulations to avoid fines and costly penalties.
When you apply for a job, the company will likely run a background investigation to verify your identity and review any criminal history. Your employer may require that you sign an agreement stating that they are authorized to view your public records. Granting access to public records allows a potential employer to view any court records, whether criminal or civil, that are not currently restricted, which may include juvenile arrest records.
There are several rules that dictate what employers are allowed to ask during an interview, based on your personal history. If an employer asks questions about your juvenile criminal history during the hiring process, it might be considered discrimination, and they may be breaking the law.
Clearing Your Juvenile Record with Expungement
If you are given the option to expunge your juvenile record as an adult, it’s a good idea to take advantage of this opportunity. Adults choose to have these records destroyed in order to remove any obstacles that a previous mistake may create. You will not want your juvenile criminal history to hurt you later in life potentially; therefore, it is crucial to act now.
Professional legal advisors and defense attorneys are able to navigate the complexities of expunging your juvenile record, ensuring that all criminal histories are successfully removed. However, it’s essential to determine if you are eligible to have your juvenile history expunged first before spending money to contact a defense lawyer.
The first step in this process should be to review what appears in your criminal record by enlisting the services of a professional background screening agency. By understanding how to do a background check on yourself, you will have a clear idea of what the courts have allowed to be disclosed, and it will make it easier to discuss your options with a defense attorney.
Once your juvenile delinquency history is expunged, it will no longer be available for review by employers or schools. As long as there are no court-imposed restrictions on their disclosure, these records will be destroyed and legally considered non-existent. While it may not always be possible to get your juvenile history completely expunged, with this process, you can erase any hard evidence of your juvenile record from being potentially seen by third parties in the future.
If you are considering expunging your juvenile offense or delinquency records, it’s essential to know how this could affect your future employment opportunities, and other areas in life where having a clean slate will benefit you. If you’re looking into getting your juvenile history expunged, it is critical to know what will be removed and how this could affect your life. It is also important to find out what records are eligible to be removed, so contact a trustworthy background screening agency to perform a search.
Having your juvenile offenses expunged is the only way to confidently know that they won’t affect your employment options as an adult, and you will be able to enjoy the benefits of having a clean record. Keep in mind that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you based on your criminal record as a minor. This means that they cannot deny hiring you because you were detained or convicted of certain non-violent crimes, such as underage drinking or marijuana possession when you were a juvenile. If you’d like to learn more about can a juvenile record be used against you and the law regarding the expungement process, contact a lawyer today.
1American Bar Association. 20 November 2018. What Is “Expungement?”. 27 Nov 2021. Web. <https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/publications/teaching-legal-docs/what-is-_expungement-/>
2Mora, Jennifer. 3 October 2016. California Amends Labor Code to Prohibit Employers from Using Juvenile Records in Employment Decisions. Littler. 27 November 2021. Web. <https://www.littler.com/publication-press/publication/california-amends-labor-code-prohibit-employers-using-juvenile-records>
3Department of Justice. 9-8.000 – JUVENILES. 27 November 2021. Web. <https://www.justice.gov/jm/jm-9-8000-juveniles>