We've spent a fair amount of time here at Stealth Advise working on juvenile-related cases recently. Our clients come to us thinking that juvenile records won't impact their kids' lives and that "minor" incidents won't affect them in the future. Unfortunately, this isn't the case; parents should know that juvenile records can indeed dramatically impact their kids' future, particularly in a state where juveniles are regularly prosecuted as adults.
To be clear, in the United States, the primary goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate youthful offenders. Unfortunately, even after rehabilitation, many former offenders find that the mistakes they made as juveniles continue to have a negative impact on their lives well into adulthood. Contrary to popular belief, juvenile records are typically not automatically sealed or expunged. As a result, juvenile records have several long-term effects.
Applying to Colleges
If you plan to apply to college, you should be aware that most schools will consider your juvenile record during the application process. Fortunately, having a juvenile record will not lead to an automatic rejection. Instead, colleges consider juvenile records on a case-by-case basis. They will typically consider a variety of factors, including the length of your record, the seriousness of the offenses, and signs of rehabilitation. Colleges will be looking for you to show them that you have made positive changes to your life to reduce your chances of recidivism.
Searching for Jobs
A juvenile record will also impact your job search. Many workplaces ask applicants to self-report prior convictions, including juvenile cases. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly common for companies to run professional background checks on potential employees. The results of these background checks will include juvenile charges. The impact of a juvenile record on job applications varies wildly. Some companies will automatically disqualify any applicants with juvenile records, while others ignore juvenile convictions entirely.
Joining the Military
Juvenile records can be particularly harmful when applying to the military. Each branch of the armed forces creates its own rules for how juvenile records impact eligibility, but they all tend to be significantly stricter than most private companies. The modern trend has been to increasingly prohibit enlistment for those with juvenile records. If your only juvenile crimes were minor and non-violent, you may be able to obtain a waiver allowing you to enlist. If your juvenile crimes were serious or violent though, you will likely be completely disqualified.
Enhanced Penalties for Adult Crimes
A final consequence of a juvenile record is that it can lead to enhanced penalties for crimes committed as an adult. In many states, judges are required to consider juvenile convictions during the sentencing phase of adult criminal prosecutions. A long juvenile record could lead to heavier sentencing for adult crimes. For example, you could receive jail time for crimes which would normally lead to probation. Additionally, crimes which carry prison sentences will often carry much longer sentence lengths.
Conclusion - Sealing and Expungement
The good news is that there are ways to reduce the impact of a juvenile record. If your juvenile record is detrimentally affecting your adult life, your best option may be to speak with an attorney about sealing and expungement. Sealing is the process of making all or part of your criminal record inaccessible through public record requests. Expungement goes a step further by deleting the record itself. Both processes can help to minimize the effect that your juvenile record will have on your adult life.