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Juvenile Crime

Do Crimes Committed as a Juvenile Turn Up in a Criminal Background Check Report?

Crimes committed as a juvenile show up in criminal background reports in some instances while in other instances they don’t. As young persons below the age of 18 years engage in criminal activities, they are documented in what is called a juvenile record.

A juvenile record includes all documents held by the courts, the police department, the district attorney, and probation department for any criminal activity in which anyone under 18 for most states where the crime took place. In some states, the age will vary.

Youths older than 18 years are considered to be adults in most states, while other states have a cutoff of 18 and as young as 16 years. A juvenile verdict can prevent a young person from getting a job, getting financial aid for higher education, joining the military, or even being admitted into certain licensed professions.

Sealed and Expunged Records

The crimes committed as a juvenile will show up if your records were not sealed or expunged by the courts. The sealing of juvenile records refers to closing them completely to the public, while expunging entails their comprehensive physical obliteration.

As a former juvenile offender, you may have your record cleared by being expunged. This means your records will be sealed from the public and most law agencies, or destroyed altogether. The FBI can still see expunged records but law enforcement usually cannot. If that happens, you are free to tell potential employers and any other parties that you were never involved in criminal activity. However, some states will unseal the records if you are involved in other offences later.

Sealing is the process by which records are closed to the public completely but keeping them available to a restricted number of court or law enforcement personnel connected to a child’s case. In Nebraska, no information may be disclosed to potential employers, landlords, licensing agencies, or educational institutions once a juvenile record is sealed.  The record, however, remains accessible to police officers, prosecutors, and judges for purposes of investigating and prosecuting any crimes in future which the young person may commit.

Expungement entails the complete physical annihilation of a juvenile record. All references to the juvenile’s arrest, detention, adjudication, disposition and probation are deleted from the files of the court and law enforcement. Expunged records are henceforth treated as if they never existed.

How Sealing and Expungement are Accomplished

While young delinquents are allowed to petition for sealing and expungement, it is a tedious process. The courts will never notify you when or even how the process will take place. In some instances, the law does not allow you and you are at the mercy of the direction the prosecutor will take. Recent legislative measures by some states have moved to ensure the process of sealing and expungement is automatic.

Laws are very different in terms of when and which records are automatically sealed or expunged in various states. In Arkansas, most juvenile records are automatically sealed. The principal exclusion is for juvenile law-breaking adjudications in which the juvenile could have been tried as an adult.

In Maryland, juvenile court records are not available to the public, but some private employers and government agencies may have access to them. In Virginia, if you are nineteen or older and at least five years have passed since the end of your involvement with the juvenile court, most juvenile records will be automatically destroyed. If your record was reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), it will be automatically destroyed when you turn twenty-nine.

In most cases, the following crimes are not eligible to be expunged:

  • All offences punishable by life imprisonment
  • Sexually abusive child material or activity offenses
  • Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct
  • Third-degree criminal sexual conduct
  • Assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct
  • Felony domestic violence if the person has a previous misdemeanour conviction for domestic violence
  • Second-degree child abuse
  • Second-degree criminal sexual conduct
  • Human-trafficking-related offences
  • Some traffic offences such as convictions for driving while intoxicated, traffic offenses that cause injury or death, and commercial driver license violations
  • Terrorism-related offenses, including convictions for attempts to commit offenses
  • Using a computer to commit sex crimes offences

Sealed and Expunged Record

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Gavin Muirhead

Gavin Muirhead has been involved in developing products for background checks and improving online experiences in the background screening industry since 2012. He is the lead author and editor of Affordable Background Checks.