Access to a person’s juvenile crime records is much more restricted than access to adult crime records. Most states consider juvenile crime records confidential and will deny the public and media access. Access to juvenile records is usually only granted to certain persons and organizations, such as:
- Local, state and federal law enforcement
- Court officials
- The juvenile’s attorney
- Victims or potential victims
- School officials
Access to juvenile criminal records may not be automatic. Persons or organizations seeking access might have to get court permission by making a showing of good cause, and even then, the court may have the authority to deny the request in its discretion. In addition, most states have laws that make an exemption for juvenile records to be available to the public and only give limited access to the juvenile, his or her parents, or other legal authorities.
Some states, like Tennessee and Colorado, allow access to juvenile records depending on the age of the juvenile and the severity of the crime. Tennessee will permit access in cases where the juvenile is 14 years of age or older and is charged with a serious crime. Colorado will open records if the juvenile is 12 years of age or older and if the juvenile was charged with a violent crime.
Some states have exceptions to the general confidentiality provided juvenile records when the juvenile is charged with a particularly violent crime or a crime that would be a felony if committed by an adult. States that currently have this exception are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington.
On the other hand, some states guarantee that juvenile records will remain sealed to the public and media after a person turns 21 years old, as long as he did not commit another serious crime after the age of 18.
Juvenile records showing up on employment background checks depend on the state that the background check is being conducted. Each state adopts its own laws and guidelines that govern how juvenile records should be handled. Some states do not allow juvenile records to show up on employment background checks. However, if the background checks are being conducted by the government or for a government purpose, the record may show up.
However, expungement does not eliminate all the consequences of a juvenile court conviction. The most significant is that the record may be used against you in further proceedings. For example, even an expunged conviction can serve as a strike that produces harsher punishment under a state’s Three Strikes statute.
Juvenile offenders may be able to file a petition in court to seek an expungement to seal their juvenile court conviction. Expungement allows juvenile offenders to tell prospective employers, landlords, and licensing agencies that they have never been arrested or convicted.
If you have a problem regarding access to juvenile crime records, an attorney with experience in juvenile crime can provide invaluable assistance. State laws regarding the confidentiality of juvenile records can vary greatly, but a criminal law attorney familiar with your state’s laws will know how to best protect or access those records.