How to Access Juvenile Crime Records

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 Who Has Access to Juvenile Crime Records?

In general, a juvenile crime record can be described as a criminal record that is associated with a specific child or minor. Briefly, juvenile crimes refer to crimes that are committed by children or minors (i.e., juveniles) who are under the age of majority. The age of majority can vary in accordance with individual state laws, however, it usually means persons who are below the age of 18 years old. 

So, for example, if a 15 year old minor commits a crime and is arrested, charged, and convicted, then they will be deemed to have a juvenile crime record.

The primary difference between juvenile criminal records and adult criminal records is that juvenile crime records tend to be sealed. Juvenile crime records are also harder to gain access to and typically are not viewable by the general public. This means that only certain persons and entities will be granted access to them, such as:

  • Prosecutors;
  • Court officials;
  • Parents or legal guardians;
  • A juvenile’s lawyer;
  • School officials;
  • Victims or potential victims; and
  • Local, state, and federal law enforcement officials.

This is especially true when a juvenile crime record contains an entry for a conviction. Depending on the crime, the parties in the above list will generally still be able to gain access to juvenile conviction records. 

It should be noted, however, that some of these parties will first need to get permission from a court before they can access these records. In order to do so, they must demonstrate to the court that they have good cause for viewing the record. In some instances, a court may still deny their request even if a party was able to prove they had good cause.

In addition, some states may have regulations that exempt access to juvenile records from all parties other than law enforcement officials and a juvenile’s parents or legal guardians. On the other hand, some states, such as Colorado and Tennessee, allow access to juvenile crime records based on the severity of the crime and the age of the minor who committed it.

For instance, Tennessee will permit access in cases where a juvenile is at least 14 years of age (or older) and is charged with a serious crime. Colorado provides access to juvenile crime records if the minor is 12 years of age or older and the minor was charged with a violent crime.

To learn more about accessing juvenile crime records and the restrictions in your particular state, you should contact a local criminal law attorney for further legal advice on the matter.

When Are Juvenile Records Available to the Public and Media?

As discussed above, many states consider juvenile criminal records to be confidential and sealed off from public access. Thus, the public and media will likely be denied access to juvenile crime records in those states. 

There are some states, however, that have created exceptions to the general rule of confidentiality regarding juvenile criminal records. For example, some permit the public and media to gain access to a juvenile crime record when a minor is charged with a particularly violent crime.

Some states that currently abide by this exception include Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Washington, California, Vermont, Minnesota, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

In contrast, other states follow the rule that a juvenile record will remain sealed to the public and media after that person turns 21 years of age. This rule will only apply if a juvenile did not commit another serious crime between the ages of 18 and 21.

One state, North Dakota, is so protective of juvenile criminal records that the only time that the public or media would be able to gain access to a minor’s record is if the minor is a threat to national security or has escaped from a detention facility.

Do Juvenile Records Show Up On Background Checks?

A background check generally refers to a type of search process that an individual or entity can use to verify that a specific individual is in fact the person whom they claim to be. 

Most states will typically seal a juvenile’s criminal record once they reach the age of majority and meet certain eligibility requirements. Other states may not abide by this age of majority rule. In either case, however, having a record sealed (as opposed to expunged) means that the record still exists and thus may be accessible by specific parties. 

Again, whether a juvenile record will appear during a background check will largely depend on the individual laws of each state. This is because every state has its own regulations that govern how juvenile records should be handled. For instance, some states prohibit juvenile criminal records from showing up during a background check, whereas other states do not.

If a background check is being performed by the government, law enforcement officials, or for a government-related purpose (e.g., immigration documentation), then a juvenile criminal record may appear in the background check, regardless of whether the minor’s record is sealed or the state in which the record is stored has strong restrictions.

Additionally, a juvenile criminal record will also come up during a background search if it is used to initiate further proceedings against a minor or in a subsequent criminal case. 

Therefore, an individual should review state laws to find out whether their state permits juvenile criminal records to appear during background checks and should consider the party who is conducting the background check (e.g., law enforcement, employer, etc.).

Do Minors Get Juvenile Mugshots?

Again, the answer to the popular question, “do minors get mugshots?” is well, it depends. This time, however, it is not only contingent on individual state laws, but also on the age of the minor, whether they are charged as an adult, the severity of their crimes, and so forth.

A mugshot, officially known as a booking photo, is taken when an individual gets arrested for a crime and “booked” in jail. Thus, if the minor is being charged as an adult, then they may have to take a mugshot. 

A minor may also get a juvenile mugshot at a young age, but only certain parties may be able to access it (e.g., law enforcement). In which case, it will normally not be accessible by the public and solely used for law enforcement purposes.

Can I Expunge My Juvenile Record?

The terms expungement and sealed are often used interchangeably, but do not have the same meaning. An expungement means that it is essentially inaccessible by anyone save for law enforcement or parties to a subsequent court case. It also means that the juvenile can truthfully say that they were never arrested or tried for a crime on documents like college or employment applications. 

As is the case with all other topics discussed in this article, whether or not a juvenile can have their juvenile criminal record expunged will largely depend on state laws and several other factors, such as the severity of their crime, whether they were arrested again after their initial conviction, and how old they are at the time of their request. 

Also, while some states will seal a juvenile record when a minor turns 18 or 21, no states will automatically expunge a juvenile’s criminal record. The majority of states require that the juvenile file a petition to have their record expunged with the court. The procedure and other necessary requirements will vary from state to state, but many states require that the minor complete their sentencing and be an adult first before they can file for expungement. 

Do I Need an Attorney with Experience in Juvenile Crime?

If you are the parent or guardian of a minor who has been accused of committing a juvenile crime and is currently facing charges, then you should contact a local juvenile lawyer on their behalf as soon as possible. An experienced juvenile lawyer will be able to inform the minor about their rights as a juvenile criminal defendant and can assist them in efficiently navigating the juvenile justice system. 

An attorney can review your minor’s charges and perform research to see if there are any defenses available that they can raise against the charges. An attorney can also provide legal representation in court and can discuss the potential consequences that your minor may be facing if convicted.

In addition, if you or your child need help sealing a juvenile criminal record or getting a juvenile criminal record expunged, your attorney will be able to assist with these procedures as well.

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