What Are Juvenile Records and Do They Show Up In Background Checks?

What Are Juvenile Records and Do They Show Up In Background Checks?

You probably know that the word "juvenile" refers to a person who is not yet an adult, so "juvenile records" refer to a detailed history of a child's crimes and convictions.

What you may not know is that the age cutoff for being considered a juvenile varies from state to state. In most states (and at the federal level), people are considered legal adults at age 18. However, in some states it's age 17, and in others it's as young as 16 years old. Heck, Wyoming doesn't consider you an adult until you're 19 years old.

The age at which someone is considered an adult has big implications when it comes to criminal records, since adult crimes generally have tougher sentences and will stay on someone's permanent record forever (unless the crimes are eligible for clearing, which varies by state). Note just because a criminal sentence for a child might be less severe, children can be charged and found guilty of the same crimes as adults. A.k.a. crimes are crimes, no matter the age at which someone commits them.

Will Juvenile Records Show Up In Background Checks?

Unlike adult criminal records, juvenile arrest records and conviction records can be sealed, or "hidden". If now-adults go through the process of sealing their juvenile records (sometimes referred to as "expungement"), any crimes committed when they were younger won't show up in a background check...and they don't have to tell potential employers about these crimes either.

Not everyone can seal their juvenile records. First, the applicant must now be an adult, which remember, can vary depending on what state they live in. In addition, five years must have passed since the conviction or court proceedings.

More serious crimes – generally any crime that would be considered a felony if committed by an adult – aren't always eligible for expungement (this again varies by state), and often records can't be expunged if a person has committed crimes as an adult as well.

Another point to keep in mind: most states have a statute of limitations when it comes to juvenile crimes. In most places, that means that if you have reached the age of 21, you can't be tried for a crime you committed as a child, except in the case of serious crimes.

So, What do Juvenile Arrest Records Mean for Job Hunting?

For job applicants, you likely don't have to worry about missteps you made as a kid preventing you from landing a job. For employers, this means you may not be able to construct a complete picture of an applicant's criminal history. However, given the limitations on expungement above, this generally means your applicant isn't considered a threat anymore or that the initial crime wasn't serious. Thus, there is likely no reason to worry.

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