Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Why a juvenile record haunts you forever

Oftentimes, I hear people say things to me like, "It's just juvenile offenses, those don't count." Or "It's a juvenile record so it was supposed to be dropped off." There is a pervasive belief that a juvenile record doesn't count for anything once the kid turns 18. People believe that juvenile records are sealed & can't be used against them in the future. This is a dangerous misunderstanding, bc juvenile records can & do have significant consequences that can last for years.

How can a juvenile record affect someone? Let's review:

1. If the kid is 16 or 17 & charged with a felony, it's public information. It's not confidential, like other juvenile charges. Anyone can find out about it. So the stigma of being labeled as a bad kid/bad person can start very early.

2. Certain juvenile adjudications will have lifelong consequences. Adjudication is what they call convictions in juvenile court. Since juvenile offenses are "delinquency" matters, not crimes, a kid can't be convicted, just adjudicated. In theory... For example, if you get a juvenile adjudication for a felony level "crime of violence" at age 11, you are permanently prohibited from using or possessing a firearm. For the rest of your life. FOREVER. The only way to get that changed is to specifically request that the court grant you the ability to have a firearm again. So, at 11, you can say goodbye to any career goals you had that involved handling a firearm as part of the job. Can't be a cop, in the national guard, can't work in any capacity where you'd need to use a gun. At 11, your career options have already been limited.

3. Planning on working as a CNA, a PCA, a daycare provider, or even just a janitor at a hospital? Make sure you don't have juvenile adjudications (or even charged!) for any number of offenses, because the Department of Human Services will disqualify you from working in any position in any place where you might have direct contact with clients/patients. I.e., the janitor at a hospital. Got into a fight at school when you were 15 & got charged with misdemeanor assault? You're barred from working in those DHS background check required jobs for up to 7 years or more. Doesn't matter that it's not a public record, the DHS can still see it & still ban you. Depending on the charge, it can be a 7 year, 10 year, 15 year, or lifetime ban.

4. If you are a kid who gets charged with an offense that requires an adult to register as a predatory offender, be prepared to register as a predatory offender while you're a kid. And possibly into adulthood depending on how long your registration period is. Even if you end up adjudicated for a different offense that doesn't require registration, if it was from that same incident, you still have to register.

5. If you were adjudicated for two felony level offenses after age 14 & get charged with a felony as an adult under the age of 25, your juvenile adjudications give you a criminal history point, which means your adult sentence is now going to be more serious/severe.

6. In Minnesota, certain crimes are enhanceable. That means having a conviction for that type of offense will automatically make another charge for that offense more serious. So if you've already been convicted of a misdemeanor assault & you get charged with another misdemeanor assault, that now becomes a gross misdemeanor just because you have a prior assault conviction. If you have 2 of them, it becomes a felony, even if it would otherwise be a misdemeanor for someone else. But this doesn't just apply to adult convictions. If you were adjudicated for an assault as a juvenile (fight in school, for example) & then get charged with an assault as an adult, that juvenile adjudication will make the adult charge more serious. Instead of a misdemeanor, you get a gross misdemeanor charge because of your juvenile adjudication.

These are only some of the consequences of a juvenile record. It's simply NOT true that these records are sealed or expunged or dropped off or have not effect on someone after they turn 18. These records can & do follow a person around forever, even if they never get in any legal trouble again.

The more you know.