Juvenile criminal records are usually confidential, but you can see your own records. Your attorney, parents or legal guardian can get copies of them too. The procedure varies among jurisdictions, but can be as simple as submitting a written request to the juvenile services agency or court. Sometimes a court order is required.
Juvenile Records Are Usually Confidential
Many people complain that the adult criminal justice system does not focus sufficiently on rehabilitation. In contrast, the juvenile criminal justice system tries to prevent young offenders from suffering the lifelong stigma of being labeled a criminal. One way it does this is by imposing restrictions on access to juvenile police records.
In most states, juvenile criminal records cannot be accessed by the public. You cannot search juvenile records, for example, on the internet, as they are generally kept confidential. This confidentiality may be expanded further in states that allow a court to seal juvenile court convictions.
Sealing juvenile records is also known as expungement. While some states automatically seal juvenile records, others seal them only if the offender files a petition with the court and, in many cases, pays a fee.
If your record is expunged, you may be able to tell prospective landlords and employers that you have never been arrested or convicted.
How to Get Juvenile Records
To access your juvenile records, you need to research the procedure at the court or agency that was involved. The procedure varies from state to state and sometimes between courts in the same state.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) recently published an online state-by-state directory for people seeking to obtain copies of their juvenile records. Look up your state and follow the links CLINIC provides.
Some states, like Georgia, require that you sign and present an Authorization for Release. Indiana requires you to send in fingerprints and a money order for $10 with a written request for your records. In Maryland, you have to write a letter to the juvenile court where you were convicted.
Obtaining the Juvenile Records of Others
In most states, it is difficult to obtain the juvenile criminal records of someone other than yourself. This means it is difficult for a third party to see your juvenile records.
In some states, people with responsibility toward you, such as your parents, a guardian or your attorney, are eligible to obtain copies of the records. Other persons who are likely to be granted access to juvenile records include law enforcement agencies, child protective agencies and federal or state attorneys.
Public Access to Juvenile Records
Sometimes, courts allow the public to access juvenile records. This varies from state to state. Some courts give members of the public access when they find that the public's right to know and the interests of the victims outweigh any concern for the minor's privacy.
And, in some states, courts allow attorneys to look into the records of juveniles who are witnesses in a criminal prosecution. But this is generally only if the juvenile committed serious acts that are relevant to his testimony as a witness in the case.