When juvenile criminal records are made public, children convicted of crimes can be haunted by their mistakes well into adulthood. The confidentiality of juvenile criminal records helps young people move on with their lives after they've been through the court system.
This is the case for kids who live in states where juvenile records are sealed, anyway. In many places, juvenile criminal records remain open and available for public access. Now, some communities are pushing for the right to seal, or expunge, juvenile court records.
Varying Approaches To Public Access
The process and requirements for sealing juvenile criminal records varies from state to state. Some states place numerous requirements on individuals who seek to expunge or seal their records. In others, there is a more streamlined process for expunging juvenile criminal records after a requisite period of time. And in some states, juvenile criminal records are automatically expunged when the person ages out of the juvenile justice system.
Even within states, the process isn't always uniform. In some, the process for expunging criminal records can vary from county to county. This can create confusion regarding whether expungement is available and, if it is, how to obtain it.
Recent Movement Focused On Limiting Public Access to Juvenile Records
Now, advocates for juvenile justice are working to ensure that all juvenile records are sealed from public view for good. Leaders in this movement argue that the process for expunging juvenile court records should either be easier or automatic. They argue that this will help juvenile offenders to obtain gainful employment, pursue an education, and move past youthful mistakes.
State Legislators Propose New Law in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, state legislators recently introduced a bill (SB 1226) that would make the process for expunging juvenile court records easier in some instances. Importantly, SB 1226 would streamline the process for expungement by creating a standardized statewide process. Additionally, the bill would require a Chief Juvenile Probation Officer to notify the court of a juvenile's eligibility for expungement.
If SB 1226 becomes law in Pennsylvania, the process for expungement will generally be more favorable to juvenile offenders. This bill, along with others introduced by state legislators in Pennsylvania, is intended to improve the outcomes for youth offenders in the state. Whether these bills will become law remains to be seen.
Don't Risk It—Invest In A Strong Defense
While there's a nationwide push to make juvenile court records confidential, the movement is still underway. It's certainly not a guarantee that you'll be able to seal juvenile court records once you become an adult.
This uncertainty means it's important to fight juvenile criminal charges vigorously. Youthful mistakes can have ripple effects well into adulthood, particularly without experienced counsel in your corner.
If you or your child is currently facing a juvenile criminal charge, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento. He can walk you through the process to give your child the best shot at putting this behind them. Contact the Lento Law Firm to learn more at 888.535.3686 or contact us online.