Parents, What You Need to Know: Collateral Consequences of a Juvenile Conviction

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Zero-Tolerance Policies

Nearly every school has adopted a zero-tolerance policy concerning drugs, weapons, and acts of violence. These policies cover an increasing number of offenses and schools take them extremely seriously. School administrators will not hesitate to suspend, expel, or exclude students from school for a violation of educational policies. In addition, student athletes must abide by state and district athletic codes. A violation of an athletic policy may result in a suspension or permanent ban from athletic activities. In many cases, a juvenile defense attorney can contest disciplinary actions through the juvenile justice system or educational system.


Predatory Offender Registration

"Sexting" can ruin a juvenile's life. When juveniles transmit sexually explicit photographs of themselves or one of their peers, they could be violating child pornography statutes for either possessing or distributing child pornography. A simple sext can also expose a juvenile to predatory-offender registration laws. Juveniles who are convicted of a felony-level criminal sexual offense must register as a predatory offender. Registration means divulging personal information, including your primary and secondary addresses, work address, school address, and vehicle information. This information becomes public and easily accessible to anyone with internet access.


Employment Barriers

Many employers perform background checks on applicants before hiring--they are easy and cheap, and help narrow down the applicant pool. Fortunately, most employers do not have access to juvenile records, but they can sometimes find "leaked" juvenile records through a basic internet search. In addition, some categories of employers have access to juvenile records, like law enforcement agencies, human service departments, healthcare providers, and public schools. Generally, an applicant is not required to report a juvenile delinquency adjudication because it is not a criminal conviction; however, an employer who obtains juvenile records may think the applicant is lying if the juvenile offense goes undisclosed.


College Application Disclosures

The college application process is time-consuming, stressful, and competitive. Colleges want to know everything about potential students, and they want applicants to incorporate work history, volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, and hobbies into their applications. College admissions officers also want to know whether an applicant has ever been convicted of a criminal or juvenile offense, and in some cases, whether an applicant has ever been arrested. The outcome of a juvenile case depends on a variety of factors, but some options are better than others at eliminating or mitigating the effect of an arrest or conviction.


Financial Aid Availability

The estimated cost of a four year college degree in 2031 is $284,000 (public) and $559,000 (private). The cost of post-secondary education continues to rise at a historic rate, making financial aid an integral part of pursuing a college degree. Some controlled substance convictions could affect a student's eligibility for certain types of assistance, such as federal and state grants, scholarships, and fellowships. A conviction could place a heavy burden on parents to provide support and force students to take out high interest rate loans.


Housing Limitations

When college students and renters apply for housing, landlords often ask about arrests and criminal convictions. Most landlords also perform background checks as part of the application process. Landlords can circumvent the limitations on access to juvenile records by asking applicants to sign a release of information prior to performing the background check. Police departments and other agencies can release juvenile records if the landlord attaches a release of information signed by the applicant to the background check request.


Military Restrictions

The military requires candidates to meet certain mental health and character fitness standards, which makes it important to keep juvenile records as clean as possible. The different branches of the military have full access to juvenile records, even if the records have been expunged. Certain juvenile offenses can interfere with your ability to join the military if a recruiter concludes a candidate is not fit for service. Even if a juvenile is indifferent towards joining the military, it is important to keep as many options available.


Firearm Bans

A ban on owning a firearm can prevent a juvenile from becoming a police officer, joining the military, and hunting with family and friends. In Minnesota, for example, a juvenile convicted for committing a "crime of violence" receives a lifetime ban from owning or possessing a firearm. Minnesota and other states pay a lot of attention to violent crimes, such as drug possession, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and criminal sexual conduct. Even if the offense is later reduced to a misdemeanor, the law may prohibit the juvenile from owning a firearm.


DNA Sample Required

Many state statutes require juveniles convicted of certain felony-level offenses to provide DNA samples. In Minnesota, for example, a juvenile may be required to submit a DNA sample simply for being charged with a predatory felony. If a juvenile is found not guilty or the case is dismissed at the juvenile's request, the agency maintaining the DNA records is required to destroy his or her sample, delete the information from the DNA index system, and return all records to the juvenile. However, if a juvenile pleads guilty or is found guilty by a court, the DNA sample could remain in the agency's database for decades.

Additional Resources

Juvenile laws and collateral consequences vary from state to state. Parents and juveniles should strongly consider consulting a juvenile defense attorney before resolving or fighting a juvenile matter.

Andrew J. Reiland II, Law Offices of John C. Conard

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