When a juvenile is convicted of a crime in New Jersey, the actual crime and the punishment can vary in terms of severity. Whether it was a crime of a serious nature or something that could be chalked up to a youthful mistake, one of the biggest concerns for the juvenile and his or her parents is whether the youth’s criminal record will continually be an issue after the punishment has been served. Fortunately for these youths and their families, there are options under New Jersey law by which their crimes may be cleared or the records may be sealed and not be viewable by the general public.
Who Can View Juvenile Records?
Juvenile records involving personal information of a psychological, medical or legal nature are typically not available to be seen by the general public. This is not the case, however, when the juvenile has committed an offense that would be considered a first, second or third degree crime had it been committed by an adult, if there has been property damage that is valued at over $500, or if the juvenile has committed an aggravated assault.
Certain records can be viewed if there is a civil action in progress because of something the juvenile did. These include the identity of the youth, the offense he or she was charged with and the result of the case. Access to this information can only be connected to the case in question as a result of a legal claim on the part of the victim or the victim’s family.
State agencies, such as social services and the county prosecutors, have access to juvenile records. School officials may have access with approval of the New Jersey Board of Education. The attorney representing the juvenile has access to all of his or her client’s records.
Sealing a Juvenile’s Criminal Record
If a juvenile’s record is sealed, it is not available to be viewed by the general public and it is treated as if it never happened at all. If, for example, the individual is seeking a job and the company for whom he or she would like to work performs background checks on all prospective employees, the potential employer would not be able to see the records of the offenses the juvenile was charged with. This of course doesn’t apply to crimes that are serious enough that the juvenile was tried as an adult, as would be the case in a rape or murder.
In order to seal a youth’s record, they must show a period of good behavior or enlistment in the military. Good behavior must be met for at least two years since the completion of sentencing and punishment, and the individual must not have incurred additional criminal charges in the two years before the motion to seal or have any pending charges.
Joining the military is another method to have juvenile records sealed in New Jersey. Records must be provided showing that the youth has been accepted to enter into the military forces and is in fact entering into the military.
Once records are sealed, they may be maintained for identification and law enforcement purposes. Those named in the case may be allowed to view the records. Also, medical professionals treating the youth can request that the records be unsealed for their inspection. It is important to note that if the juvenile has a subsequent adjudication of delinquency or conviction, the prior order sealing the records is null and void. This is one way sealed records differ from the process of expungement, discussed below.
Expunging a Juvenile’s Criminal Record
In certain cases, the entire record can be expunged (essentially erased) if there are specific conditions met. If the crime didn’t end with a judgment of delinquency, the juvenile can request that the records be expunged. The entire record of the infraction can fall into this category if the youth has had five years since the case was judged to have been completed with punishment served and if no other crimes have been committed in that span of time. Depending on the level of crime, a single adjudication can also be expunged. Petitions may be presented for the expunging of crimes that would be considered petty offenses if committed by an adult. There are additional requirements that may affect your ability to obtain an expungement in New Jersey, so it is important to speak with a lawyer about your particular situation before requesting an expungement of your criminal record.
An Attorney Can Help Avoid Long-Term Consequences for Juvenile Offenders
In many instances, the crime and punishment aren’t the worst parts of a charge for a juvenile offender. These types of issues can follow a person around for the rest of his or her life when applying for a job, seeking a place to live, trying to enter the military or law enforcement, or even applying for employment with the government in something as seemingly harmless as the post office. It can also affect public benefits and professional licensing.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a crime as a juvenile and would like to learn about the opportunity to seal the records or have them expunged, the attorneys at the Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey can help.
Villani & DeLuca defense lawyers are knowledgeable and experienced in all aspects of New Jersey criminal law. If your case occurred in Monmouth County or Ocean County, Villani & DeLuca can provide assistance and advice. Call for a free consultation today to discuss your case. Perhaps you can have your juvenile indiscretion sealed or erased and move on with your life without your past influencing your life any more than it already has.