Here is a great question:
I have a question I’m hoping you can answer. I have a case where my client’s nephew had an incident (long story) with the courts here in California which resulted in a juvenile record. He is now 18 and his parents are considering having his record sealed, but are torn… the logic being if it shows up as “sealed” that leaves the issue to the persons imagination, but if the record is publicly available, at least there is potential to explain. Their biggest concern, of course, is insuring it be the least hindrance to his adult success.
In an effort to make the most reasonable decision, they would like to see what people would see if they were to do a background/records check. How would they go about doing that and what I charge them?
Thanks in advance!!!
There is no need to “seal” a record, though that has always been a misnomer, as juvenile criminal records are neither publicly available nor are they allowed to be used in credit or employment decisions, however they are rarely, if ever, withheld from official law enforcement use. The only records which are ever technically “sealed” are adoption and most family court records, where it usually takes a court order to access them. The only way a juvenile’s criminal record would appear in the public record is if he or she was prosecuted as an adult (not necessarily just convicted as an adult); remember, each state defines the age of majority differently when it comes to criminal matters also; in some states 17 is the age of majority, while in a few others it is 19 years of age.
If you want to know what would be found in a background investigation, just go to the county courthouse where the cases were prosecuted, search the criminal history index and see what comes up and charge your clients accordingly. It occurs to me, also, that if the crime or conviction received any publicity in the media that the juvenile’s name may have been mentioned and could be on the Internet, which would warrant a deep web search too.
-L. Scott Harrell