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Are juvenile records really private?

Everyone knows juvenile records are sealed and can’t be viewed by anyone….right? Wrong. While it is true that juvenile records are “strictly safeguarded” in New Jersey, they are not completely hidden from public view. In fact, juvenile records are accessible by more people than you may think.

Juvenile records are not invisible

Most states offer complete protection while a juvenile matter is pending. However, once a child has been adjudicated “delinquent” (the equivalent of “guilty” in an adult proceeding), that protection fades. In New Jersey, juvenile records are accessible by the following people/entities:

  • Law enforcement personnel
  • School principals and other school officials
  • Any government agency who asserts a direct interest in the matter and can show good cause for disclosure
  • The victim and his/her family
  • A party in a later legal proceeding involving the juvenile

If the offense committed would be considered an indictable offense in the first, second or third degree if committed by an adult, aggravated assault, or involved property damage in excess of $500, the juvenile’s record may be made available to the general public.

Juvenile records can follow children into adulthood

There is also no law in New Jersey preventing employers from asking applicants about their juvenile record. This means that legal issues that occurred while an individual was a minor can easily follow them into adulthood, limiting their employment opportunities.

Juvenile records contain sensitive information

Juvenile records contain more than the offense committed and the final disposition. These records often contain sensitive personal information about the juvenile, including his or her social history, education record, behavioral health history, information about the child’s family and a mental or psychological evaluation. This type of information, when released, can impact the way individuals interact with and treat the juvenile, and create additional societal barriers.

There is a way to limit the accessibility of a juvenile record. New Jersey allows individuals to seal or expunge their juvenile records in most circumstances. For more information about the benefits of record-sealing and expungement, consider contacting a lawyer.