A juvenile’s offense record continues to exist (absent an expungement or court order to the contrary) for a person’s entire life. That said, it is available to numerous government agencies as well. The question as to whether private businesses, independent federal agencies, or even state regulatory agencies have access to this information is a much more nuanced question. Regardless, even after a person turns 18 years old, their juvenile record continues to exist. Here are ten factors to consider when trying to ascertain what a juvenile record entails and how it can effect a person down the road:

ONE: Although Minnesota law classifies law enforcement data (e.g., name, gender, age, address) about the arrest of an adult offender as public information, access to similar data on juvenile offenders is more restricted. Specifically, the law only allows law enforcement agencies to publicly release information on the age and gender of an arrested juvenile. Minn. Stat. §§ 13.82, subd. 2; 260B.171, subd. 5.

TWO: Even though the general public cannot access most law enforcement data on juvenile offenders, these records are available to certain specific individuals and entities. For example, law enforcement records on juveniles are open to other law enforcement agencies if needed for law enforcement purposes. Minn. Stat. §§ 13.82, subd. 24; 260B.171, subd. 5(b).

THREE: Despite the general rule protecting the privacy of law enforcement data on juveniles, information indicating that a juvenile’s driver’s license was suspended or revoked by court order is available to the general public. Minn. Stat. § 171.12, subd. 1(b).

FOUR: Historically, records on juvenile offenders maintained by the juvenile court are not available to the general public. However, such records may be available to government agencies, but even then, disclosures are only on a “need to know” basis – unless, of course, the juvenile court orders otherwise. This privacy policy is based on the primarily rehabilitative mission of the juvenile justice system, and the expectation that the system will best achieve its objectives if the juvenile and his or her mistakes are protected from public scrutiny. However, this general rule has significantly changed in the past 20 years in Minnesota. As a result, juvenile records, particularly those involving serious crimes committed by older juveniles, currently are available to a variety of specified entities and individuals. Minn. Stat. § 260B.171, subds. 1 and 4.

FIVE: Often the openness of any particular record depends on the juvenile court’s categorizing of the offense and the juvenile who committed it. As is the case with law enforcement records, records maintained on juvenile offenders who are confined in a juvenile detention or correctional facility (or who are on probation or parole) may not be released to the public, but such records may however be released to other government agencies that have a statutorily defined need for the information. Minn. Stat. §§ 13.84, subds. 6 and 7; 13.85, subd. 5; 260B.171, subd. 4(d). Thus, on relatively minor or low level offenses, access to such juvenile records would be much more limited than if a juvenile was facing a more relatively serious charge.

SIX: The law requires juvenile courts to maintain their records on juvenile offenders until an offender’s 28th birthday. However, Minnesota law also requires the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) (which is one of the state’s agencies charged with maintaining juvenile/criminal records) to destroy juvenile records earlier than the offender’s 28th birthday under certain circumstances. For example, the following situations may fall under such circumstances:

  • when no court petition is filed or diversion referral is made within six months of an arrest,
  • when a court petition is dismissed, and/or
  • when a juvenile successfully completes a diversion program.

(These three circumstances are relevant to any juvenile facing a delinquency petition in that he or she may be eligible for and offered one of these options during plea negotiations with government prosecutors. Thus, hiring an experienced attorney on a juvenile case can result in an agreement where the offense is removed from the juvenile’s record much sooner than if the juvenile simply admits to the alleged conduct.)

SEVEN: Some Minnesota laws either require or permit access to a juvenile’s prior offense history as a prerequisite to the juvenile’s employment in certain occupations or for other noncriminal justice purposes. However, the vast majority of these situations deal with the juvenile being around or working with children (e.g., applying to be a foster parent or seeking to adopt a child). Also it comes up in situations like applying to carry a concealed weapons permit or applying to work for some law enforcement agencies or government security departments.

EIGHT: Except as provided by statute, the BCA will not release a juvenile adjudication history record. The BCA will also not release information that even reveals that a juvenile record exists. Also, consenting to the release of BCA information by an individual who is the subject of the juvenile adjudication history is not effective – generally meaning a juvenile can’t simply consent to another person or business obtaining his or her own juvenile record. See Minn. Stats. § 299C.095, subd. 1(b). Although, there is one caveat: Minnesota Statutes do not expressly address whether an individual may or may not consent to the release of law enforcement or court records on juvenile history for a background check.

NINE: The question often arises as to whether or not going to court as a juvenile (or juvenile’s parent) without legal counsel is a good idea. As an attorney, Jesse Hall has told his friends and family who ask this question that in his opinion it is never a good idea because the risk of both harming your case and your future down the road are very real. In fact, as much as possible attorney, Mr. Hall urges his friends and family to have an attorney represent them for all legal issues or problems they face because having a legal advocate can yield many advantages for the client, often resulting in favorable dispositions or even the case being dismissed. This is especially true when having to appear in court because the government is accusing you of some sort of law violation.

TEN: In addition to hiring an attorney, Mr. Hall has urged his friends and family to hire an attorney with experience in whatever area of the law they are being confronted with. For example, Mr. Hall has focused his legal career on a select few areas of the law, including criminal defense for both juveniles and adults – from petty offenses, misdemeanors, and traffic cases to serious felonies involving expert witnesses, DNA analysis, weapons expertise, and other complicated areas of the law. This highlights the importance of having experienced legal counsel present with you in court. The ramifications of NOT handling criminal allegations properly can have a long-lasting effect on a person’s life. This has happened many times to people who don’t hire an attorney. Mr. Hall is often contacted by people who are now trying to clean up the legal mess caused by the person having represented themselves in court because they simply didn’t know any better. Mr. Hall has successfully helped people clean up these messes. On the other hand, it is certainly a better practice to hire an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney and not create the legal mess in the first place – not to mention, a lot cheaper.