Life After a Juvenile Record
Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid
Juvenile Record Causing Problems? How "Sealing" Can Help, gives an overview of juvenile records and what steps a young person can take to seal his or her record.
Once a record has been sealed, a notice is sent to all agencies or persons who have the juvenile record. This notice instructs that all of the minor’s records be sent to the court, where they are sealed. In effect, the juvenile record no longer exists as a matter of law. This means that if an agency or persons in the agency are asked, they must reply that no such record exists. Inspection of a sealed record can only be permitted by court order. Still, it is important to consider what you may have to disclose in the future even though the records are sealed.
A young person may be asked about his or her juvenile record on various applications. One example is on a job application. Although job applicants cannot be asked to disclose if they have ever been arrested, an employer can ask if you have a conviction or if you have ever been convicted of a crime. Disclosures may be different depending on why the young person was in juvenile court. For example, a recent change in Iowa law has made it clear that an adjudication for certain sexually violent offenses is considered a conviction, whether or not the young person has sealed his or her record. This means a person may have to disclose any of these adjudications on a job application.
If a young person has a juvenile record, they would not have to disclose that as a conviction. Iowa law says that an adjudication in juvenile court is not considered a conviction. Unless as, stated above it was an adjudication for certain sexually violent offenses. However, if a young person’s record is not sealed, that information may be available for the employer to see it. If their juvenile record is sealed, then that record would not be discoverable. Still, there is a possibility that the employer could hear about the adjudication from another source – such as by word of mouth. In such a situation, the employer may believe that the young person is not telling the truth, which could be more damaging than disclosing the adjudication in the first place.
The Common Application for college, which is used by more than 600 colleges and universities asks:
Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony? Note that you are not required to answer “yes” to this question, or provide an explanation, if the criminal adjudication or conviction has been expunged, sealed, annulled, pardoned, destroyed, erased, impounded, or otherwise required by law or ordered by a court to be kept confidential.
In this situation, if the young person’s record is not sealed, they will have to answer “Yes”. However, if their record is sealed, they can answer “No”.
Other applications, such as those for housing, may ask if you have ever been arrested. One thing Iowa law is clear on is that it is not considered an arrest when a minor is taken into custody by the police. This means a young person can simply answer “No” to that question.
There are still many questions about what a young person with a juvenile record must disclose. Much depends on how questions are phrased and the practical consequences of responding in a particular way. For now, you should consult with an attorney if you have a question about how you should answer these or other questions regarding disclosure of your juvenile record.
Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans.
To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:
- Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161.
- Apply online at iowalegalaid.org