Life After a Juvenile Record

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded


Juvenile Record Causing Problems? How "Sealing" Can Helpgives 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 about previous convictions that relate to the job.  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. 

For all other adjudications, it is not clear whether or not the young person would have to disclose them as a conviction.  Iowa law says that an adjudication in juvenile court is not considered a conviction.  So, there is an argument that a young person should not have to disclose an adjudication on a job application.  Also, if the young person has sealed his or her record, an employer could not see it without a court order because sealed records legally do not exist.  Still, in either scenario, 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.

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:call 800-532-1275. 
Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or 
apply online at
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website   A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.
Last Review and Update: Feb 23, 2015

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