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YAwriter72
08-16-2010, 02:25 PM
Is there any case where sealed juvenile records would be gotten and unsealed? (for example, crimes were committed throughout his youth, he moved to a new state, no one knows him there) I have a minor (He's 17) who has a record, but no one knows it until *insert big bad even* and am not sure if after the fact, the MC can find out that he had a prior record?

It's not imperative to the story, but it would allow for some explanation as to why he did it.

RJK
08-16-2010, 10:34 PM
You should check the age that people are considered adults in the criminal court system in your state (or the state where your story takes place) In New York, a 16 year old is considered an adult. He's often treated as a youthful offender, but the crime is adjudicated in a criminal court, and he will be sentenced as an adult. The youthful Offender YO status usually results in a sealed record and probation or suspended sentence as the punishment.

To answer your question, NO, The juvenile records wouldn't be unsealed.

jclarkdawe
08-17-2010, 12:57 AM
Short answer is juvenile records are sealed. Longer answer is it really depends. For example, the military routinely asks for authority from incoming recruits to investigate for a juvenile record. Anybody can release their juvenile record.

I had a juvenile that got his case on the front page of the local paper. Everybody in his high school knew who had done what. Even now, all the locals know who he is, including the local police. His name has never been officially mentioned, but enough people know, so that it would be easy to find out his secret by talking with people in his town.

Judges can unseal juvenile records, especially for a police investigation and a continued course of conduct. Standard is high, but it has happened. And there's always hacking.

A better idea of exactly what you want the plot to accomplish could probably give you a better answer.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

ajkjd01
08-17-2010, 04:49 AM
Well, I think that that also depends on the state.

In Ohio, while Juvenile Court records are not really public records, a juvenile case will show up on a background check, especially if it's a felony.

A juvenile may apply for sealing of his record after he turns 18.

If the record is sealed, then five years from then he may apply for expungement of the record.

jclarkdawe is correct that a judge can unseal a record, but it's really tough to do. Even if it remains sealed, Ohio law makes it still available to law enforcement only.

Figure out the state it's set in. Then go talk to someone who knows.

YAwriter72
08-17-2010, 07:34 PM
Thanks!!

I will check with my state and as the character in question ends up committing murder, will see if that is grounds for unsealing.

ajkjd01
08-17-2010, 08:49 PM
WHOA!

That kind of charge might be mandatory for adult bindover (i.e., trying them as an adult), and may not be eligible for sealing/expungment.

You need to contact a juvenile delinquency prosecutor or defense attorney in your state and ask them.

YAwriter72
08-17-2010, 09:16 PM
Oh! I should have clarified. He commits the murder after he already has a record for other stuff, so wondered if it would be unsealed as part of the new murder investigation or if it would be irrelevant.

jclarkdawe
08-18-2010, 12:19 AM
Oh! I should have clarified. He commits the murder after he already has a record for other stuff, so wondered if it would be unsealed as part of the new murder investigation or if it would be irrelevant.

Nearly always irrelevant. And not likely to be unsealed. The exception is when it is a continuing course of conduct. Say someone started as a rapist at age 15. Depending upon the state, this would be juvenile. Let's say he continues this course of conduct into adulthood. His method and some other aspects could be relevant in an adult trial. Very much a case by case basis and guaranteed to involve a lot of time on appeal.

On sentencing, however, for murder, a juvenile record can be used. In death penalty cases, on occasion it has been used to show aggravating circumstances, especially if the defense shows mitigating circumstances involving the fact the defendant was never a criminal. Easier way, however, is to show that a witness recalls the defendant as a kid, and he was a rotten, no-good bastard then, and he still is, as evidenced by the time he got caught pistol-whipping the store owner he just robbed when he was ten-years-old. This isn't about the juvenile record, but what the witness recalls (two technically different things). Again, this is on a case by case basis and guaranteed to involve a lot of time on appeal.

Admissibility of a juvenile record in court is a complicated legal issue. And would make a great question for a bar exam.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

ajkjd01
08-30-2010, 01:30 AM
Sorry for the delay. Just saw this.

I'd say that if he had a record for other stuff (especially serious stuff) the likelihood that he'd get something like this sealed is almost certainly zero.

And if he has a record for other serious stuff, the likelihood he'd be tried as an adult rises exponentially.