Statutory and Regulatory Barriers
States can enact a comprehensive, overarching legal provision to clearly distinguish juvenile adjudications from adult criminal convictions and ensure that juvenile records are not used as the basis for education or employment decisions.
Most states’ juvenile justice codes clearly state that juvenile adjudications are not considered criminal convictions for most purposes. But there is often ambiguity elsewhere in the law about the extent to which juvenile adjudications may be considered as a basis for imposing legal barriers to employment or education. This is particularly true with respect to common statutory requirements related to an applicant’s “good moral character” or “fitness” for a particular job or license. As a result, employers, licensing agencies, and people with juvenile justice histories are all often unclear about the extent to which juvenile records may be used to impose criminal history-based barriers to employment or education.
Establish an overarching policy
Develop a single overarching statute in the juvenile justice code that clearly prohibits juvenile adjudications from being used as a basis for imposing legal barriers to employment or education.
Sample legislative language
Except where explicitly authorized by law,1 a juvenile court proceeding or disposition shall not be deemed a conviction for a crime, nor a finding of guilt or any similar finding of responsibility for the commission of a crime, for any purpose; nor shall such proceeding or disposition be used as a basis for imposing any disqualification required or authorized by law related to a person’s eligibility for
2) Public appointment;
3) Licensure, certification, or the granting of any other credential or recognition required to practice an occupation, profession, or conduct business in the state; or
4) Admission or enrollment in a post-secondary educational institution or program or eligibility for educational loans, grants, or other similar financial assistance.
5) Nor shall such proceeding or disposition be considered in any assessment of the moral character, fitness, or similar qualification required by law of an applicant for such opportunity, benefit, or privilege.Exceptions may be appropriate in limited instances where a specific offense raises a significant public safety concern in the context of the duties and responsibilities of a particular job or activity. Explicit exceptions to similar laws that are currently in effect are rare, however, and generally only apply to people adjudicated of serious violent or sexual offenses who are seeking jobs or licensure involving the care of children or vulnerable adults. Where exceptions apply, they should be limited to narrowly defined offense categories and should not be authorized without requiring individualized consideration of the applicant, the nature and circumstances of the offense, evidence of rehabilitation, and other mitigating factors.
State policy example
New York: NY CLS Family Ct Act § 380.1
1) No adjudication under this article may be denominated a conviction and no person adjudicated a juvenile delinquent shall be denominated a criminal by reason of such adjudication.
2) No adjudication under this article shall operate as a forfeiture of any right or privilege or disqualify any person from holding any public office or receiving any license granted by public authority. Such adjudication shall not operate as a disqualification of any person to pursue or engage in any lawful activity, occupation, profession or calling.