Focus: Youth arrest records, the expungement process

Juvenile criminal cases are routinely held out to be different from adult cases. For starters, they are typically tried outside the main trial court. They also have many differentiating parameters unique to the juvenile legal system and an ultimate aim that contrasts with the adult legal system, namely, one that is more centrally focused on rehabilitation. As such, effective representation in such a realm requires a defendant’s close interaction with and strong representation from a defensive attorney commanding extensive experience within the juvenile justice system.

That compelling need for strong advocacy is underscored by a recent report from Illinois pertaining to problems that a number of people — now young adults — are having because of the existence of prior arrest records tied to incidents from many years ago, when they were juveniles. In many instances, the records address what many people would regard as largely minor matters — an angered threat made in elementary school or a fight in high school that was broken up and went no further than an “informal station adjustment” at a local police precinct.

Notwithstanding that such events for many thousands of area-based youth never went beyond the point of on-site resolution, the youthful offenders were fingerprinted and walked out of stations with official arrest records, even some as young as 10 years of age.

And now, in a truly frightful way, some of those now young people are seeing their youthful — and sometimes nearly forgotten — indiscretions coming back to haunt them in the form of jobs turned down, licenses denied and in other ways that thwart their personal development and opportunities.

“This to me is infuriating,” says one juvenile advocate. “And it’s wrong. And it’s unfair.”

Things can often be rectified through a formal expungement process, but statistics readily reveal how daunting that process is for individuals absent the help of proven legal counsel. In Cook County in 2011, for instance, there were only 67 juvenile expungements out of about 30,000 arrests.

Expungement has many requirements, including the retrieval of arrest records, filling out of forms, filing of a petition, a potential hearing and other exactions. An experienced juvenile defense attorney is a key participant in the process and likely to materially influence the outcome.

Source: WBEZ, “Why is it so hard to expunge juvenile records in Cook County?” Linda Paul, Feb. 3, 2012

  • Juveniles, as well as adults, have a compelling need for strong legal representation when interacting with the criminal justice system. Information on the strong advocacy our firm brings to bear on behalf of juveniles facing criminal charges — our attorney has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and has worked as a probation/parole officer as well as an attorney — can be obtained by visiting our Atlanta, Georgia, Juvenile Crimes page.