I was arrested and found “responsible” for battery when I was a juvenile in a Virginia Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. I’m 19 now and about to apply for college and a job. Since my only crime was when I was a juvenile, I don’t have a criminal juvenile record anymore right? Isn’t it all gone once I turned 18?
This is a common misconception. It simply isn’t true in Virginia, especially when a juvenile 14 years old or over has been found “delinquent” (the Virginia juvenile system’s word for “guilty”) for a crime that would be a felony had it been committed by an adult. In most cases, that juvenile record will be available to employers, colleges, and anyone else who is able to access criminal records for a standard background check. Even if the juvenile is under 14 years old, or was only found “delinquent” for a crime that would be a misdemeanor rather than a felony, the conviction is still part of his permanent record in the courts. In some cases, juveniles can be required to register as sex-offenders, which will be a record that follows them throughout their lives.
Juvenile convictions still count in adult court for the purposes of determining sentences on adult crimes, including “traffic” offenses like reckless driving (which is not really a traffic offense at all, but a misdemeanor crime in itself). They still matter for driving offenses too, even when the offense occurred when the juvenile was 16 years old. Judges and prosecutors will almost always have access to your juvenile record any time you have any involvement with the legal system, including on simple traffic tickets as an adult, no matter how minor your juvenile conviction was.
Parents, when your child is facing charges in the juvenile courts you would be well advised to have a lawyer for your child. You may desire for your child to receive appropriate consequences for his actions, but an attorney can help you and your child sort out exactly what those consequences will be and what they should be. While your child may need some consequences for his or her actions, a lifelong criminal juvenile record can be a punishment far too severe and a juvenile law attorney can help you find alternatives that will avoid that outcome.