Ashley Jackson's Blog

Going on Your Permanent Record: the Juvenile Justice System

The Wilson County Criminal Justice Center in Lebanon.

           The term “juvenile” is sometimes associated with thoughts of immaturity, inexperience and curiosity. Juveniles often make mistakes from which they can learn, but may have lasting consequences. Thankfully, in Tennessee, there are ways to keep a juvenile’s criminal record confidential to prevent harm to their future.

            In Tennessee, an arrest as a juvenile should not show up on a background check. However, there is no guarantee that will not happen. Sometimes a simple clerical error can cause a juvenile arrest to show up on a background check. However, juvenile convictions, or guilty pleas, can show up on background checks. In order to prevent an arrest or conviction from showing up on a background check, a juvenile’s parents, guardian or attorney should ensure the juvenile’s criminal record is expunged, or “wiped clean” as soon as possible. Some offenses, such as sexual crimes or certain felonies, are not able to be expunged. For all others, records can be expunged as long as the juvenile meets certain criteria, such as not getting into trouble and making good choices for one year from the date the court entered the judgment.

            To have a criminal record expunged, a juvenile’s parents, guardian or attorney must petition the court on his/her behalf for an expungement. Most courts require an expungement fee to be paid before it can be finalized. Once the expungement order is signed, the juvenile’s parents, guardian or attorney should keep a copy of the order as they cannot obtain another copy in the future, if needed.

            Many people ask if a juvenile has to answer “yes” when asked if they have been convicted of a crime. The short answer is, an arrest is not a conviction and is confidential but a conviction may show up on a background check unless it is expunged. If the record has not been expunged, it’s usually best to answer “yes” and then explain the situation later. However, before you answer “yes”, it’s best to consult with a criminal attorney experienced in juvenile matters. At Kane & Crowell, our attorneys have experience dealing with matters of juvenile justice.  Contact us at (615) 784-4800 to learn more. 

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