Can Background Checks See Juvenile Records?

By Michael Klazema on 8/7/2019

It is common knowledge that most criminal records—including misdemeanor and felony convictions—can show up on background checks. When it comes to juvenile records, many people aren’t sure what to expect from a background screening process. Do juvenile criminal records show up on a criminal background check just as any other criminal activity would? Or are juvenile records sealed and protected from appearing on background checks?

In the simplest terms, juvenile records are criminal records. If you have a juvenile record and a job application asks whether you have ever been convicted of a crime, the only honest answer is, “Yes.” While being tried and convicted as a juvenile is different than being tried and convicted as an adult—mostly regarding punishment—both situations qualify as criminal records. The right background check can find either.

The simple answer isn’t the full answer, though. For juvenile criminal records, there are different laws in each state that govern how these records are handled.

Some states permit minor juvenile offenses to be automatically expunged once the perpetrator turns 18. Other states don’t have automatic expungement laws for juvenile records. Expunged records don’t show up on background checks. More severe juvenile offenses are more likely to stay on your record for a longer period.

Even if your state doesn’t automatically expunge your juvenile record, that doesn’t mean you can’t get the record sealed or expunged. Individuals with juvenile records and no other criminal records are typically very good candidates for expungement. Judges recognize most juvenile offenders as people who made mistakes while they were young and have now (hopefully) learned lessons from those mistakes.

As with other expungement cases, your claim will be less effective if your conviction was very recent or you are a repeat offender. If you have a juvenile record from when you were 17 and try to expunge it at 19 or 20, you will have more trouble than a 25-year-old expunging an offense from when they were 15. In most cases, you need to wait at least five years after conviction to be eligible for expungement. If you have multiple juvenile criminal records for similar charges—or if you were convicted of a similar offense after you turned 18—your road to expungement will be lengthier.

The severity of the offense also matters. Sex crimes are difficult to expunge even if they are juvenile records, as are violent offenses. Any charge upgraded to an adult conviction will also be viewed more critically by a judge.

At, we have a program called MyClearStart to help individuals explore the possibility of expunging or sealing their records. Click here to learn more about the program or take our eligibility test online.



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