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FAQ: Federal Collateral Consequences of Juvenile Offenses in the Federal Juvenile Justice System

While rare – Federal Prosecutions of Juveniles do happen. What follows is an analysis of the impact of a Federal Juvenile Prosecution on the future adult and family life of the juvenile.

Who is tried in the federal juvenile justice system?

Youth up to age eighteen can be tried in the federal juvenile justice system.

Is a juvenile adjudication the same as a criminal conviction?

Federal courts have held that juvenile delinquency is adjudication of status – not criminal conviction – and results in enhanced privacy protections of both juvenile proceedings and records.

Do adjudications of delinquency result in juvenile records?

Once a juvenile is adjudicated delinquent, the details of the case become part of the juvenile’s official record under 18 U.S.C. § 5032 and this will also determine whether a juvenile is transferred to adult court.

The record contains the following details: age and social background of the juvenile, the nature of the alleged offense, the extent and nature of the juvenile’s prior delinquency record, assessment of whether a transfer would be in the interest of justice, the juvenile’s present intellectual development and psychological maturity, the nature of past treatment efforts and the juvenile’s response to such efforts, and the availability of programs designed to treat the juvenile’s behavioral problems.

What factors will a court consider in determining whether a transfer to adult court is appropriate?

The court will consider the nature of the alleged offense, the extent to which the juvenile influenced others to take part in criminal activities which involved the use or distribution of firearms or controlled substances, and the leadership role the juvenile played in an organization. These factors will increase the likelihood that the juvenile is transferred to adult court; however, the absence of these factors will not necessarily guarantee the juvenile will not be transferred.

Does the press have a special right of access to juvenile proceedings or records?

The press has no statutory right of access to juvenile proceedings or records. In fact, courts have interpreted the statute to require exclusion of the press from juvenile proceedings and to deny it access to records information.

Can federal juvenile proceedings records be uncovered?

As a general rule, juvenile court records and other information may not be disclosed except under certain circumstances. Records may be released to other courts, agencies preparing a presentence report in another court, law enforcement agencies to assist in investigating a crime, treatment centers or facilities where a juvenile is committed, agencies considering hiring an individual for a position involving national security, and a juvenile’s victims or victims’ families.

Lastly, if a juvenile has twice committed a felonious act of violence or violated the Controlled Substance Act, or after age thirteen commits certain violent acts, records (including name, adjudication, date of adjudication, court, offense, and sentence) will be forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

How Does a Juvenile Criminal Record Impact Federal Employment?

Can a juvenile record prevent an individual from working with children?

Federal law requires that all employees undergo background checks in order to work at federal agencies, facilities operated by the federal government, and all facilities contracting with the federal government that provide child care services to children under age eighteen. An applicant whose background check reveals a conviction for a sex crime, an offense against a child victim, or a drug felony may be denied employment.

Applications must inquire into whether an applicant has been arrested for or charged with crimes involving a child, and applicants must provide a description of the outcome under penalty of perjury. However, federal regulations provide that it is unnecessary to conduct criminal history background checks beyond age eighteen because juvenile records are unavailable.

Background checks are required for all facilities that provide child protective services, social services, health and mental health care, daycare, education (not merely teachers), foster care, residential care, recreational or rehabilitative programs, detention, correctional, or treatment services. Agencies and facilities are encouraged to perform criminal history checks for their volunteers and for adult residents of households providing child care or foster care services.

Similarly, local education agencies can use a portion of federal funds to conduct nationwide background searches on each current and prospective employee to determine whether a person has been convicted of a crime that calls into question the ability to be responsible for the safety of a child, to work in the particular capacity being applied for, and to be employed by the local educational agency.

Can a Juvenile Criminal Record affect employment status with a hospice?

All contracted employees of a hospice who have direct contact with patients or access to patient records must undergo a state-administered criminal background test. The criminal history report may include juvenile records, depending on state requirements. If there is no state requirement, the hospice must perform criminal background checks within three months of employment.

Can a juvenile record prevent a person from providing care for a developmentally disabled individual?

Community-supported living arrangement providers may not employ individuals who have been convicted of child or client abuse, neglect, or mistreatment or who have been convicted of a felony involving physical harm to another. The provider must take reasonable steps to determine if the histories of potential employees meet this minimum standard.

Will a juvenile record affect a position working/volunteering with Peace Corps and other national and community service corporations?

Potential employees who will receive a grant-funded living allowance, stipend, education award, salary, or other remuneration must undergo proper screening prior to employment. Potential employees must be screened through a name or fingerprint search of the state’s criminal registry and the Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Registry. This may result in the release of an applicant’s juvenile record.

In criminal background checks, violent crimes and sexual offenses will affect a person’s application while minor offenses will not. In addition, an applicant is ineligible for service if the applicant is a registered sex offender (or is required to be registered) or if the applicant has been convicted of murder. It is unclear whether the background check includes juvenile adjudications. However, if a state requires placement of certain adjudicated juveniles on sex offender registries or the juvenile is tried as an adult, eligibility may be affected.

Will a Juvenile Criminal Record affect a commercial driver’s license?

Federal law requires each state to enact laws that result in the revocation or suspension of an individual’s commercial license for at least six months if the individual is convicted of violating the Controlled Substance Act or any drug offense.

Federal law explicitly states that juvenile adjudications are treated as convictions in this situation.

Impact of a Juvenile Criminal Record on Federal Benefits

Will a juvenile record affect a household’s eligibility for public housing?

Federal regulations require public housing agencies to conduct criminal history background checks on applicants and deny admission to any applicant (or applicant’s household member) who is a lifetime registrant of a state’s sex offender registry.

Federal regulations also require public housing authorities to prohibit admission to public housing for three years from the date of eviction if the housing authority finds that one of the household members has been evicted from federally assisted housing for drug-related criminal activity.

In addition, public housing authorities may prohibit admission if any household member is or has recently been engaged in (1) drug-related criminal activity, (2) violent criminal activity, or (3) criminal activity that threatens other residents’ or the staff’s health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises. In determining whether a household member has engaged in criminal activity, the public housing authority may rely on evidence that suggests it was more likely than not the individual engaged in criminal activity, and does not need to rely on an arrest or conviction.

Can a juvenile record cause a family to be evicted from public housing?

Federal regulations permit public housing authorities to evict a tenant or household from public housing if it finds that one of a household member is or has engaged in drug-related criminal activity; violent criminal activity; or criminal activity that threatens other residents’ or the staff’s health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises. The tenant may be evicted for the criminal activity a household member engaged in even if the tenant did not know of the individual’s illegal activity; this is referred to as “no fault” eviction.

In determining whether a household member has engaged in criminal activity, the public housing authority may rely on evidence that suggests it was more likely than not the individual engaged in criminal activity, and does not need to rely on an actual arrest, conviction, or adjudication.

Will a Juvenile Criminal Record affect the ability to adopt?

Federal law requires a state to conduct background checks of prospective adoptive parents and any other adults residing in the home. Federal law prohibits an individual from adopting a child if the individual was convicted of a felony for child abuse, spousal abuse, a crime against a child, or for a crime involving violence. In addition, the individual may not adopt if convicted of a felony for physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense within five years of the application to adopt. Because adoption is regulated by states, check with the local agency to learn whether a juvenile adjudication will be considered.

Will a juvenile record affect eligibility for TANF benefits or Food Stamps?

If an individual has been convicted of a felony that lists possession, use, or distribution of a controlled substance as an element of the offense, the individual will automatically become ineligible for TANF and food stamp benefits. However, this is a state administered program; therefore, check with the state for guidance on whether a juvenile adjudication will disqualify a person from obtaining these benefits.

Will a Juvenile Criminal Record affect federal benefits?

If an individual is convicted of a drug-related offense under federal or state law for the first time, the individual is ineligible for federal benefits, at the judge’s discretion, for up to five years. Upon a second conviction, an individual is ineligible for federal benefits, at the judge’s discretion, for up to 10 years. Upon a third conviction, an individual is permanently ineligible to receive federal benefits.

This law applies to any grant, contract, loan, professional license, or commercial license provided by an agency or federal appropriation funds. It excludes retirement, welfare, social security, health, disability, veteran’s benefits, and public housing benefits. However, the ineligibility may be cured after completion of a supervised drug rehabilitation program, rehabilitation, or good faith effort to enroll in a supervised drug rehabilitation program.

Because the affected benefits are administered by states, please check with the specific state for guidance on whether a juvenile adjudication will disqualify an individual from obtaining these benefits.

The Impact of a Juvenile Criminal Record on Immigration

Can a juvenile adjudication affect naturalization?

An applicant for naturalization must show good moral character. In determining whether an applicant is of good moral character, the Attorney General can consider conduct at any time prior to the filing of the application. Therefore, a juvenile adjudication—even those adjudications over five years old—may be considered.

Can a juvenile adjudication affect a visa or admission to the United States?

A foreign national who is convicted of, admits to having committed, or admits to having committed acts that constitute elements of a crime involving moral turpitude or a violation of US, state, or foreign controlled substance laws is ineligible to receive a visa and inadmissible for entry into the U.S. However, a crime committed before the age of 18 cannot be used as the basis of ineligibility. Further, a juvenile’s admission may not be the basis of inadmissibility because a non-citizen cannot be inadmissible for admitting to a crime which (s)he would face mandatory juvenile treatment under federal law.

“We have consistently held that juvenile delinquency proceedings are not criminal proceedings, that acts of juvenile delinquency are not crimes, and that findings of juvenile delinquency are not convictions for immigration purposes.”

In addition, any foreign national is ineligible for a U.S. visa if the consular office or Attorney General knows or has reason to believe that the individual is a drug trafficker or has knowingly aided, abetted, conspired, or worked with others who were trafficking illegal drugs. Similarly, if the spouse or child of a drug trafficker (or one who aided a drug trafficker) knowingly or reasonably should have known that they received financial benefits from the illegal activity, that person is are also ineligible for a U.S. visa.

Does a juvenile adjudication classify as a conviction that can lead to deportation?

While federal law states that several convictions of specific crimes can lead to deportation, a juvenile adjudication is not considered to be a conviction for the purposes of immigration. However, drug abusers and addicts, as well as human traffickers (or conspirators) can be deported without convictions.

The Impact of a Juvenile Criminal Record on Education

Can a person lose eligibility for federal financial aid because of a juvenile adjudication of a drug offense?

Under federal law, any person convicted of any federal or state offense involving the sale or possession of any controlled substance is ineligible to receive federal student financial aid for a period of time depending on how many prior convictions (s)he may have had. Federal regulations explicitly state that juvenile adjudications do not count as convictions for the purpose of this regulation. However, if convicted as a juvenile in an adult court, you may be ineligible for federal funds. The funds affected include federal Pell grants, Stafford loans, PLUS loans, Perkins loans and work study. Nevertheless, an individual may regain eligibility if (s)he completes an acceptable drug rehabilitation program or the conviction is reversed or set aside.

Can a person lose eligibility for federal financial aid if convicted of a drug offense as a youth?

If convicted as a juvenile in an adult court, an individual will be ineligible to receive federal student financial aid for a period of time depending on how many prior convictions (s)he may have had. The funds affected include federal Pell grants, Stafford loans, PLUS loans, Perkins loans and work study. Nevertheless, an individual may regain eligibility if (s)he completes an acceptable drug rehabilitation program or the conviction is reversed or set aside.

Will a juvenile court have access to education records?

Generally, a school may not disclose personal information from education records. However, a school may disclose information to State and local officials and authorities if a state’s statute allows disclosure to help the juvenile justice system serve the juvenile more effectively. 

Will a juvenile adjudication affect eligibility to participate in an au pair exchange program for students?

 Participants in an au pair exchange program must successfully pass a criminal history background check, among other things, before participating in the program.] Juvenile adjudications may be included in a criminal history check. Please check with the state of the adjudication to find out whether your record will contain a juvenile court results.

Will a juvenile adjudication or record affect eligibility to work with high school exchange students, either as a host family or other?

Sponsor schools of high school exchange students must ensure that all employees or volunteers interacting with the exchange student have undergone a criminal history background search. Similarly, all host family members over the age of eighteen must undergo criminal history background checks before a family can be approved to host an exchange student. Please check with the state where the adjudication occurred to find out whether a record will contain juvenile court results.

The Impact of a Juvenile Criminal Record on Military Enlistment

Will a juvenile record affect eligibility to enlist with the Army?

To enlist with the Regular Army, U.S. Army Reserve, or Army National Guard, an individual must pass a moral examination. An applicant will be interviewed by a recruiter on any arrests, charges, or juvenile court adjudications, even those arrests, charges, or adjudications that have been expunged or sealed. If the applicant admits to violating any laws, other than minor traffic offenses, the individual will be required to undergo a police background check. Moreover, police and court records can and will be pulled from courts, law enforcement, probation departments, and juvenile correctional facilities. However, an applicant with a juvenile record may nevertheless become eligible to enlist if granted a waiver.

Will a juvenile record affect eligibility to enlist with the Air Force?

An applicant must be morally sound to enlist in the Air Force. During the interview with a recruiter, an applicant must disclose all criminal offenses, including juvenile adjudications. Juvenile adjudications of certain offenses, as characterized by the Air Force, will disqualify a person from enlisting with the Air Force. However, depending on the classification of the offense, an individual may be able to obtain a waiver for the offense, but only if the waiver would be in the Air Force’s best interest. In granting a waiver, immaturity and age at the time of the offense, as well as circumstances surrounding the offense, will be considered.

Similarly, an applicant whose suitability is in question due to drug use must submit to a drug eligibility determination test. Juvenile adjudications or offenses may provide the basis for disqualification. Again, under certain circumstances, a person may regain eligibility through a waiver.

Will a juvenile record affect eligibility to enlist with the Coast Guard?

Criminal and civil violations and conduct is evidence of an applicant’s moral character. However, a recruiter will take into account whether the violation was the result of lack of good judgment rather than criminal intent. Recruiters will have access to arrests, charges, and juvenile court adjudication records and may question the applicant about the content of these records. With regards to ineligibility, relevant documents regarding character requirements imply that only felony and major misdemeanor convictions, not juvenile adjudications, will result in automatic ineligibility. However, discretionary eligibility may include juvenile charges or adjudications.

Will a juvenile record affect eligibility to enlist with the Navy?

Applicants with a history of criminal activity or violence associated with gang activity are not eligible for enlistment into the Navy. In addition, the applicant must demonstrate the capability to maintain a “satisfactory pattern of conduct” and be found to have the highest moral character. The applicant will also be asked whether there is a history of prior drug use. It is not clear whether these requirements will be affected by a prior juvenile adjudication.

 


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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