Are There Long-Term Repercussions for a Juvenile Criminal Conviction?
Each year, roughly 2.1 million minors are arrested throughout the United States. A lot of people see juvenile criminal charges as less severe than adult charges, but this is not actually true. Being convicted of juvenile criminal charges can have severe, long-lasting effects on a youth’s development and future plans.
Removing Offenses Is Harder Than You Think
One of the big reasons people think juvenile charges are no big deal is because you can seal or expunge records for juvenile charges. The reality is that getting rid of juvenile criminal records is not as simple or automatic as you might assume. First of all, sealed records might be hidden from the general public, but they are still available to law enforcement. They can use these past records for investigating crimes, and if you are convicted again, your past charges can result in more severe sentencing. To actually remove the record altogether, you have to get it expunged, which is even more challenging.
There are a lot of requirements to meet if you want to get a court to grant a record sealing or expunging order. The person involved cannot be convicted of any future charges, and they have to demonstrate that they have a lengthy period of good behavior. If there were fines associated with their crime, they may have to pay them before getting their record sealed. There are different rules in place for various crimes. For some juvenile crime convictions, you may have to wait up to 10 years to get records removed. All of these rules can make it surprisingly tricky to actually get records sealed or expunged.
Economic Consequences of Juvenile Criminal Charges
The potential of being sent to a youth rehabilitation center is not the only consequence of criminal charges. Just like adults, juvenile sentences can include hefty fines. A youth may be sentenced to pay restitution to their victims or pay general punitive fines to the state. With the majority of juvenile offenders and their families living in poverty, these financial obligations can be extremely challenging.
Starting out their adult life with a huge debt can be extremely intimidating and frustrating for a young adult. Unlike other types of debt, legal fines assigned as a punishment usually cannot be cleared by declaring bankruptcy. Being saddled with debt from a young age often results in a cycle of poverty. When they are stuck paying back fines instead of saving up, it can be difficult for juvenile offenders to get a car, rent an apartment, or pay for college. This makes it hard for them to ever move on to higher-paying jobs that would allow them to pay off their fines.
Punitive fines are not the only way a youth may be economically affected by criminal charges. There are all sorts of other costs associated with charges as well. In addition to legal fees, families may have to pay for court-ordered therapy if they want to avoid their child being taken from their care. Sometimes, people must decide between paying extra for rehab or being incarcerated in a youth rehabilitation center. Altogether, this results in a major economic burden for families facing juvenile criminal charges.
There Are Many Unexpected Side-Effects to a Juvenile Conviction
Keep in mind that juvenile criminal convictions can lead to more than just fines and imprisonments. You should not assume that a conviction in a juvenile criminal case just means spending a few months in a youth detention center, and then continuing on with your normal life. Even if you have a great Morristown criminal defense lawyer who helps you avoid any incarceration, you can face serious consequences that have a long-lasting effect. Collateral consequences are additional punishments that a person may encounter following conviction. Juveniles do not face some collateral consequences, like losing their right to vote, but there are other potential consequences they may still encounter.
A juvenile conviction can cause both a youth and their family to be expelled from public housing. If the minor is not a citizen, their conviction can affect their immigration status, potentially causing deportation. Certain employments that require security clearances, including military jobs, may no longer be available to the juvenile. Convictions can also cause a youth’s driver’s license to be suspended or revoked. All of these collateral consequences can have a major impact on a minor’s future. They may find it hard to get housing, remain in their preferred country, or get the jobs they planned on achieving.
Mental Health Risks Linked to Juvenile Criminal Charges
Juvenile criminal charges happen during an essential developmental period, so they can have a big impact on a youth’s mental health in the future. Youth rehabilitation centers typically do not provide the supportive, home-like environment that young people need to flourish. Teens who spend their formative years in juvenile detention centers might miss out on key socialization opportunities. They often find it hard to befriend others and react appropriately to stressors. Following incarceration, juveniles are more likely to deal with mental and behavioral health issues. Some may develop mental disorders like anxiety and depression, and many are more likely to abuse illegal substances.
Even teens who do not end up with a lengthy stay in a youth rehabilitation center still suffer. The stigma and challenges of being labeled a criminal at such a young age can have a drastic effect on a youth’s development. Teens may find it hard to maintain their own self-esteem and have positive interactions with others. Being viewed as a criminal can set a youth down a long-lasting path toward mental health issues, and they may struggle to get appropriate care if they do develop behavioral and mental challenges.
Juvenile Criminal Charges May Have Other Major Impacts
For many juvenile offenders, a conviction can cause them to miss out on major life milestones and opportunities. Especially when it comes to education, the consequences can be devastating. Though the various youth rehabilitation homes try their best, they are often unable to provide teens with academic resources. Teens may be unable to get the grades, volunteer experience, and extracurricular activities needed for scholarships and college acceptance. Furthermore, they often struggle to learn the skills needed for part-time jobs or careers.
When juvenile offenders find it hard to achieve educational or career goals, they are more likely to turn to crime. Criminal charges often put at-risk teens in touch with others interested in the criminal lifestyle. They may make friendships and develop contacts that encourage them to take part in other criminal activities. Those who are convicted of criminal charges are often likely to end up in court again in the future, facing even more serious adult charges.
If you or a loved one is facing juvenile criminal charges, it is important to take them seriously. A conviction could result in serious consequences that have a long-lasting effect on a teen’s future. At the law firm of Gregg Wisotsky, we provide focused criminal defense services. We work hard to defend both adult and minor clients. If you need a Morristown criminal defense lawyer, call (973) 898-0161 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your consultation today. We will guide you through each step of the process and answer any questions you may have.