Can Background Checks See Juvenile Records?

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Posted by: David Garcia June 09, 2022

Background screening is a vital part of the recruitment process. These inquiries reassure employers that the applicant they hope to hire is who they say they are, from employment history to education. Another critical element is an individual’s criminal history, but how does this relate to juvenile offenses?

This post will take you through everything you need to know about juvenile records and how they are stored. The reporting mandates can differ enormously from state to state, so it’s essential to stay informed! First, let’s start with the basics. 

What Is in a Juvenile Record?

The contents of a juvenile record generally consist of the crimes and convictions committed by an individual before they reach adulthood. You probably already assumed that based on its name alone, but are you sure you know how old you need to be considered juvenile

The cut-off age varies between states based on their specific regulations. Most states recognize an individual as an adult once they reach eighteen, but in some states, it’s seventeen, and in others, it’s as low as sixteen!

In other states, it goes the other direction. Some states have raised the maximum age for trying a person in juvenile court to beyond 18

Age is essential for determining reporting mandates for criminal history. Crimes committed by adults generally carry much heavier sentences. Often, they will also stay on your record permanently. 

Will a Juvenile Felony Show Up on a Background Check?

Adult criminal records are often a regular request in background checks, but juvenile criminal records follow different reporting mandates. 

Many states have laws that keep juvenile records sealed or hidden so they won’t appear in background check results. The process of removing records entirely is often referred to as expungement. It is motivated by the belief that crimes committed as a juvenile should not define the career success of an adult. 

Having a juvenile criminal record cleared isn’t always possible, however. Some juvenile records are not eligible for expungement for various reasons. The most prominent factor is the severity of the crime committed. 

Serious crimes are more difficult to expunge. Suppose an individual has demonstrated significant violence in the past. A prospective employer should be made aware of it for the safekeeping of their current staff and their customers.

Though the specific criteria do differ between states, expungement generally requires the following:

  • The applicant is an adult
  • Five years must have passed since the conviction or court proceedings
  • The applicant has not committed any further crimes in adulthood

Should these terms fail to be met, the person’s juvenile record will likely show up during a background check. That said, not all jobs require a criminal history review when hiring an applicant. 

There is also a growing movement to be more forgiving to ex-convicts looking to get a new start. It is perhaps especially relevant in the case of juvenile offenses, where an individual may not have committed any criminal activity since they were very young.

Crimes Committed Before the Age of 18 Will Depend on State Laws

We have alluded to the differences in juvenile record confidentiality, but what exactly does that entail? 

A full review completed by the Juvenile Law Center rated various states on how successful they are at allowing expungement for underage offenses and keeping these records confidential. The highest-scoring state was California, whereas the lowest-scoring was Arizona.

California scored high in areas relating to expungement and sealing. The difference between expungement and sealing is that sealing a juvenile record simply means restricting access to that information to specific external organizations (such as background screeners and employers). Expungement involves the total deletion of data from a record, permanently wiping it. 

Some states have introduced automatic filing for expungement on behalf of a juvenile offender rather than requiring the offender to submit an application independently. Automatic expungement filing streamlines the process and makes it easier for applicants to move past their criminal history. 

The highest-scoring states in the review featured this level of automation, whereas the lowest-scoring featured no automation whatsoever. 


There is a remarkable difference between states regarding juvenile records and whether employers and background screeners can access them. Always check your state’s specific legislation to understand the reporting restrictions. Though specific criteria link all regulations on a national level, there can still be significant differences between states.

Contact ScoutLogic today if you want a thorough background screening service that knows every state’s laws for juvenile records. Your designated Scout will make sure all parties receive fair and equal treatment.

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