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Teens are infamous for their lapses in judgment. In fact, it’s well-known that the teenage brain isn’t fully mature, and that teens lack the decision-making capacity of adults.
To mitigate damages of poor decisions early on, juvenile criminal records are kept confidential. This prevents juvenile offenders from being labeled as criminals in their adult lives. However, there are some exceptions to juvenile record confidentiality, two of them being background checks from college admissions offices and student aid lenders.
So when it comes to college, youthful lapses in judgment can affect your child’s future for a long time to come.
Below, we’re going to look into how a criminal record could affect your child’s college prospects, and what you can do as a parent to ensure that mistakes made in youth don’t hinder your child’s adult future.
Although many advocates argue that colleges should not be allowed to consider juvenile criminal histories of college applicants, having a juvenile criminal record can affect your child’s college admission.
According to the Brookings Institution, between 60 and 80 percent of private institutions and 55 percent of public ones require students to answer questions about criminal history as a part of the application process. These questions generally encompass criminal offenses committed as a juvenile.
While this is more common at four-year institutions, nearly half of all junior colleges also have questions about criminal history.
Interestingly, the scope of criminal history questions on college applications is generally even broader than that of any normal employment application.
Although all employers are different, as a rule, most employment applications don’t ask about arrests, and many employers only ask that applicants disclose felony-level convictions.
In contrast, most college applications require applicants to disclose any and all criminal history, including arrests, misdemeanors, and juvenile offenses.
So, we know that colleges are likely to require students to disclose criminal history, but how does this actually factor into admissions decisions?
For highly competitive, elite schools, it’s possible that a criminal history will hurt your child’s chances of being accepted. For others, it’s likely to be a question of individual institution preference and policy surrounding safety concerns.
Because campus sexual assaults and student violence are widespread issues today, many universities are hesitant to admit students convicted of violence or sex crimes.
Other low-level crimes like petty vandalism and cannabis offenses are more likely to be overlooked.
Still, it’s important to keep in mind any questions about criminal history on the application indicate a possibility of infractions compromising acceptance into that particular school. Therefore, your child may need to cast a wider net for college applications.
Most families can’t afford to finance a college education in full, so many college students rely heavily on financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans. Unfortunately, a juvenile criminal record could affect your child’s eligibility for these forms of aid.
Federal student loans and grants are the primary options for student financial aid. Sometimes it’s the only way a student can cover the costs of their education. Unfortunately, the Federal Government bars some students with a criminal record from applying for federal grants and loans.
If your child has been convicted of a drug-related offense or sex crime, his or her eligibility for federal financial aid may be restricted. For other offenses, your child could still be fully eligible for financial aid so long as he or she isn’t incarcerated during school.
Fortunately, most juvenile offenses can be expunged, so long as your child has stayed out of trouble since his or her conviction. An expungement seals your child’s criminal record, such that it’s no longer accessible.
Once your child’s criminal record has been expunged, in most cases, he or she can legally answer “no” on applications that require disclosure of criminal history. We recommend confirming your specific case with an attorney, as there are some rare exceptions.
Importantly, and contrary to popular belief, juvenile criminal records are not automatically expunged when your child turns 18. Instead, you’ll need to apply for expungement, potentially with professional legal help.
Some offenses, such as sex crimes and domestic violence, are not eligible for expunction, even if they were committed while your child was under 18 years old.
Although a juvenile record can create additional hurdles in the admissions process, a juvenile criminal history doesn’t have to be the end of the road, if your child is interested in pursuing a degree. With a little legal guidance, most limitations can be overcome.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.