Will a Juvenile Felony Show Up on a Background Check?

An estimated 2.1 million youth that are under the age of 18 are arrested in the United States each year.  Many teenagers come into contact with the court system for actions that are only illegal due to their age, such as truancy and underage drinking. However, there are close to 63.5% of juvenile cases being a felony. The majority of juvenile crimes are property and drug offenses.

When a juvenile commits a felony, the community asks many questions, but they are not alone. The family, teachers, and people in the juvenile’s life will question what they could have done to change the outcome. There is no reversing the actions that were already done, but the supporters can provide support and assistance to ensure the juvenile does not resort to being an adult felon.

What is a Background Check?

A background check is a process that an employer uses to verify the identity of an applicant. A background check can include an individual’s criminal record, education, and employment history.

The main purpose of a background check is to verify that employers are hiring the best candidate for the position. The objective is to identify potential risks for security and safety.  They typically take place when someone applies for a job but can happen any time an employer feels necessary.

Many employers fear damage to the company’s reputation by hiring felons. They believe that felons are dishonest and are likely to re-offend. The information gathered from a background check is used by employers to determine an applicant’s character, mistakes, driving record, credit history, and their moral and financial fitness.

An employer needs an applicant’s full name, date of birth, current and past addresses, social security number, and the applicant’s consent to perform a pre-employment background check.

It is illegal to run an employment background check based on an applicant’s or employee’s race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information, or age.

What is Included in a Background Check?

There are many different types of backgrounds, but employers are more commonly interested in the top three: verifying identity, credit report, and criminal records.

The verification of identity through the social security administration is critical to confirm that the social security number is indeed valid and belongs to the individual who provided it.

A credit report not only provides information concerning the levels of debt an applicant currently has but also help verify identity. The information received from this report varies from credit inquiries to bankruptcy. This is important if the position requires financial responsibility.

A criminal background check can help employers by safeguarding their business. An employer could face negligent hiring claims if an individual they hire is accused of further wrongdoing while on the job. A criminal background check consists of reports at the county, state, and federal levels. It may include:

  • Current charges that are pending
  • Misdemeanor convictions
  • Felony convictions
  • Charges that were acquitted
  • Charges that were dismissed

As the technology of the World has changed, a background check may include motor vehicle records, employment history, verification of education, drug screening, social media accounts, medical records, and reference checks.

Since a potential employer can assess all your records, you should ask questions about what type of background check the employer will conduct and be cautious with giving your consent.

There are severe consequences for making the wrong hire decision. According to the U.S. Department of Labor states that the cost of one wrong hire can equal up to a minimum of 30% of the individual’s first- year salary. Terminating the employment of a wrong hire can be expensive as it may require the employer to pay additional healthcare expenses. The possibility of legal action by the ex-employee may result in litigation expenses. The most cost depleting expenditure is having to replace the individual who requires training, testing, orientation services, and more.

Criminal Records

Criminal records may be extensive and usually include:

  • Felony, misdemeanor, and sex crime convictions
  • Past and current address and phone numbers
  • Court records and arrests
  • Warrants, past and present
  • Incarceration records
  • State and Federal Tax Liens
  • State and Federal Bankruptcies
  • Date of Birth and Age
  • Any other names used-aliases or maiden names
  • Marriages and Divorces

It was common practice to perform a check at the County level. This level of background reports will provide any felony criminal history and misdemeanors in most counties. A federal background check will give information regarding crimes located on federal property.

As the times have changed, so has the routine background check. A statewide and Nationwide check is now the most common. These types of checks include the Sex Offender Registry and a Homeland Security Search. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a background check will consist of cases that have resulted in the following dispositions:

  • Dismissed
  • Nolle prossed (Not prosecuted)
  • Deferred Adjudication
  • Pre-trial diversion

Juvenile Criminal Records

Juvenile felonies are simply that crimes committed by anyone who is not yet considered to be an adult. The age of when a youth is viewed as an adult varies from state to state. In some states, individuals that are 16 years of age are classified as an adult. Other states define an adult as an individual between the ages of 17 to 19.

A juvenile record can be sealed or expunged so that the crimes that were done as a minor will not show up on a background check. To seal a juvenile record, the individual has to be an adult and five years must have passed since the conviction. More serious crimes are ineligible for expungement.

There is a rather extensive process for expunging criminal records. In juvenile cases, the court determines whether or not to seal a juvenile’s record. The determination is based on the felon’s current age, if they have an adult criminal history, substance abuse history, the nature of the crime committed, and if sealing the record would affect public safety.

Certain situations require the court to expunge a juvenile record automatically. Records will be immediately expunged upon:

  • A not guilty verdict at an adjudicatory trial
  • The entire case dismissed
  • A deferred adjudication, juvenile diversion, or an informal adjustment has been completed
  • The sentence for a municipal offense is completed; and
  • The juvenile sentence for a class 2 or 3 misdemeanors not involving a sex offense or domestic violence has been completed.

If a juvenile decides they want to serve in the military, it is best to be upfront and honest about their conviction even if it was expunged as the military requires access to all records.

Juvenile Tried as an Adult

The traditional rule is that anyone under 18 years of age is a juvenile and is tried in the juvenile court system. In certain situations, a youth may be tried as an adult, but the rules vary from state to state.

The court system can determine a youth as young as 13 years of age to be certified as an adult, depending on the circumstances and charges of the crime. The sentence terms are often shorter with juvenile cases than with adult cases.

There are multiple methods of transferring a case from juvenile court to the adult court system. Many cases are up to prosecutorial discretion giving prosecutors the power to decide whether or not a juvenile should be treated as an adult instead. Some states have laws in effect that require the youth’s case to be tried in adult court due to the severity and type of crime.

Supporting a Felon with a Juvenile Felony on a Background Check

A juvenile convicted of a felony needs more support from family as they go through this phase in their lives. This is the time that it is vital to mend broken family relationships and get professional counseling if desired. A juvenile is still an impressionable individual that can be redirected easily.

Studies have shown that having the support of family and friends during and after incarceration can change the attitude and views towards criminal activity. When a juvenile completes their sentence, they can be frustrated with the aspects of securing employment.

Encourage them to be forthcoming and honest about their backgrounds and experiences. Providing help with explaining a felony conviction to others can enable them to achieve the best opportunity for success.  By practicing how to answer questions about their criminal history, they are prepared and can control the conversation of the background check. Giving too much or too little details can create more problems and issues.


Appearing before a judge as a juvenile can be frightening. There is so much about the processes of the juvenile system that a youth merely comprehends. A minor who makes a mistake that results in a felony conviction isn’t cemented in the life long scrutiny of discrimination.

The ability to live a full life without the drawbacks of being a felon is accessible. Although the task of expunging a conviction from your record can be lengthy if not part of the automatic criteria, it is possible and uncomplicated. It is in the best interest of a juvenile to accept a diversion program or deferred adjudication.

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