There is a common misconception out there that if you, your son, or your daughter have a juvenile criminal record, it is “sealed” and is unable to be viewed by anyone who may wish to inquire. People also think that once you turn eighteen, everything on the record is wiped clean. In fact, anytime you apply for employment, submit an application to a university, or wish to join the military, the powers that be can look at your complete criminal history, regardless of your age. Now that young people are heading to college and others are searching or have already found new beginnings, I have received several emails from concerned young adults and their parents about what they have to do to be eligible for school, employment, or the military if they have a juvenile record. I’ve put together this blog with some basic information about applying to the military and college with a record. Remember, one of the most important decisions you can make as a young person with a juvenile record is to petition the court to expunge that record as soon as you are eligible. With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney such as Gary E. Gerson, you can do just that.
Will the colleges to which I apply or the military find out about my record?
Yes, they have the resources to review your record. If you have ever been charged and found delinquent, then it is possible for potential colleges and the U.S. government to read into your juvenile record. Just because you have a record does not necessarily mean you will not be accepted, but certain juvenile crimes are worse than others, and your crime can be the difference if admissions or a review board has you as a borderline candidate.
How do I answer the question: “Have you ever been convicted of juvenile crimes?”
Being charged as an adult brings about a criminal conviction. A criminal conviction is not a juvenile adjudication (judgment). Therefore, you many answer “NO” when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime. In the same breath, however, if a university, employer, or any other type of secondary training establishment asks you if you have ever been adjudicated or judged delinquent, then it is extremely important that you answer that question in truth. If you have a juvenile record and it has not been expunged, then you should answer “YES” to that question. Remember, getting the adjudication expunged as soon as possible will make all of these processes simpler. Once your juvenile record is expunged, you can truthfully answer “NO” to any questions associated with delinquent adjudication.
How do I answer question 23 on my FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)?
Ah yes, the dreaded question 23. Question 23 on your FAFSA asks if you have ever been convicted of possessing or distributing illegal drugs while you were in the process of receiving grants or loans via the federal government. If you were judged delinquent for selling or possessing illegal drugs while on federal aid, you can truthfully answer “NO” to this question because a delinquent adjudication is not the same as a criminal conviction. This question is specifically asking about adult conviction, so if you were a juvenile but charged as an adult with a drug crime, then you should answer “YES.” This is probably one of the most common questions I get and many young people answer “YES” even though they’ve only been judged delinquent because they think it is best to tell the truth. By answering “YES,” you’re actually lying and stepping on your own toes.
Will juvenile crimes keep me from joining a branch of the military?
Unfortunately, yes. If you have been delinquent adjudicated, the military can deny your enlistment. Remember, the military is a federal agency and is therefore able to see fit to their own regulations, which may differ from Pennsylvania law. Even if your delinquent adjudication has been expunged, the military may still review your record. The military can look at certain crimes much more unfavorably than others and choose not to accept you because of them. If you’re not accepted, you can request a waiver. In these situations, I always endorse that the potential enlistee round up as many letters of recommendation as possible—be it from school teachers, community leaders, clergy, etc.—to present to your recruiting officer when you attempt or reattempt enlistment.
Call Attorney Gerson today with your juvenile crimes questions
If you have any more questions about getting into college, applying for a job, or enlisting in the military with a juvenile record, call Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer Gary E. Gerson at 412-219-6875 today for a free consultation.