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State Laws on Prosecutors' and Judges' Use of Juvenile Records (NIJ Research in Brief)

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 1995
17 pages
Publication Series
State laws pertaining to the role of juvenile records in criminal court sentencing were analyzed, based on the laws in each State as of December 1994.
The discussion notes that young adults aged 18-24 are the group most likely to be involved in violent crime. Without knowledge of defendants' juvenile records, prosecutors and judges may consider them to be first offenders, even when they have extensive juvenile court records of violent crimes. Although almost every State has laws authorizing access to juvenile arrest and disposition records for presentence report purposes, the variety of restrictions on creating records and the conditions placed on their access may pose practical problems for prosecutors and judges. The analysis of State laws revealed that 24 States mandate judicial use of defendants' juvenile records by defining their significance for sentencing. States concur that some provision is needed for destroying or sealing the juvenile record, but they differ considerably about the cases that should be covered by this provision. In most States, laws providing for erasure of juvenile records are inconsistent with recently enacted sentencing laws that dictate how juvenile records affect sentencing outcomes; this situation has led to a focus on obtaining legislative waivers from juvenile to criminal court. Findings suggest that all States should consider enacting laws that authorize fingerprinting of juveniles charged with weapon violations that would be felonies if committed by adults, centralize juvenile arrest and disposition recordholding and dissemination, provide prosecutor and court access to juvenile records permit law enforcement use of juvenile records for investigative purposes, and limit expungement of juvenile records when subsequent adult convictions have occurred. Reference notes and charts summarizing individual State laws

Date Published: September 1, 1995