Keeping Juvenile Crimes Off Your Permanent Record
Kids make poor decisions, not because they are rebellious, but because they don’t understand risk-reward. That’s why little children chase balls into busy streets. They don’t understand that the risk of being hit by a car far outweighs the reward of getting the ball. That’s also why older children get in trouble with friends. To them, the immediate reward outweighs the long-term consequences, even though that’s not true.
Since kids inevitably make bad choices, it’s possible to erase many juvenile criminal records. However, the process isn’t automatic. Contrary to popular myth, criminal convictions don’t automatically fall off permanent records like negative information falls off credit reports. A good Tampa juvenile charges lawyer understands the importance of a clean criminal history. So, lawyers often use little-known loopholes to achieve the desired results.
An ounce of prevention is usually worth a pound of cure. The easiest way to keep a criminal conviction off a permanent record is to keep the juvenile’s record clean from the outset. How’s it possible to do that if, as is usually the case, the defendant pleads guilty or no contest? We’re glad you asked.
A juvenile judge’s mindset is different from an adult court judge’s mindset. Adult courts are focused on punishment. Juvenile courts are more interested in rehabilitation. So, deferred disposition, a special kind of probation, is usually available in juvenile criminal cases.
The defendant pleads guilty or no contest, and the judge places the defendant on probation. Juvenile court probation is usually brief and usually includes some self-improvement classes and a community service requirement. However, the judge doesn’t enter a finding of guilt. Instead, the judge defers that portion of the proceedings until probation ends. If the defendant successfully completed probation, the judge dismisses the case. “Successful completion” usually means the defendant’s record wasn’t perfect, but there were no major issues.
Deferred disposition addresses the conviction record. But the arrest record remains. If anyone asks about it in the future, a simple (mostly true) explanation, like “I hired a Tampa criminal defense lawyer and the lawyer took care of it,” usually satisfies inquiring minds.
Deferred disposition is usually available in both violent and non-violent crimes, even if the defendant has had a brush with the law before.
We mentioned that criminal records don’t “automatically” fall off permanent records. However, two big legal loopholes are available.
Section 943.0515 juvenile expungement may be available. At age 21 (or age 26, if the defendant served time in a juvenile correctional facility), the defendant may apply for record expungement. Expunction erases both judicial and law enforcement records. The applicant must file a petition, pay a fee, and jump through some other hoops.
Most children apply for federal financial aid before they turn 21. A criminal conviction could derail this train before it leaves the station. Thankfully, in some cases, early juvenile expungement is available. Juveniles are eligible for expungement after they turn 18 if the state’s attorney agrees with the application. There’s a difference between agreeing with something and not opposing it. Therefore, early juvenile expungement applications usually involve some pre-hearing negotiations between a prosecutor and defense attorney.
Count on a Dedicated Hillsborough County Attorney
A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. Convenient payment plans are available.