Skip Navigation

Main sections

Skip section navigation (navigation may have changed)

Section navigation logo

Your future

The truth about having a juvenile record

judge banging a gavelPerhaps you stole a car, wrote graffiti on your school walls, or shoplifted from a local store. It was stupid, and you have paid for it. You are labeled a juvenile delinquent (a child or teen under the age of 18 who commits an act which would be a crime if she or he were an adult).

Your bad choice happened some years ago, and now you are graduating from high school and wondering if this past will affect your entrance into college or the military. The short answer is "it could."

Having a juvenile record is serious. But, unlike an adult criminal record, it can be expunged — either destroyed or sealed — when you reach a certain age. Your juvenile record is not automatically expunged once you turn 18. You can take steps to have this done by contacting your probation office. You don’t need a lawyer to take care of this.

When you apply to colleges, college financial aid programs, professional licensing agencies, and employers, you might be asked if you have a criminal record. (A juvenile record IS a criminal record.) Only if your juvenile record is expunged can you say "no" on these applications.

If you are going into the military, federal law requires military applicants to tell ALL criminal history on recruiting applications, including expunged juvenile records. Also, in most states, such records are available to military investigators.

It is important to remember that you are not automatically barred from college or the military because you have a juvenile record. Depending on the offense, you can make a fresh start. We all make mistakes.

Content last updated September 22, 2009

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.