Teenagers can make some pretty consequential mistakes. However, part of the point of juvenile records is that our society believes youth can learn and change their ways after experiencing a juvenile conviction. Due to this structure, there are ways in which juvenile records may not appear on background checks.
A Gap in Information
The first way in which this could happen would be the fact that many states limit how far back you can look with a criminal background check. For instance, in Texas, the law states that employers can only check back seven years unless the employee will be making more than $75,000 a year. This means that if you committed a juvenile felony and it remains on your record, it will not be visible on a background check after seven years in Texas.
However, federal law (via the Fair Credit Reporting Act) trumps state law. According to the FCRA, “No requirement or prohibition may be imposed under the laws of any State...relating to information contained in consumer reports.” The exception to this is any state law in effect by September 30th of 1996. Federal courts have even ruled on this issue in the past.
If you’re uncertain, always engage the services of competent legal counsel.
Sealed Records Are Not Available
When you have a juvenile conviction, the state in which you committed the act has rules on how soon and in what way you can have a felony removed from your record. This is the main reason why a background check won’t reveal juvenile records: they’ve been sealed, and are no longer available to the public.
Regardless of how far back you go with a thorough background check, the information simply might not be there. In many cases, records pertaining to juvenile offenses are managed by completely different court systems.
While it is essential to the criminal justice system that your relevant juvenile record be available while you are still a minor, these records are exactly that: essential to the criminal justice system. Repeat offenses are taken very seriously and may result in stiffer punishment—but that doesn’t mean that the record of these offenses is available to the wider public. These are internal records kept solely for the purposes of the District Attorney’s office to use in the event of a repeat offense. For the purpose of hiring, these records are effectively sealed.
When you are an adult, you are old enough to apply to have your juvenile record sealed or expunged with respect to the courts. This is contingent on if you meet the other criteria outlined in your particular case or the specific laws of your state. However, it ultimately has no bearing on the hiring process beyond some very limited exceptions.
There are, of course, particularly severe crimes in which juvenile individuals are tried as adults, resulting in more jail time. Serious crimes are often not eligible for expungement or record sealing. These crimes are considered so severe that doing them at any age should be part of one's record, which can continue to have an impact.
Additionally, there are some jobs (military jobs, for instance) where it may be required that one disclose one's juvenile record. Not doing so may result in the same kind of problems you would encounter if your history showed up on a background check.
Advising Candidates With—or Without—a Juvenile Record
Given that the circumstances where juvenile records might actually be relevant (and visible) to an employer are so few, advising a candidate during the interview stage plays out the same—regardless if they have a record or not.
Honesty is always the best policy. You can suggest to your potential hires that they be as straightforward and honest as possible during the application process. Ultimately, this will make the hiring process easier for everyone involved—and the information you do have access to will still reveal whether or not a candidate is the right fit for your company.
If Juvenile Records Don’t Show, What Does?
While background checks can’t reveal arrests or convictions from the younger years of an individual's life, it can reveal certain insights into their current character. Choices made while growing up—especially non-severe ones—are usually very different from the decisions made by grown adults. Prioritizing the legitimacy of a candidate's education, references, and present history will have a greater impact on your hiring process than inaccessible records.
As with most background check results, the best path forward is probably one tailored to your particular job posting. Even if you could see them, some juvenile records, such as misdemeanors, might be something that the individual would never consider again—and may have no bearing on their ability to do their job well.
However, a criminal background that has a direct bearing on the position for which you are hiring and which has not been expunged may be relevant. Make sure that you are making choices that avoid a policy of "one-size-fits-all," and instead tailored to your company's needs. Blanket decisions could be discriminatory—but you also want to protect yourself and hire a very responsible, reliable team.
Luckily, an excellent third-party screening company can help you ensure that you don't include records that don't pertain to the position you're seeking to fill. If you let your third-party screening company know the only things you want to know about, they can redact criminal records. For instance, your screening partner can ignore non-serious records if you so choose. In general, we also advise HR managers to avoid the inclusion of non-conviction records when it comes to your hiring decisions; seek out competent legal counsel in the event that you’re uncertain.
If what matters to you is that the person has been honest about their education and experience—or if you want to know what kind of social media or online presence they have—a background check can focus on those things instead of or in addition to the criminal history check. CNet Technologies is here to help you find the right solution, regardless of the size of your business or the nature of your needs. We are a leading provider of thorough, ethical, and efficient background check services; put our expertise to work for you!