Juvenile court records are not considered criminal records--but they can hurt you if they are reachable by employers, landlords, and others. If you qualify, you should seal your juvenile record to avoid this result.
If you are a former juvenile offender, you may be able to clear your record by having your juvenile court record expunged -- that is sealed or destroyed. Expunged records are generally treated as though they never existed. That means you can tell potential landlords, employers, licensing agencies and others that you were never arrested or adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile.
Youthful juvenile offenders who were convicted of simple possession of certain drugs may be able to expunge their conviction records. (18 U.S.C. § 3607(c).) You must meet these personal requirements: Age. You must have been younger than 21 years old on the date of the offense.
When minors are arrested and can’t afford a lawyer, they have the right to be represented by a state-appointed attorney. (This right was established in 1967 by a U.S. Supreme Court Case called In re Gault.)
Some juvenile cases for serious or repeat offenses are transferred to adult criminal court. While being tried in adult court provides the young person with additional constitutional protections, it has real downsides as well -- including the possibility of a more serious sentence and adult prison time.
If your juvenile court or arrest record contains inaccurate information, you can ask the state to correct it. Criminal records, including many juvenile records, are usually kept on file in a central state database. As with a credit report, you may request a copy of your criminal record to review it for accuracy. You must usually pay a fee to obtain your record for review.
Young people up to age eighteen who commit federal offenses may be tried in the federal juvenile justice system. If you are adjudicated delinquent in the federal system, the details of your case are kept in a federal juvenile court record.