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OVER CRIMINALIZATION – Part II – COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES OF ARRESTS

As of 2008, 2 million youths are arrested each year. While the original intent of the juvenile justice systems created throughout the country was to prevent stigmatization and collateral consequences that could naturally flow from an arrest. As experienced criminal defense lawyers know the system is less than perfect in that regard. Examples abound of the collateral consequences that can and sometimes do flow to juveniles who are arrested.

For example, children can be suspended or expelled from school under the federal “Gun Free Schools Act (GFSA) for certain weapons offenses committed on school grounds. The GFSA requires that schools that receive federal funds expel a student for one year for certain weapons offenses. A student can be expelled even if found not guilty of the weapons offense. Many states have expanded this to require expulsion for weapons offenses committed off school grounds (New Jersey) or in the case of Missouri any student charged with a felony can be suspended or expelled even if they were found not guilty of the offense.

A common belief is that individuals arrested as youths have their records destroyed when they reach the age of 18. This is not necessarily the case. In New York, for example, there is absolutely no provision for expungement of criminal records and the statutes that require that records be sealed, never completely seal the records leaving the records accessible for a host of reasons. This can lead to more limited employment options for youths who have been arrested, even if those records were eventually sealed.

In addition, the misapplication of sex offender registration databases can have long lasting effects on youths who are charged as juveniles with sex offenses. In Michigan, for example, 8% of the sex offender registration list is made up of juveniles including children as young as 9 years old. In a well publicized and outrageous case in New Jersey a 14 year old girl was arrested and faced child pornography charges after she posted naked pictures of herself on myspace. The charged carries a possible sentence of up to 17 years and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

Sex offender registration laws, which arguably could have the most severe collateral consequences for youths, are a prime example of just how far off mission the juvenile justice system has drifted. Clearly, the aforementioned 14 year old needs help. But she is clearly not the intended target of either child pornography laws or sex offender registration laws which were originally passed to register sexual predators.

The issue of the over criminalization of our society and the resulting collateral consequences that flow to a large percentage of the population has a tremendous cost to our youth and to our economy at large as a large percentage of people are either unemployable or underemployed as a result of the consequences of an arrest. The issue and costs are clearly too significant to ignore.


If you or a loved one have been arrested, charged or questioned in regard to any criminal matter, treat it with the seriousness that it deserves. Contact Tilem & Campbell for a free consultation at (877) 377-8666