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Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Changes to the Juvenile Court Act

Public bodies should be aware of new changes to the Juvenile Court Act that make some sweeping changes that will affect police departments and employers.  Public Act 100-0285

First, the Act greatly broadens privacy protections for juvenile records, amending Section 1-7 to treat records of municipal ordinance violations as confidential records. This means that municipal ordinance violation records must now be treated with the same sensitivity which applies to criminal arrest records.  The statute further designates juvenile records as “sealed,” meaning they can never be disclosed to the general public or made available unless they meet specific narrow exceptions under the Act or by juvenile court order.  The statute provides that a anyone who violates the confidentiality protections is subject to a Class C misdemeanor, a fine of $1,000, and liability to the minor for damages of $1,000, or actual damages, whichever is greater.

The statute also requires the automatic expungement of certain law enforcement records relating to events occurring before an individual's 18th birthday on or before January 1 of each year, if: 
  1. one year has elapsed since the date of arrest or law enforcement interaction, 
  2. no petition for delinquency or criminal charges was filed, and 
  3. 6 months have elapsed without any subsequent arrest or petition for delinquency or criminal charges.  

The law enforcement agency must also send notice of the expungement within 60 days after doing so. Again, a willful violation of the expungement requirements is now a Class 4 felony and the person intentionally disseminating the record can be personally liable to the juvenile for damages.

The Act has also been amended to prevent the accidental dissemination of confidential juvenile law enforcement record information in employment applications.  Section 5-915(b)(4)(b) provides:

(b) Except with respect to authorized military personnel, an expunged juvenile record may not be considered by any private or public entity in employment matters, certification, licensing, revocation of certification or licensure, or registration. Applications for employment within the State must contain specific language that states that the applicant is not obligated to disclose expunged juvenile records of adjudication or arrest. Employers may not ask, in any format or context, if an applicant has had a juvenile record expunged. Information about an expunged record obtained by a potential employer, even inadvertently, from an employment application that does not contain specific language that states that the applicant is not obligated to disclose expunged juvenile records of adjudication or arrest, shall be treated as dissemination of an expunged record by the employer.

This section is of particular importance to employers as it creates criminal and civil liability for disseminating confidential juvenile records, even if the dissemination is inadvertent.  Employers may want to include a disclaimer on job applications stating that applicants are not required to disclose expunged juvenile records.  The Act also provides that employers may not ask if a job application has had a juvenile record expunged.

Post Authored by Erin Pell, Ancel Glink


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