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Future consequences of your plea in the juvenile law system

One common adage says to "look before you leap," but legal experts are more likely to encourage their clients to "think before they plead." In the state's juvenile justice system, entering a guilty plea can have long-lasting consequences that may not be immediately apparent. Although officials appear to be committed to efforts to rehabilitate the child, they often fail to inform parents and defendants about the implications of entering a guilty plea.

The Juvenile Justice Code in Kansas is a reform designed to improve the legal system for youngsters in the state. However, this reform does not address every future consequence that can stem from a juvenile criminal record. In some cases, juvenile records can be closed by a judge, but this process is not automatic, and it may not protect against the probing eyes of future employers and government agencies.

Even adjudications can be difficult to manage as the juvenile grows into adulthood. Although adjudications, which require the official opinion of a judge, are generally seen as preferable to convictions, they may still have an effect on future employment opportunities. Further, adjudications can limit eligibility for public benefits, and they may be recalled as a determining factor for sentencing related to any future crimes.

Criminal justice government agencies and private employers are allowed full access into juvenile arrest records for those defendants ages 14 and older. That means that an adjudication or conviction in the juvenile law system at age 15 could easily be viewed by a 25-year-old's employer. The records may not necessarily prevent the person from obtaining employment, but they certainly restrict future possibilities.

This fact is the reason that juvenile pleas should be carefully considered before they are officially entered. The juvenile's future ability to participate in society may be hindered by the wrong decision in a criminal courtroom. Legal professionals can help guide juveniles and their families in making the appropriate plea decision.

Source: American Bar Association, "Think Before You Plead" Aug. 19, 2014

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