The Juvenile Law Center (JLC) has released a study rating all 50 states and Washington, D.C., regarding how well they protect the records of juvenile offenders in their criminal systems. The study, which rated each state on both its confidentiality practices and its expungement practices, said that Idaho’s combined score was the worst in the nation, resulting in Idaho being the only state to receive a one-star rating (out of five).
According to JLC, “Idaho receives the lowest score because there are no confidentiality protections for juvenile records and very few records are eligible for sealing.”
On the issue of confidentiality practices, Idaho scored zero points in the four criteria that were considered (confidentiality of law enforcement records, confidentiality of court records, public availability of records and sanctions for unlawful disclosure of records). The study deemed that Idaho provides “no protection to juvenile records,” and awarded it a one-star rating.
Concerning expungement of records, Idaho scored only slightly better against the eight criteria that were considered (availability of sealing or expungement, which records are available for sealing or expungement, which offenses are excluded from sealing or expungement, degree of automation in sealing or expungement, notification of availability of sealing or expungement, timing of sealing or expungement fees for sealing or expungement and sanctions for failure to comply with sealing or expungement laws). On these measures, Idaho received 14 out of 50 possible points, earning a two-star rating.
As Idaho continues to reform its criminal justice system and to build on the momentum established in passing the Justice Reinvestment Act during the 2014 legislative session, the Legislature should take a close look at this study and think about the way we treat juvenile offenders.
Based on what they see on television and read in the press, most people probably assume that juvenile records are confidential and are either sealed or expunged when the juvenile becomes an adult. That is clearly not the case in Idaho, and perhaps that is something that should be reconsidered.
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