State Senate passes bill to seal juvenile records

The Washington State Senate has recently passed a bill that will seal most juvenile records from employers. House Bill 1651 will essentially hide the criminal records of past offenders once they turn 18 years old. If this bill is approved by the House and signed by the governor, it will become law.

This bill is intended to prevent crimes people made as teenagers from following them into adulthood.

“I think that many juvenile crimes should not be taken into account for the rest of their adult lives. However, it’s not a simple question,” freshman Sam McCrory said.

“When you look at the matter of sexual assault, assault and grand theft, who’s to say whether or not it’s relevant in their adult lives?”

Career and Employment Services (CES) is confident that they can assist any student on an individual basis, regardless of the impact the new bill may have.

“We’re not inclined to opine about the potential impact since this is not our area of expertise. It’s not a topic that comes up very often,” CES Communications Coordinator Kris Hay said.

“However, we are experts in advising students about their individualized career exploration, and job/internship searches.”

CES Associate Director Alana Hentges shared additional information for current job applicants who may be in a similar situation.

“Each situation is unique and it is difficult to provide a universal answer for any candidate with a juvenile record. I encourage candidates to be transparent. People make mistakes,” Hentges said.

“What’s important is to recognize your mistake, take responsibility, and demonstrate how you have learned and grown as a result. If you have a similar circumstance, it can be helpful to speak with a career advisor about the best approach for your situation.”

Previously Washington, along with two other states, not only left records unsealed, but sold them.

If this bill becomes a law, it would seal all juvenile records except those containing type A felonies such as murder, rape, arson and kidnapping.

The entire criminal sentence must be completed before records are sealed.

“Well, there are two sides of a coin. With records sealed, a rehabilitating youth can then re-enter society without the bias and stigma of a criminal record,” freshman Adam Hayashigawa said. “But on the other hand, this makes employers and their business susceptible to becoming a victim of a repeat criminal offender.”

Currently, all juvenile records are available for the public to see. If the individual is eligible, they may then ask a court to seal them. If this bill is signed into law, offenders will no longer have to appear in court or hire a lawyer in order to seal their records.

“While [this bill] is beneficial for those juveniles wanting to reintegrate into society, I feel that employers should know exactly who they’re hiring…not every offender is going to have made that 180 in their character,” freshman Angie Calderon said. “But for those that have made those changes in their lives, this bill sounds pretty darn tootin’.”