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Teens with minor arrest records face uncertain future

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When teens superglue the classroom doors at their school as a graduation prank, or climb to the top of the local water tower, or shoplift some cosmetics, they are generally unaware of the possible repercussions of their behavior. Because teens live in the “now” and see these activities as victimless pranks, they are often surprised when the local police charge them with a crime. College students are equally shocked when they are caught with an open can of beer and charged with misdemeanor underage drinking.

What the teens don’t realize is that students who have been arrested, even for minor violations, will likely have a criminal record. According to a US Department of Justice report, teens who have been arrested, even for minor crimes, will have a more difficult time getting a job, especially in an already shaky job market. All private employers are allowed to deny a person with a criminal record a job. Public employers in some states can’t deny the person with a misdemeanor record a job without examining the details of the conviction and how they relate to the work. Nonetheless, teens with criminal records will likely be denied jobs that require security clearances, are related to law enforcement, need licensing or involve working with children. Students with criminal records are also at risk of losing their financial aid.

It is in the teen’s best interest to be honest and forthcoming about their criminal record. They need to show remorse and convince an employer that they have learned from the mistake they made. Teens need to understand that it is important that they always obey the law, even if they don’t agree with it or see their crime as “victimless.” Different crimes may be charged differently in certain jurisdictions, but teens need to realize that they are not above the law and that even minor infractions could have a big impact on the opportunities available to them in the future.

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