By Oakland County Circuit
Judge Rudy Nichols
A criminal record can have a devastating impact on a young person’s future. Harmless high school pranks, minor brushes with the law and following the crowd without standing up and saying “no” can result in a teenager being labeled a criminal or juvenile delinquent with a criminal record for the rest of his or her life. Defacing mailboxes, starting a fire in a restroom, hanging with friends who are drinking or participating in underage drinking, smoking marijuana, shoplifting or destroying another person’s personal property may all start out as a dare or innocent teenage fun, yet each can have serious long-term consequences.
The impact of a criminal record is serious. Poor choices can permanently scar a young person’s future. High school students filling out college applications, for example, will find that a record can prohibit them from attending the university of their choice. Many college applications ask the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” and the answer may negatively factor into the admission decision-making process.
A young adult with a criminal history can be ineligible for federal and state financial aid. Even if accepted into the college of their choice, they may be shocked to learn that their record prohibits them from obtaining licensure in a field of their choice, thus making their college degree virtually worthless. Examples include licensing requirements for attorneys, doctors, social workers, physical therapists, nurses, building trades, EMS personnel, cosmetologists, educators and personal trainers, to name a few.
For teens thinking about going into the military, federal law requires all applicants to disclose any criminal history, including expunged juvenile records. A criminal record can make it difficult to travel abroad. In fourteen states a felony conviction can prevent one from voting.
One of the biggest impacts on adults with a record is their inability to secure gainful employment. Potential employers are reluctant to hire anyone with a criminal record and have every right to do a criminal background check. Without the ability to obtain meaningful employment, an adult with a record will find it difficult to support him or herself, find housing, apply for credit or obtain memberships to professional organizations.
There is a misconception that all teenage offenses committed under the age of 18 are sealed and not a matter of public record. In the past, juvenile files were sealed, but with a change in the law several years ago, nearly all juvenile cases are public record and anyone can learn about an individual’s past criminal history.
The younger years are an exciting time of physical, mental, emotional and social growth and development. Parents, educators, counselors, coaches and mentors need to reinforce to them the importance of the choices they make. It is imperative that teens realize the poor choices they make in their middle school and high school years can lead to serious legal consequences haunting them the rest of their lives.
Hon. Rudy Nichols
- Oakland County Circuit Court Judge since 1991
- Graduate, Michigan State University and Detroit College of Law
- General and municipal law practice, 1976-1982
- Former member: Michigan House of Representatives; Michigan Senate, 1982-1990
- Former chair, Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee
- Recipient of Outstanding Legislator of the Year by Michigan Judges Association
- Recognized as Legislator of the Year by the Police Officers Association of Michigan
- Author and co-author of articles published in professional journals, including “Overview of Michigan Rules of Evidence” and Michigan’s “Domestic Violence Law” appearing in theState Bar Journal and in Laches