There are many decisions that young people in Philadelphia make every day without thinking. Many of these decisions are harmless, but some will result in consequences that will stay with them for a long time. Sometimes they know what they are doing is illegal, such as underage drinking, fighting or drug possession, but they do not think that it is a big deal, since they see many people doing the same thing. However, if they are convicted on a charge arising out of these decisions, it can have long-term consequences.
Recently, a legal assistance agency in Philadelphia spoke about the long-term consequences that can arise from minor juvenile convictions. One female recently applied for a job at a grocery store, but did not get the job because she had a misdemeanor terroristic threat conviction on her record. The agency stated that they have worked with 406 young people in the last two years who have not been able to get a job because of their criminal history. They also stated that while many juvenile crimes are sealed when one becomes an adult, there are also some minor juvenile offenses that stay on a person's record into adulthood.
Many times, the long-term consequences are worse than the short-term ones for young people. After a conviction for a minor crime, the juvenile may have to pay a fine or complete community service, but will not see any jail time. That is why many do not think it is a big deal to be convicted of a crime as a juvenile. However, as highlighted above, not being able to get a job in the future is a much worse consequence than the fine that they paid. It also may hurt them on college applications.
The consequences only arise, though, if the teenager is convicted or adjudicated, as it is called for juvenile offenses. Simply being charged does not mean the teenager is guilty. There are defenses to juvenile crimes and diversion programs available to help keep the charge off of the juvenile's record.
In Philadelphia, many juveniles are convicted of crimes resulting in long-term consequences. However, there may be defenses available to a juvenile who is facing a criminal charge. Attorneys know the possible defenses and options available and may be a helpful resource as one goes through the juvenile justice system.
Source: Think Progress, "How minor offenses keep young women of color out of a job" Nicole Flatow, Mar. 17, 2014