Minnesota Debates Whether Juvenile Case Records Should Be Available Online


A disagreement over a Minnesota state law limiting electronic access to some juvenile court records is headed for a public hearing next month, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The law, which was to take effect Jan. 1, would block access via the state's online courts system to records involving the cases of 16- or 17-year-olds charged with a felony — the only juvenile cases currently public. Paper records and hearings in those cases would remain available, as would electronic records in cases involving serious offenses.

Backers touted the law as a way to allow young offenders to move on with their lives without being dogged by easily searchable online records. Te state's Juvenile Delinquency Rules Committee advised the Minnesota Supreme Court not to obey the law, claiming it will place additional burden on staff members and that the courts — not legislators — are in charge of classifying which records are private. While some committee members supported sealing electronic court records, they reasoned that the law doesn't give much protection to young offenders because the records are still available at courthouses in the state's 87 counties and through Bureau of Criminal Apprehension background checks. A better solution, they suggested, would be to alter the state's laws involving expungement or sealing of criminal records so that ex-offenders seeking employment or licenses by the Department of Human Services “would truly be able to move beyond the limitations imposed by their juvenile records.”

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