MN Supreme Court Considers Online Access To Juvenile Felony Records


Advocates for a new law that would block electronic access to some Minnesota juvenile court records faced a skeptical state Supreme Court this week, which grilled them over the additional burden the law would place on the courts and concern the lawmakers—not the judicial branch—are dictating which records are public and private, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The hearing concerned a new law dubbed the “Access Statute” which would block access to records involving the criminal cases of 16- or 17- year-olds charged with a felony—the only juvenile cases currently public.

Hearings in such cases would remain open and paper copies of the files would be available at courthouses. Electronic records involving serious violent offenses would remain available, with some exceptions–such as when a prosecutor and defense attorney agree to do so. That caveat was troubling to Justice David Lillehaug, who said such deals could interfere with victims’ rights. Backers, which include prosecutors, public defenders and juvenile justice advocates, say the law allows young offenders to move on with their lives without being dogged by easily-searchable online records, which could prevent them from finding jobs or acceptance into schools. The problem is exacerbated by for-profit data miners, who gather the data en masse for sale to potential employers and other screeners.

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