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A. Delinquency

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  • Idaho

    Idaho rules approach juvenile criminal records differently depending on the defendant’s age and nature of the criminal charge.  The court determines this at an “admit/deny hearing,” which is similar to an arraignment in an adult criminal proceeding and which often is combined with the initial detention hearing.  See Idaho Juvenile Rule 6(a), et seq.  For juveniles under 14 years of age, or for those charged with a crime that would not be considered a felony if committed by an adult, records are exempt from public disclosure if the court says so in writing.  I.C.A.R. 32(g)(9)(B).  For juveniles 14 years or older who are charged with a crime that would be considered a felony if committed by an adult, the court must determine that “extraordinary circumstances” exist that justify closing the records.  Id.

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  • Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania has a statute that provides detailed rules on when juvenile delinquency hearings and records may be closed. See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6336. Juvenile delinquency hearings in Pennsylvania are closed unless the hearing is:

    1.     To declare a person in contempt of court.

    2.     Pursuant to a petition alleging delinquency where the child was 14 years old or older at the time of the alleged conduct and the alleged conduct would be a felony if done by an adult.

    3.     Pursuant to a petition alleging delinquency where the child was 12 years old at the time of the alleged conduct and the alleged conduct is: murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, arson, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, kidnapping, rape, robbery, or attempt to commit or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing.

    Even if those circumstances are present, the proceedings may be closed to the extent of any agreement between the child and the attorney for the Commonwealth. § 6336(d), (e).

    Notwithstanding the above, the court may admit “any other person . . . [with] a proper interest in the proceeding . . . .” § 6336(d). The comments to the statute confirm that under this provision, the court may, in its discretion, admit members of the media into hearings that would otherwise be closed to the general public. See § 6336 cmt. If the media has access to these hearings, it should be allowed to publish whatever is learned at the hearings; an order to the contrary would constitute a prior restraint. However, the notes to this statute state: “This section as drawn permits the court in its discretion to admit news reporters. This is frequently done with the understanding that the identity of the cases observed will not be published, a procedure generally satisfactory to the news media.”

    Despite this statute, the courts have noted that there is a presumptive First Amendment right of access to juvenile delinquency hearings. In re J.B., 39 A.3d 421, 434 (Pa. Super. 2012). However, that presumptive right can be overcome if there is a compelling government interest that cannot be served by any means less restrictive than closure. Id. (closure of courtroom warranted during juvenile delinquency proceeding because state had compelling interest in maintaining minor’s privacy and no less restrictive means to closure were available). Furthermore, the Superior Court has rejected the notion that a juvenile’s privacy interests are less significant in a delinquency proceeding than in a dependency proceeding: “We agree with the juvenile court that In re M.B. was not creating any ‘brightline’ distinction between the privacy interests of a juvenile in a dependency proceeding and a juvenile in a delinquency proceeding.” Id. at 429.

    In addition, the Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: Case Records of the Appellate and Trial Courts; No. 477 Judicial Administration requires that certain information in judicial filings concerning minors be kept confidential. Such information includes a minor’s name, date of birth, and educational records. See 204 Pa. Code § 213.81

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