Collateral Consequences

About This Issue

Involvement in the juvenile court system—including arrests, dismissed petitions, and adjudications—may have consequences for youth beyond their immediate court case. These consequences can follow a young person throughout adulthood and create barriers to their employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

Few stakeholders in juvenile court understand the breadth of harm facing young people after court involvement—which only underscores the need for passionate advocates for youth. Youth defenders can break down collateral consequences by discussing them with their clients, mitigating potential harms, and building pathways to success. Understanding collateral consequences is critical to every aspect of the juvenile court process, including plea or diversion negotiation; the theory of defense; and disposition, post-disposition, and reentry advocacy. Because collateral consequences vary by state, it is important that defenders stay informed about the specific barriers created by juvenile court involvement where they practice.

Our Position

Decades of research has confirmed that young people grow up and out of the behavior that led to their involvement in the juvenile court system, as long as they have access to education, employment, housing, and services. Collateral consequences obstruct these vital opportunities. To help young people understand and navigate barriers to their success, the Gault Center has developed a series of collateral consequences guides for youth by state. We’ve also published resources for youth defenders about how they can avoid and mitigate the consequences of court involvement.