When an individual commits minor offenses when young, those minor offenses should in no way disadvantage that person later in life. This is considering minor offenses only, not felony offenses during the commission of which one or more persons are seriously injured or killed.
Super Bowl dreams crushed over minor offense
As reported by CBC News, 50 year old Myles Wilkinson won a Fantasy Football Sweepstakes sponsored by Bud Light Canada. His prize was a trip, with all expenses paid, to the February 3 Super Bowl Game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans. But U.S. customs officials at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport refused to let Wilkinson enter the USA. The reason cited was that he had a conviction for possession of 2 grams of marijuana…when he was 19 years old. For his indiscretion, he paid a $50 fine at the time of conviction, 31 years earlier. Although some states have already legalized small amounts of marijuana and other states are also considering legalizing possession of marijuana, Myles Wilkinson was still refused entry into the United States and lost his prize of the Super Bowl trip.
While Mr. Wilkinson may have legally been an adult at the time he was arrested for being in possession of the small amount of marijuana, he was still very young and it was a long time ago. Yet the United States Customs Officials refused to let him in the country to attend the Super Bowl and then return to his home in Canada. Some people may think that the action taken was absurd, given that this minor offense was committed when Wilkinson was young and that it should not put him at any disadvantage this much later in life.
Some individuals may deserve to have record disadvantage them much later
Jason Lemont Watkins terrorized people in his own neighborhood in Columbus Ohio. He was bound over from juvenile court to be tried in adult court. At age 16, Watkins committed nearly 2 dozen crimes and was found guilty of 22 offenses at trial in adult court. He was sentenced to 67 years in prison, which he is serving with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. He is serving time as an adult for the commission of six counts of robbery and six counts of aggravated robbery, and six counts of kidnapping. Watkins was also convicted of one count of gross sexual imposition and one count of rape, along with other crimes. He showed a weapon in nearly all of the crimes. This was not his first contact with the criminal justice system; he had been convicted of earlier crimes. This is the type of juvenile offenses that many people may think should absolutely follow and disadvantage an individual later in life.
Discrepancies should be cleared to permit uniform application
The issue of juvenile indiscretions or those committed as an adult, but many years ago, may be a subject that deserves immediate debate and action. There appears to be a great deal of discrepancy in what laws say regarding the length of time that a record can follow an individual and what really happens when records from long ago are not supposed to disadvantage a person any longer.
There is no doubt that the juvenile justice system, like the adult justice system, is over-burdened. This is true even when considering a recent decrease in juvenile arrest rates, as reported by the U.S. Department of Justice, who cites a recent “historic low” for juvenile arrests. Perhaps this is due to a recent turnaround in the “get-tough” policy on juveniles and instead, sending juveniles and in some cases, the entire family to counseling programs. Diversion, mandatory substance abuse or mental health treatment or anger management may be just some of the broad variety of options available to courts when sentencing juveniles.
In instances where young people are sentenced to a program rather than incarceration in a juvenile correctional facility or transferred to be tried as an adult, the juvenile may not have a record that will follow him or her. In fact, it is often widely believed that juvenile records and even many criminal records for minor adult offenses will not follow a person later in life. If this is what we say will happen, then that is what should happen and it should be uniformly applied. This would prevent minor instances of criminality from unfairly following a young person much later in life. Even in cases where young adults commit minor offenses, sentencing to programs rather than criminal justice facilities, consideration of prior record, and consideration of record in the time since the minor offense was committed should be taken into consideration for having the old record expunged. A single indiscretion, where there was no violence, should never follow an individual much later in life, such as in the matter of the tremendous injustice done to Myles Wilkinson. However, in instances where multiple violent crimes are committed, particularly where victims are terrorized by the brandishing of a weapon which leads the victim or victims to fear for their safety or their life, such as with Jason Watkins, who already had a lengthy record at age 16 when he committed nearly 2 dozen new violent crimes, indeed the instances of criminality should be considered later in life.