The Problem of Lemons and Why We Must Retain Juvenile Crime Records
T. Markus Funk
Government of the United States of America - Department of Justice
Daniel D. Polsby
George Mason University School of Law
Cato Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1 (1998).
Most states, and the federal government, have statutes that "expunge" (destroy or seal) a young offender's record of juvenile delinquency when he reaches age 17 or 18. The justification for this policy is that it allows young men (and young women) who have been guilty of "youthful indiscretions" to enter adulthood without the heavy stigmatic freight of a criminal record. At bottom, expungement laws seek to prevent employers, police officers, and even judges from finding out about a person's criminal activities during his minority. Although a policy that allows for the expungement of isolated or minor acts of juvenile delinquency may not raise some of the problems discussed in this article, many current statutes tend to aggressively expunge records full of serious and repeated criminal conduct. Examining economicst George A. Akerlof's "Market for Lemons," this article will discuss some of the not so obvious negative consequences that result from such expungement schemes, such as an increased likelihood that race and socio-economic background may be improperly relied upon in sentencing.
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: February 8, 1998
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