United States: Illinois General Assembly Corrects Juvenile Court Act Error, But Further Review Needed

Benjamin L Schuster is a Associate in Holland & Knight's Chicago office.

Mark Edward Burkland is a Senior Counsel in Holland & Knight's Chicago office.


  • Public Act 100-0720 corrects provisions of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act (JCA) that denied minors and their parents access to a minor's law enforcement records.
  • Other provisions and oversights of the JCA continue to expose municipalities and law enforcement agencies to risks of civil, and even criminal, liability.

The Illinois Juvenile Court Act (JCA) (705 ILCS 405/1-1 et seq.)has long befuddled those entangled by it. Many municipalities and law enforcement agencies agree that it needs re-examination because the JCA's internally inconsistent terms result in many unintended consequences.

Issues with 2017 Amendment

The JCA was amended significantly in late 2017, as we reported earlier this year. (See Holland & Knight's alert, "New Procedures for Handling Juvenile Police Records for Illinois Municipalities," Jan. 3, 2018.) The amendment, Public Act 100-0285, includes tighter restrictions on public access to juvenile law enforcement records and provides additional privacy protections to juveniles who had interactions with law enforcement. The amendment created more questions, however, and imposed hefty burdens and costs on law enforcement agencies to comply with the new automatic expungement mandate.

Other imprecise provisions of the amendment inadvertently prohibited minors, a minors' parents and their attorneys from obtaining a minor's law enforcement records without a court order from the juvenile court. The amendment compounded the existing trouble with two long-standing sections of the JCA that are similar but not identical:

  • Section 1-7, 705 ILCS 405/1-7, generally provided that law enforcement records regarding minors were required to be kept separate from other records of arrests and could be shared only with certain government officials unless ordered otherwise by the juvenile court.
  • Section 5-905, 705 ILCS 405/5-905, included similar prohibitions on the disclosure of those records, but provided an exception allowing the minor, the minor's parents or legal guardian as well as their attorneys to obtain the records, but only if the minor was charged with an offense.

Despite the conflicts between the two sections, it had been widely assumed that law enforcement agencies were permitted to provide a minor's arrest reports to the minor, the minor's parents and their attorneys.

The amendment clarified Section 1-7, providing that records involving minors investigated, arrested or taken into custody are "sealed," and the sealed records cannot be disclosed absent an order of juvenile court unless the recipient is one of the specific individuals listed in Section 1-7 (such as other law enforcement officers, state's attorneys, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services employees, and school officials, among a few others). The Illinois General Assembly, however, did not make parallel amendments to Section 5-905.

Correcting the Problem

This oversight and its consequence were addressed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in an opinion issued on May 22, 2018 (2018 PAC 52957). The Attorney General declared that the most recently amended statutory provision, Section 1-7, is presumed to be the applicable provision, not the older Section 5-905. The result was that the JCA prohibited parents (and presumably minors and their attorneys) from obtaining law enforcement records without an order of a juvenile court, and only the General Assembly could fix that problem.

The General Assembly did correct the problem, and on Aug. 3, 2018, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law Public Act 100-0720. This Public Act further amends Section 1-7 to clarify that a minor, the minor's parents and the minor's attorney can obtain the minor's law enforcement records. Further, this Public Act removed from the JCA the restriction that a minor, his or her parent, and their attorneys can obtain such records only when the minor was charged with an offense. Now minors, parents and their attorneys can obtain records regardless of whether the minor is charged.

Other Issues Remain

Public Act 100-0720 is warranted and helpful. It does not fix, however, other issues with the JCA that need attention, including these:

  1. What meaning, if any, should be taken from Section 5-905 of the JCA? Although Public Act 100-0720 fixed Section 1-7, conflicts still exist with Section 5-905.
  2. The JCA is silent on what parts of a record can be shared with a minor who is the subject of a police report if the report contains information about other minors who also are subjects.
  3. The JCA does not have any provision permitting law enforcement agencies to provide an arrest report to an adult offender if the report also contains information about a minor being investigated for a crime.
  4. The JCA does not explicitly authorize the Attorney General's Public Access Counselor to view a juvenile law enforcement record that is subject to a Freedom of Information challenge, despite the fact that one of the remedies for a person who is denied access to a juvenile law enforcement record is to file that challenge with the Public Access Counselor.
  5. A law enforcement agency is required to send a notice to a minor when automatically expunging records related to that minor, but the JCA does not address what the agency should do if the agency cannot locate or verify the current address of the minor.

These issues with the JCA and others are reason enough that many municipalities and law enforcement agencies want the General Assembly to carefully and comprehensively review the JCA and make the changes necessary to eliminate ambiguities and oversights.

Public Acts 100-0285 and 0720 are challenging to discern and compliance is difficult to achieve. Clients needing assistance with these new requirements may contact their Holland & Knight attorneys for assistance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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