Arrests for teen drug or alcohol use can have a lasting impact on young adults and can significantly disrupt schooling.

While many people believe that juvenile drug arrests provide a disciplinary benefit to the individual, there is a growing concern about the harmful effects teenage incarceration has on the individual’s education. Understanding the most common reasons for juvenile arrests and the consequences a juvenile arrest can have on an individual can help us better understand how students are impacted, especially when considering college admissions.

Juvenile Arrest Statistics

According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, in 2017, the total number of juvenile arrests was estimated to be 809,700Drug abuse offenses were estimated to account for 94,830 of those arrests, while offenses related to liquor laws were estimated to account for 33,560 of the total juvenile arrest cases that year. A look at juvenile arrest rates by states shows that in Florida, juvenile arrest rates related to drug abuse slightly exceeded the national average for these types of offenses.

Several consequences can arise from underage drinking and drug abuse arrests. In some states, the use of a fake ID to obtain alcohol can result in a conviction of a class A misdemeanor, up to a year of jail, and fines up to $2,500. Continued offenses can lead to a conviction for a class 4 felony, up to three years of imprisonment, and fines up to $25,000. These offenses can stay on the individual’s criminal record for a substantial amount of time and possibly show up on background checks when looking for work as an adult.

There are many intricacies that take place when a juvenile is arrested, detained in a juvenile detention center, or put on probation due to underage drinking or drug-related offenses. Keeping up with the proceedings that follow arrest can often lead to absences, poor grades and an unstable educational trajectory.

College Admission

Juvenile arrests can have lasting effects on the individual beyond the consequences experienced in high school. These arrests, which may have resulted in poor attendance and grades, decrease the competitiveness of these students when applying to colleges and universities. It has been reported that more than 60 percent of colleges look at the criminal record of the applicant during admission decisions. Many parents, educators and students are concerned because teens caught drinking in high school may otherwise have a clean record, and feel that teens should not be limited in the opportunities they have available because of previous delinquencies.

In a recent movement to “ban the box,” some people are advocating for the removal of questions about juvenile criminal records from college applications. The Common Application, which is used by many colleges and universities across the United States, has decided to remove this question for the upcoming application cycle starting in 2019. This may help reduce the potential for students to be denied admission due to previous offenses and juvenile arrests.

Juvenile arrest records and convictions are usually sealed, but this only means that the details of the case are not available to the general public. Unfortunately, these offenses can still surface through background checks made by employers, hospitals or schools. Expungement can remove arrests or charges for an offense from a criminal record, but qualifying for this depends on the type of crime committed, the details of the case and how much time has passed since the incident. Depending on the details of the case, seeking expungement of criminal records in time to apply for college may not be an option for some individuals.

College Probation and Expulsion

Depending on the policies in place, underage drinking in college can result in college probation, and under severe circumstances, expulsion from the college. Most universities and colleges maintain compliance with the Drug Free School and Communities Act.

The law requires that colleges:
  • Provide information about laws on alcohol and drug use
  • Enforce penalties for breaking such laws
  • Inform students of the health risks related to drug and alcohol abuse
  • Provide resources for counseling, treatment and rehabilitation to students

uvenile drug possession can result in punishments that differ by state. First-time minors in possession charges, or MIP charges, can result in a fine being issued to the individual. Juvenile drug court programs exist for cases involving you who have abused substances. The goal is to provide teens with treatment options that will ideally reduce the chance of more offenses and continued substance abuse.

What if Your Child Can’t Stop Using Drugs and Alcohol?

It is important to be aware of some of the signs of teen alcohol abuse in order to prevent arrest and negative consequences that could follow a teenager for years to come.

Signs of Teen Alcohol Abuse

Some of the signs of teen alcohol abuse include excessive drinking or consuming alcohol to cope with problems at home…Learn More

Signs of Teen Drug Abuse

Some of the warning signs of teen drug abuse include changes in personality, behavior or mannerisms and frequent change of…Learn More

Treatment for Teens

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Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. “Estimated number of juvenile arrests, 2017”. October 2018. Accessed September 19, 2019.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.“Juvenile Justice State Profiles.” Accessed September 19, 2019.

Illinois Liquor Control Commision.“Laws and Penalties for Underage Drinking.” Accessed September 19, 2019.

Kirk, David S; Sampson, Robert. “Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Education[…]sition to Adulthood.” Sociology of Education, May 2012. Accessed September 19, 2019.

Lipka, Sara. “Experts Debate Fairness of Criminal-Back[…] Checks on Students.” Chronicle of Higher Education, June 2010. Accessed September 19, 2019.

Shah, Riya Saha. “Don’t ask college applicants about juv[…]nd need opportunity.” USA Today, August 2018. Accessed September 19, 2019.

Illinois Legal Aid Online. “Criminal Records: Expungement vs Sealing.” June 2017. Accessed September 19, 2019.

Illinois Legal Aid Online. “Expungement or Sealing a Criminal Record.” June 2017. Accessed September 19, 2019.

Crime Solutions. “Juvenile Drug Courts.” Accessed September 19, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.