You can secure a fresh start in life by having your juvenile court records sealed. Sealing your juvenile records allows you to legally tell potential licensing agencies, colleges, landlords, and employers that you have never been arrested or considered delinquent. According to Welfare and Institutions Code 781, sealing your juvenile records can last an average of eight to ten months. You must file your request in the jurisdiction where your juvenile proceedings occurred.
Your juvenile record is not automatically sealed when you turn 18 years old. Instead, you must qualify to have your juvenile records sealed and secure a judicial order to seal and destroy your juvenile records under W&IC 781. You need to consult a competent criminal defense attorney if you need your juvenile records sealed.
Sealing A Juvenile Record Under California Law
Welfare and Institutions Code 781 allows you to petition the court to have your juvenile records sealed. Once the court grants your application to have your juvenile records sealed, it closes your file so that the information in it ceases to exist and no one can access it.
The main aim of sealing your juvenile records is to prevent further stigmatization. Once your juvenile records are sealed, you can answer ‘’no’’ if any person ever asks you:
- If the police ever arrested you
- If you have a sealed record, or
- If you have a criminal record
Juvenile records include a court record and every report about offenses you committed while a minor under 18. This includes:
Your Arrest Reports
When the police arrest you, they book you for a juvenile court hearing. You must provide your name during the booking process. The law enforcers will also take your fingerprints. The police will record your details in a record book. Additionally, the arresting officers will keep anything they collect from you.
Evidence Regarding Your Juvenile Court
Your juvenile case could have involved providing evidence during court proceedings. The court retains this evidence after the court hearing. The evidence can include the items you used to commit the offense. For example, if the court convicts you of possessing a controlled substance, the substance or drugs will be tabled as evidence of unlawful indulgence. After sealing your juvenile records, any information regarding the evidence presented in your case will not be available to the public.
The Court Judgment And Ruling
All court judgments and rulings are logical records. The court ruling involves several court hearings until the judge finalizes the case. Your attorney needs to evaluate your records before presenting them for sealing.
The court ruling is a vital record. No matter the verdict, the court’s outcome remains on your juvenile criminal record. You need to seal your records, irrespective of the charges.
Juvenile courts often impose probation on juveniles. Probation reports are essential because they provide information for the whole probation period. For example, the probation reports will provide information on your compliance with the terms and conditions of probation. When submitting a petition to seal your records, your attorney must include the probation details.
A juvenile court trial is technically not criminal. If the court found you guilty and declared you a ‘’ward of the juvenile court’’, you do not have a criminal charge on your record. In this case, you could still legally claim that you have never been convicted of an offense, even if your juvenile records are not sealed.
Destroying Of Your Sealed Juvenile Records
The court will order your sealed juvenile records to be destroyed unless it decides that your juvenile court record should be retained. Only extraordinary circumstances could force the court to maintain your juvenile records. However, your sealed records could be destroyed for the following reasons:
- If the court declared you a ward of the court for committing a crime and you have turned 18 years
- Five years have passed since the court ordered your record to be sealed if you were declared a ward of the court for being habitually truant or disobedient
Reopening Of Your Juvenile Records
Your juvenile records could be reopened under the following circumstances:
- When the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) orders automobile insurance adjusters to inspect your driving record to ascertain your insurance risk and eligibility
- Your juvenile records could be opened and admissible as evidence during the trial if you are a party to a defamation civil lawsuit. The records could be sealed again once the case is resolved.
The prosecutor could also reopen your sealed juvenile records for disclosing exculpatory evidence in a criminal lawsuit.
Qualification For Sealing Juvenile Records
You could only qualify for juvenile record sealing under WIC 781 if the following is true:
- There is no unresolved civil lawsuit arising from any of your juvenile cases
- You have undergone a successful rehabilitation
- You have not faced any misdemeanor or felony charges involving moral turpitude as an adult; moral turpitude means immoral or dishonest character. Some of the offenses that involve moral turpitude include certain drug crimes, certain sex crimes, fraud crimes, and theft offenses.
- You are aged 18 years or older, or the court terminated your juvenile proceedings five years ago
However, you cannot qualify for juvenile record sealing if you were convicted of any crime listed under WIC 707(b) after turning 14. Crimes listed under WIC 707(b) are the most serious crimes and include the following:
- Murder or attempted murder— Penal Code 187
- Torture — Penal Code 206
- Robbery — Penal Code 211
- Carjacking — Penal Code 215
- Arson — Penal Code 415
- Firearm crimes
- Sex crimes
- Any violent felony
You could be eligible for juvenile record sealing if, while a minor, you were arrested for a misdemeanor offense and:
- The court acquitted you of the charges
- Your charges were dropped, or you were released without a criminal conviction
- You were released for lack of evidence to hold you liable
You could petition the court anytime if the above factors favor having your juvenile record sealed. You do not have to wait until you turn 18 to petition the court.
The Process For Juvenile Records Sealing
You need to understand the legal process involved in court before you file an appeal to seal your juvenile criminal records. In this case, you need to reach out to a competent criminal defense attorney, and he/she will assist you in ascertaining your eligibility for the legal process. The attorney will also take you through the entire legal process. Typically, below is the process for sealing juvenile records:
Petitioning The Court To Seal Your Juvenile Records
Your attorney could file a petition asking the court to seal your juvenile records. Generally, the petition serves as the backbone of your case. Therefore, your attorney must include all the information required to seal your records.
Your petition must also specify the criminal record you want to seal and the arguments to support it. The court will attempt to track your juvenile records and make a final verdict if your details are precise.
You should also petition the court early enough to avoid inconveniences. You must consult your attorney on the statute of limitations to seal your juvenile records. You need to carry out sufficient research to ascertain if you are eligible before filing your petition.
Attending The Court Interview
Once you file a petition with the court, it will schedule an interview. Once the interview is set, you or your attorney will attend. The judge will pose critical questions regarding your petition during the court interview. The judge will ask the questions to determine if your attorney understands the purpose of filing the petition. The judge can make the initial impression during the interview. You need to make the best impression to increase your probability of winning your petition.
The court will also want to know if you have any pressing issues. One of the issues could be you are traveling outside the U.S. The court will then evaluate your petition and schedule court hearing dates.
Knowing The Hearing Dates
The judge will inform you through a formal notice once the court settles on the hearing day. You must adhere to the court date once you receive the notice because attendance at the court hearing is mandatory. The court could also change the date with the help of your attorney if unforeseen circumstances occur.
You must inform your attorney to communicate with the court in case of an emergency. The court will then schedule another hearing date, considering your availability. The case could proceed in the presence of your attorney (without you being present) under rare circumstances.
The court will allow you to present your claims during the hearing. On the other hand, the court will listen as it examines the evidence you present. Generally, the hearing becomes real when the prosecutor who prosecuted your case tries to challenge your petition to seal your juvenile records. The prosecutor could allege that your charges were severe. The prosecutor could therefore request that the court not seal your records for future reference.
Your attorney can present documentary proof at the hearing to assist you in convincing the judge to seal your juvenile criminal records. For example, your attorney can present certificates indicating the successful completion of rehabilitation.
You should be present for the initial court judgment at the hearing. The original sentence will be necessary if the court never convicted you of any offense. You could also appear before the judge who handled your juvenile case. This will help you have your juvenile records sealed easily.
Your evidence is essential to determining the nature of your prior juvenile charges. The prosecution team could also table evidentiary material. The prosecution team often utilizes information from the district attorney’s office and the probation board.
The judge could make a final ruling after analyzing your evidence. The judge could also adjourn the hearing several times to ensure he/she researches the case thoroughly.
Court Decision And The Possible Effects
The court will only grant your petition to seal your juvenile records if you fulfill all the requirements. The judge will send a court order to all agencies accessing your criminal records once he/she approves your petition. The order will include statements ordering the organizations to seal your juvenile criminal records. In this case, your information ceases to be public.
However, the judge can turn down your application and keep your criminal record. Fortunately, you can still reapply after some time, and you will have a chance to go through the final court ruling. You will also get to know why your petition was rejected.
Advantages Of Sealing Juvenile Records
Your juvenile records could influence your life negatively at different points and limit your access to various opportunities. Therefore, you should seal your records to enjoy the following advantages:
- You can lawfully deny having a criminal record, including police arresting you
- You can apply for employment in different companies, enhancing your earning capacity. Potential employers are restricted from asking you regarding your sealed records.
- The law enforcers will respond positively to any inquiry regarding your record.
- Your criminal record will stop appearing after your background check
- The juvenile record will not hinder you from securing employment because potential employers will not access the record
- You will secure a license and professional documents after completing school
- You will be eligible to apply for undergraduate loans
Who Qualifies For Sealing Of Juvenile Records
Minors have a right under the law to seal their juvenile records. However, not all children can have their juvenile records sealed. The law does not allow you to seal your records if:
- The court convicted you of a felony at 14 years and above, and you were ordered to register as a sex offender
- Your charges were transferred to an adult court, and you were charged as an adult
- You were convicted of a moral turpitude offense as an adult
Find A Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
You could enjoy several benefits once you seal your juvenile records, including a fresh beginning. Unfortunately, the legal process of sealing your juvenile records could be complicated, mainly if it is your first time facing a criminal charge. In this case, you must work with a skilled attorney to ensure a smooth process. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we will assist you in understanding the requirements to seal your juvenile records. Call us at 916-779-3500 and talk to one of our Sacramento attorneys.