A juvenile record is a court file that contains judge orders and rulings, investigation exhibits, and all documents, including those relating to the baseline charge held by the DOJ, the Probation Office, police, and other public agencies. If you can seal these records, life would be more comfortable because it will be easy to get admission to the college, rent an apartment, or find meaningful employment.
Contrary to what many people believe, these records aren’t automatically sealed, destroyed, or isolated to the public when you become 18 or older. Unfortunately, you are taking a proactive step to seal the records by registering a petition with the court. Further, you must meet all the conditions necessary to seal the record if you want a clean slate when entering adulthood.
Failure to make the application means the juvenile record will still appear in the public database. Law enforcement, schools, landlords, and prospective employers can access these records and use it for discrimination.
At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we are experienced in sealing juvenile records so that your court case can no longer exist. By doing so, we allow you to lawfully and truthfully say you have a clean record when someone asks about your criminal record.
General View of Juvenile Record
A juvenile record is when you have been arrested, involved in a juvenile court case, or contacted the juvenile court system when you were a minor. The history is not very different from that of an adult. The difference is that you have been put in custody as a minor but in a confinement facility or domiciliary rehabilitation center.
Further, juvenile court hearings are different from adult courts since the charges are not deemed illegal. This is despite minors committing severe offenses that would be considered criminal if they were adults. However, if a minor commits a crime like homicide or robbery with violence, the case may be filed as a criminal offense.
A typical juvenile record encompasses arrest records, court orders, investigation, and probation information. These documents are available online for the public to access but for a fee. With such records available online, they can affect your future and deny you a quality life.
The Meaning of sealing a Juvenile Record
Sealing juvenile records means that once the court accepts your petition, your court files are closed, and the records stop to exist. The general public is no longer able to view your history. Sealing the record under WIC 781 is different from the criminal records’ expunction because all the court files are permanently destroyed. However, WIC 707 (b) provides an exception where you are not eligible to seal juvenile records when charged with a felony offense and for which you were pronounced not to be fit and a proper subject to face the juvenile court system.
Sealing your record prevents stigmatization or discrimination because you can say “no” if someone asks if you have ever been arrested, have a criminal record or sealed record.
It’s worth noting that the law doesn’t require you to report a juvenile sentence if someone asks about your record. However, suppose you fail to disclose the documents to your employer, school, or licensing board. In that case, you could find yourself in trouble because when they discover the record, they will conclude you were dishonest, and this might deny you an opportunity. So, it’s advisable to expunge your records soonest possible.
Reopening Sealed Juvenile Records
Under particular circumstances, the sealed juvenile record can be reopened. These situations include:
- When you’re part of a defamation suit, the juvenile documents may be accessed and admitted as proof at the time of the hearing. However, after the conclusion of the lawsuit, the sealing of the records will happen again.
- The DMV may let your auto insurer to inspect your driving record to establish if you qualify for insurance and the risk you pose while behind the wheel. The DMV cannot release these records for any other reason.
- The prosecuting attorney in a criminal case may access sealed records to locate and disclose exculpatory facts.
Apart from these scenarios, your juvenile files are sealed for a lifetime.
Destroying Juvenile Records
After the court accepts your application to seal juvenile records, there is a high probability the records will be damaged. However, it’s up to the judge to determine if the documents should be destroyed or retained. The juvenile documents can only be kept under exceptional circumstances, which means these files are destroyed most of the time. The files can be destroyed in the following situations:
- Five years past the ruling ordering the sealing of your record when you were pronounced a ward of the court.
- If you are 38 years and were acknowledged as a ward for participating in illegal activity
Benefits of California Juvenile Record Sealing
You should not let your childhood mistakes affect your adulthood and the ability to make a livelihood. Once you have sealed your record, there are manifolds of benefits that you can enjoy under WIC 781. These benefits include:
- The juvenile record will cease to exist
- The record will not appear on any background checks
- You will qualify for better student loans
- Prospective employers will not victimize against or ask about your criminal record
- You can candidly and legally answer “no” during a private job application when asked if you have ever been apprehended or sentenced for a crime.
- You get to experience personal satisfaction knowing your past is gone, and you have a fresh start into a more positive future.
- You will not be required to enlist as a sex offender if you enlist entirely based on your juvenile conviction.
- You will be eligible for more professional license and certificate opportunities
- You will be open to more employment opportunities, which will enhance your earning capacity.
- All law enforcement agencies will respond to all questions regarding your record with “we have no record of the issue.”
It’s time to leave your past behind and focus on a more positive future through juvenile record sealing. To enjoy these benefits, you need to get started by contacting The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney.
Eligibility for Juvenile Record Sealing
Not all juvenile records qualify for sealing under WIC 781. You must meet the following criteria before allowing for juvenile record sealing:
- You must be 18 or older, or your juvenile court’s jurisdiction dismissed in the past five years.
- You mustn’t have committed a criminal act of moral turpitude as an adult, regardless of its nature. Moral turpitude, in this case, means immoral conduct or dishonest. Crimes of moral turpitude in California include fraud, theft, sex, or particular drug crimes.
- The court is convinced you are rehabilitated
- You lack any pending litigation stemming from your juvenile cases
Of course, to be eligible for sealing, you shouldn’t have been sentenced for an offense under WIC 707 (b) after turning the age of 14. Crimes listed under WIC 707 (b) include:
Homicide or Murder Law
According to PC 187, it is illegal to unlawfully end a person’s or fetus’s life with malice aforethought. When proving murder or homicide, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant engaged in an act that led to a human being or fetus’s death. Further, they must prove that when the defendant acted, they had a state of mind known as malice aforethought and that the life of the victim was unlawfully ended.
California PC 215 outlines carjacking as the felonious taking of an automobile from someone else against the person’s will and with plans to momentarily or perpetually deny them of the car employing force or fear.
When prosecuting these cases, the prosecuting attorney must prove that the defendant took an automobile that didn’t belong to them. Further, they must establish that the car was taken from immediate presence or possession. Besides, it must be clear that the vehicle was taken against the owner’s will, using fear or threats to prevent the person from resisting. Lastly, it must be proved the defendant used fear or force for purposes of depriving the owner of the vehicle its possession either temporarily or permanently.
Under California PC 451, it is felonious for an individual to intentionally and maliciously set fire or burn a building, property, or forest land. A conviction for this crime carries a sentence of 9 years of state incarceration. However, before sentencing, the prosecutor must prove that:
- The defendant set fire to or burned, or caused the burning of a building, forest land
- The conduct by the defendant was malicious and willful
Keep in mind that to set on fire, in this case, means destroying or damaging something with fire. Willfully means doing something intentionally or on purpose, while maliciously means engaging in wrongful conduct deliberately or with unlawful intent like defrauding, annoying, or injuring another person.
Other types of serious offenses that fall under WIC 707(b) include:
- Several gun offenses
- Violent felonies
- Rape under PC 261
- Torture law outlined under PC 206
- Attempted murder
If what led to a conviction is a violation of any of the statutes listed above, you will not be eligible for sealing. If you satisfactorily complete the conditions listed above, the judge will evaluate your behavior since the last time you engaged in crime to establish if you are reformed or rehabilitated.
Furthermore, suppose you have violated any of the severe offenses under WIC 707 (b). In that case, you can still appeal the court decision to seal your records, except if you ended up in state custody for a serious sex offense that requires sex offender registration. To qualify for the record sealing, you must meet the following two criteria:
- You must be 21 years and have completed supervision by the Division of Juvenile Justice
- You should be aged 18 or above and have completed probation supervision
If the court seals records for offenses that can be transferred to adult criminal court, they will not be entirely erased. The court, prosecutor, or probation office can access it in case of a felony offense in the future.
Note that if you were never convicted, the charges were dropped or acquitted in a juvenile court, there is no limit on age or time when you should petition the court to seal the records.
Sealing Juvenile Records when a Minor is Never Convicted
PC 851.7, just like WIC 781, addresses another group of minors that are eligible for juvenile record sealing. This group of people includes children who have committed misdemeanor offenses in the following situations:
- You secured release because of a lack of adequate evidence to support the charges
- Your charges were dropped or never convicted
- The court acquitted you of the charges registered against you
Suppose any of these circumstances apply in your case. In that case, you can apply for record sealing free of the limitation of having to wait to become an adult or waiting for five years after the court’s jurisdiction has ended.
The Process of Sealing Juvenile Records
To commence sealing the records, you have to fill out the forms and file your petition with the Los Angeles juvenile court. Under WIC 781, the process will take around 8 to 10 months to complete.
If your records are in Los Angeles County alone, probation will take ninety days to go through your files and inform the court if you are eligible for record sealing. If the records are in more than one county, it will around 180 days to review the application.
Remember, you don’t have to make court appearances. The defense attorney handling your case will appear in court in your place unless the judge wants you to appear for questioning or interviewing.
After you have completed and registered a petition with the county juvenile court, the court will arrange a proceeding. It is at this hearing that the presiding judge will decide to award or refute your motion. The decision comes after the evaluation of the case and the evidence presented.
It’s worth noting that the probation office or the prosecuting team might decide to present proof or contest the petition under unusual circumstances. Although these cases are rare, they might happen to you, which is why you need an experienced attorney to challenge the evidence.
If the judge or court grants the petition, it will order the relevant agencies that hold juvenile registers and order records’ sealing and ultimately destroy them. The court might also decide to deny your petition for some reason. Your documents will remain accessible to the public, but you can appeal it later if you are not satisfied by the court's pronouncement.
Don’t wait until your appeal is declined to try again. Instead, retain or enlist a criminal defense attorney’s services familiar with the California juvenile court system to increase the court’s likelihood of granting the petition. Having an attorney in your corner guarantees you that the motion’s filing happens the right way and that your rights are well represented. A mistake during the filing process can delay your process. So, ensure the case goes smoothly and that you retain local legal counsel.
Deferred Entry Judgment
In case after a conviction for an offense as a juvenile, you ended up with sentencing to a drug diversion program as per PC 1000, and you finished the program, the court should automatically seal your record for this individual case and dismiss the case. If you complete the deferred entry judgment required by the law, confirm with the judge handling the case to ensure an automatic record sealing.
Pre-Petition Diversion Program
Beginning 1st January 2018, if the juvenile court imposed a diversion program in place of going to court as per WIC 654 and completing the program, the court will seal your records and notify all the relevant agencies running the diversion programs to seal your records. Further, they will inform you about the records’ sealing, and if erasing the files is yet to happen, they must jot down their reasons.
If the reason for the open records is the failure to complete probation to the program’s satisfaction, you can petition the decision in court. If the judge finds out there was satisfactory completion of probation terms, the government entity running the probation t must seal the records.
It’s worth noting that you should consult with your attorney or probation officer if you are unsure of your juvenile files’ sealing.
Incidents when the Court Inevitably Seals your Juvenile Record
The State Legislature revised WIC 786 to allow courts to seal juvenile records once a case is dismissed automatically. It means that when you end up with a case dismissal after 1st January 2015, and it was discovered you did not engage in any of the crimes listed under WIC 707 (b) at the age of 14 years or more, then the court can automatically seal your record. You don’t need to complete and file a petition.
However, for the court to take this action, you must have completed probation to their satisfaction. You will end up with a case dismissal upon successful completion of probation.
If you fail to complete the terms of probation satisfactorily, the court won’t terminate your case, which means your record will be no inevitable records’ sealing. If this is the case, you have to petition the court to seal the papers, which is a long process. Ensure you listen keenly while a judge reads out probation terms for a soft case dismissal, resulting in automatic sealing of juvenile records.
Note that some offenses in California are ineligible for juvenile record sealing. The court won’t seal your records if committed the crimes defined in WIC 707 (b) as a minor 14 years or older. Besides, if the court automatically closes your record, particular agencies might retain access to them in the following situations:
- Suppose the juvenile court files were sealed after a case dismissal. In that case, the district attorney and other relevant authorities could check the records to define your eligibility for a deferred entry judgment.
- When applying for benefits in prolonged foster care as a minor-dependent, the court will access your records.
- If you are subject to new felony charges, the agency operating the probation program can access the juvenile files but can’t use the information against you.
- The court can access your records to govern the sentence to impose if they learn you have committed a felony.
- If you have apprehension for a fresh crime and the juvenile court wants to hand you over to the adult court, they can access your records to see if reassigning you is the right move.
- Suppose you are under foster parents; child welfare could access your sealed juvenile records to decide where you should live and the necessary support services.
- If an offense bars you from owning or possessing a firearm, the DOJ can check your juvenile documents to ensure you don’t own or purchase a gun.
- Suppose a prosecuting attorney thinks information in your juvenile files can help them in a separate case. They can request the court to access the files. This decision is not solely in the hands of the court. The court must notify you and your defense attorney of the prosecution’s request so that you can agree or object.
Remember that even after accessing the sealed records in any of the above situations, they will remain sealed, so you don’t have to petition the court for record sealing.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney is here to offer legal guidance if you need help sealing juvenile records or have questions regarding the same. Our experienced attorneys will provide legal advice in the office or face to face to ensure your childhood mistakes don’t haunt your future. Each of these cases is unique in its way, which is why you need to take the action of hiring an attorney on time to understand the exceptional circumstances of your case. We can help you get a fresh start in life, so reach out to us at 310-564-2605 for a free consultation.