If you get into trouble with the law as a minor, most people will assume that your records are automatically sealed and inaccessible to the public. Unfortunately, you need to take proactive measures to seal your juvenile records. A juvenile record includes all documents, court orders, and reports in a juvenile court file. Sealing your records helps eliminate your arrest records, as well. Of course, sealing arrest records does not happen within a day. You will be required to file a petition, schedule a hearing, and argue your petition to a judge, sometimes over the objections of a skilled prosecutor who disagrees. When navigating the process of sealing juvenile records, competent legal guidance is crucial. If you seek assistance to eliminate your criminal record in California, it would be wise to consult us at Clear My Records.

Overview of Sealing Juvenile Records in California

When someone under the age of 18 (a minor) commits a criminal offense, the case is handled by the juvenile court system. While the process looks similar to adult court, it can be very different, especially when it comes to punishment. While adults can go to county jail or state prison for a few days to the rest of their lives, the juvenile justice system is more focused on teaching and rehabilitation and preventing future criminal conduct; to set kids on the right path for a bright and successful future and that is very different from adult court.

Minors who are “convicted” may be sentenced to serve time in juvenile detention with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), they could also be “placed” in a variety of facilities that offer programs, education, and training, or they could be sent to a residential treatment facility where substance abuse is at the core of the situation.

Also, juvenile proceedings are not the same as adults; there is different terminology, different procedures, and different rules. If your child is in the juvenile justice system, you will want a juvenile defense lawyer who understands those very important differences.

Of course, not every juvenile case is handled in juvenile court. For example, if a juvenile commits a more serious offense, such as homicide or armed robbery, the juvenile may be removed to adult court and prosecuted as an adult.

A juvenile record contains:

  1. Arrest records. The juvenile record will entail any arrest that occurred before you attained eighteen years. Also, it will include the alleged crimes for which you got arrested. Even if you were taken to juvenile court and not found guilty, certain arrests and records may be seen by the public during background checks. If you can seal your juvenile records, the case becomes essentially invisible.

  2. Investigation reports. Before and even after an arrest in California, the police are supposed to investigate; to gather evidence, to understand what happened and who is responsible, and to determine all of the factors of the case. Everything that the police find is supposed to be recorded in a report – that is not always the case. Nevertheless, whatever the police do report becomes part of your juvenile record. Such information will follow you even when you are an adult. Filing a petition to seal records wipes from public view the details that were discovered during investigations. 

  3. Judges findings. The judge’s ruling and verdict on your case as a minor are put on your juvenile record. This record may be accessible to certain members of the public, and when your potential employers or college admissions officers check out your background, they may find it and use it against you. Whether you were found guilty of the offense or not, sealing the records eliminates the visibility of the case and detention.

  4. Probation report. When you commit an offense as a minor, you will not be sent to prison. However, you can be incarcerated by the DJJ. Also, you may be required to serve probation as part of your punishment. The nature in which you served your probation will be indicated in your records. These records are likewise best kept from public view.

Eligibility Criteria for Sealing Juvenile Records

Even though offenses committed by minors are treated differently than adults, not all individuals are eligible to seal their juvenile records in California. You will be allowed to seal a juvenile record if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are above the age of eighteen years. If you had trouble with the law as a minor, you would be allowed to petition for record sealing when you become an adult. Also, you should have successfully served and completed probation. Your petition to seal a juvenile record should be granted if the juvenile court jurisdiction dismissed your case at least five years prior.

  • Since the closure of the last offense you committed or the completion of probation, you were not be convicted for another crime; you haven’t committed any felony of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude. Crimes that involve moral turpitude include theft crimes, sex offenses, or drug offenses.

  • The court should have good cause to believe that you have been rehabilitated before allowing you to seal your juvenile records. You may be required to attend and complete a court-ordered rehabilitation program.

  • There shouldn’t be any pending civil litigation arising from your juvenile incidents when you seek to seal the juvenile record. This will include unpaid fines and incomplete probation sentences that were ordered by the juvenile court.

If you meet the above criteria, the judge will review other aspects of your case, such as the gravity, complexity, and sophistication of the offense you committed. Where the Court finds that the interest of justice would be served, the judge could grant your petition and set aside your juvenile record. This will ensure that you can breathe a sigh of relief about the negative consequences that arise from criminal records.

The court may deny your petition to seal your juvenile records in California if:

  • The court finds that you had committed a serious crime as stipulated in Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b) when you were 14 years or older. Also, if you were required to register as a sex offender as a minor, it will be difficult to seal the record.

  • You were convicted as an adult for an offense of moral turpitude. Crimes that are considered to be of moral turpitude include offense such as murder, sex crimes, and other violent offenses.

  • Your record is of an adult conviction in criminal court. If this is the case, you need to follow a different procedure to clean your record.

Sealing a Juvenile Record where you did not Get Convicted

Besides the eligibility criteria stipulated by California laws, Penal Code 851.7 allows individuals who never got convicted to seal their arrest or detention records. If you were arrested but released due to lack of sufficient evidence, you could petition the court to seal your juvenile record. If your charges are dismissed without a conviction, you may petition to seal the record at any time – solong as the criteria for doing so are met. You will not be required to wait for five years or until you turn eighteen. In such a case, you will follow the same sealing records as that of adult criminal records.

The Process of Sealing Juvenile Records

If you want to have your juvenile records sealed in California, you (or your juvenile record sealing attorney) will file a petition in the court where the proceedings or conviction happened. The process of sealing the records could take several months to complete. After filing your petition, the court will schedule a hearing. In most cases, your presence in court is not required, and your Clear My Records attorney can appear on your behalf. However, if the judge wants to interview you in person, you will be notified.

At the hearing, all your evidence, mitigation, and argument will be reviewed. Also, any relevant information provided by the local department of probation or district attorney is considered – including opposition if any. Keep in mind, the court will only seal the records in the petition. It will be on you to account for all of your cases. If you need help, the probation department in the county where your case(es) was (were) can help you identify your records and get copies of the docket reports.

After reviewing all the information, the judge could either:

  • Grant your petition and seal your records. The order will then be sent to all agencies with access to your records, instructing them to seal the records.

  • Deny the petition to seal your juvenile record. If your petition gets denied, you can try again later. By consulting with a California Clear My Records, you can help ensure that your petition is granted at the first attempt.

Benefits of Sealing Juvenile Records

When you commit an offense as a minor, the record can follow you into adulthood and negatively affect your life. The following are benefits of sealing your juvenile record:

  1. You will be better able to obtain employment. Most employers will do a background check on all potential employees before offering a job. If you have a prior conviction and it is on your record, an employer can use it against you. After sealing, your juvenile record is inaccessible to the public and, if it cannot be seen, it cannot be used to deny you a job opportunity.

  2. Sealing a juvenile record will help you gain acceptance in colleges and universities.

  3. You can more comfortably pursue professional certificates or licenses after your juvenile record is sealed. When you are applying for professional practice licenses or certificates, a criminal record can be used to deny you.

  4. You will be better able to obtain a security clearance if your petition to seal your juvenile record is granted.

  5. Fresh start. Sealing a juvenile record helps you leave behind your childhood mistakes. It is a great feeling to know that you will have a fresh start without being haunted by your past.

Situations where a Sealed Juvenile Record could be Reopened

When your juvenile record is sealed in California, they will be made inaccessible to the public and invisible in a background check on you. However, there are situations when the record may be reopened even after it has been sealed, including:

  • If you were involved in a defamation lawsuit, your sealed juvenile record might get opened to be part of the evidence during the proceedings. After the lawsuit is resolved, the records could be sealed again.

  • The California Department of Motor Vehicle may make your sealed juvenile record available to insurance adjusters. This will help insurance companies inspect your driving record and determine your eligibility to an insurance cover.

  • A prosecutor can access your juvenile record when trying to locate and disclose crucial evidence in a criminal case.

If the court sealed your juvenile record for successful completion of probation, some agencies might still access them under the following circumstances:

  • If you apply for benefits as a minor dependent, the court may seek your criminal record.

  • In cases where your juvenile record was sealed when your case got dismissed, the prosecutor can revisit the record to determine your eligibility to participate in an informal supervision program.

  • If a new case is filed against you for a felony offense, probation can look into the programs you participated in. However, since the record is sealed, the information cannot be used to enhance your punishment.

  • If you are not allowed to own or use a firearm because of an offense you committed, the Department of Justice will check your record regularly to ensure you do not own one.

  • When a prosecutor believes that there is something in your record that can help an ongoing criminal case, a sealed record can be reopened. However, the court will inform you that the record is needed, and you will have an opportunity to object.

Frequently Asked Questions on Sealing Juvenile Records in California

  1. Does California Seal Juvenile Records Automatically?

Most people assume that when you get into trouble with the law as a minor, your record is automatically sealed. However, this is not the case. In California, you may be required to take measures to petition the court to seal your record. A record will be sealed if you meet the eligibility criteria, and the record you want to be sealed wasn’t for a violent crime such as murder or homicide. If you fail to apply for record sealing under Welfare and Institutions Code 781 as an adult, the record will remain in the database. It may be accessible to landlords, employers, and financial institutions. 

  1. How Long will it take to Seal a Juvenile Criminal Record in California?

The process of sealing your juvenile criminal records in California can take several months. Your attorney will help you go through the eligibility criteria to ensure that you are eligible to seal your records. You (or your lawyer, if you have one) will then file a petition in California court in the county where the juvenile case was heard. If the court grants the petition, you will be free from the mistakes of your childhood.

  1. Does Juvenile Court Stay on Your Record?

In California, it is possible to seal juvenile criminal records and comfortably answer “no” where your past convictions are concerned. If the court grants your request, your record will be removed from all official files and kept confidential. When you are looking for a job or applying for official certificates, your arrest and conviction will not appear in the background checks. However, it is crucial to understand that not all criminal offenses are eligible to be sealed.

  1. How Can I Seal my Juvenile Records?

Most people assume that juvenile records will be sealed as soon as the case is concluded, which is not the case in California. When you become an adult, you are required to take proactive measures to seal the records. In order to seal your records, you should file a petition with the juvenile court clerk. Most courts will have preprinted forms with instructions that you can fill out.

  1. How do I Know that my Juvenile Records have Been Sealed?

When the court accepts your petition to seal your juvenile records, your arrests and convictions will not be available to the public. For you to know that your record is sealed, your record sealing attorney should notify you. Alternatively, you can request your court file from the court where your record sealing case was heard.

  1. Will I have a Court Case for Juvenile Record Sealing

For you to seal your juvenile criminal records, you will be required to schedule a hearing. However, your presence in the hearing may not be required. Your Clear My Records can appear on your behalf. If your presence is required in court, you will be notified to appear.

Find a Clear My Records Attorney Near Me

While a juvenile criminal record may feel like a permanent stain on your future, it doesn’t have to be. If you sustained a juvenile conviction, consult with a Records Clearing Attorney to see whether you can have that record sealed and get yourself a fresh start. Clear My Records serves clients throughout Southern California. We make sure your rights are protected and, where possible, we ensure a smooth and successful sealing of your juvenile criminal records. Contact us today to seal your Juvenile records.