Examining California Law: How to Seal California Juvenile Records
A common misperception among the general public is that, upon turning eighteen years old, an individual's juvenile criminal record is automatically sealed. However, in California, such records remain available for public inspection until a court issues an order to seal and destroy them. This can lead to problems down the road for adults who in their youth committed indiscretions, in situations with prospective employers, state licensing agencies, or landlords discover the juvenile record.
Requirements To "Seal" Records Of Juvenile Convictions
When a court "seals" a person's juvenile record, which can include arrest reports, convictions, probation records, etc., it is essentially closing the file, making it no longer public record. In order to qualify to have a record sealed, an individual must meet four requirements:
1. The individual is at least 18 years old or the juvenile court's jurisdiction over the person terminated more than five years ago;
2. The individual has not been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude as an adult, i.e. a crime that involves dishonest or immoral behavior such as fraud or theft.
3. The court determines that the individual has been rehabilitated; and
4. The individual is not subject to any pending civil cases arising from the juvenile incidents.
In addition to meeting the above requirements, the individual must not have been convicted of an offense contained in California Welfare and Institutions Code ("CWIC") 707(b) after turning 14 years old. Section 707(b) includes some of the most serious offenses such as murder, arson, robbery, and sex offenses.
Sealing Records of Juvenile Non-Convictions
California Penal Code Section 851.7 allows for sealing of a juvenile record if the individual, while a minor, was arrested for a misdemeanor and the individual was released because there were insufficient grounds to make a criminal complaint, the charges were dismissed, or the individual was acquitted of the charge.
In this type of case, the individual may petition the court to seal his or her juvenile record at any time and the record will be sealed if the court finds that the individual is eligible under one of these conditions. Section 851.7 states the "arrest, detention, and any further proceedings in the case shall be deemed not to have occurred, and the petitioner may answer accordingly any question relating to their occurrence."
In order to initiate the process of sealing a juvenile record, the individual must file an application under the relevant section of the California Penal Code in the juvenile court where he or she was most recently convicted. Although it is possible to complete this process without an attorney, it is generally a good idea to consult with an experienced California juvenile defense attorney who is familiar with California's juvenile court system in order to ensure the process goes smoothly.