Having a juvenile criminal record might bring a lot of inconveniences to your life. It's possible to do away with these inconveniences if you seal your juvenile records. Sealing your juvenile records means that they will not be accessible by the public domain. Juvenile record sealing entails several procedures and qualification requirements.
The best way to go through the record sealing process smoothly is by hiring an experienced criminal lawyer. An attorney will help you seal your record and provide relevant advice needed to complete this process successfully. At Orange County Lawyer, we have experienced attorneys who have handled numerous juvenile sealing processes successfully. We invite you to our firm for a smooth and successful juvenile record sealing process.
How the Law Defines Juvenile Records and Criminal Record Sealing
When a court grants you the petition to seal your records under the Welfare and Institution Code 781, all your juvenile criminal records cease to exist, making them unavailable to the public. The whole point of juvenile record sealing is to reduce further stigmatization of being a former juvenile offender. Therefore, if you have sealed your record, you can answer "no" to questions related to:
Whether you've sealed your records.
Juvenile records entail several types of records. These records include all official documents that have been gained throughout the juvenile court process. Among these records include police reports, probation reports, and court exhibits. Let's have a closer look at the types of juvenile records that you can seal.
Juvenile court judges can subject a minor to probation as part of their punishment. When a minor is subjected to probation, a probation officer will be assigned to follow up the rehabilitative program. The officer should write a report regarding the progress of the probation rehabilitation process.
These reports are available publicly once the probation officer writes them. Sealing your juvenile records can help you put these records away from the public, including the judge's written orders, which are part of the juvenile records.
An arrest record or report makes up the section of juvenile records that should be sealed. Arrest typically occurs in two; through a law enforcement agent witnessing the alleged crime and through an arrest warrant issued. Arrest records are usually held by the police department or the sheriff's department that conducted the arrest.
Sealing your arrest records makes them inaccessible from the public, even in more refined documents like the police entry at the occurrence book. It will also put away everything that was apprehended and stored after your arrest.
Court exhibits are physical evidence brought before the juvenile court judge during a trial by the prosecution. They are usually artifacts used during the commissioning of the alleged crime. Examples include drug equipment, video recordings, a weapon used in an assault, among other exhibits.
Sealing your juvenile records will help you successfully keep off all the court exhibits presented during your trial away from the public records. Therefore, anyone who intends to use them against you in the future will not be able to access them.
Similar to adult court rulings, juvenile court rulings (dispositions) are also put in public. They also include any preliminary orders issued by the court before the disposition hearing. Sealing your juvenile records will put these records away from public access, meaning that they cannot be used by anyone else in the future.
Please note that juvenile court proceedings aren't criminal. Therefore, even if you are found guilty and declared a "ward of the juvenile court," you don't have a criminal conviction on your record. Therefore, even if you fail to seal your records, you could still say that you've never been convicted for any crime.
Eligibility for California Juvenile Records Sealing
Not everyone is eligible to seal his or her juvenile records. That's why you should learn about who and when you can file your juvenile records to avoid having your petition to seal rejected by the court. Under Welfare and Institution Code 781, the following people or situations make one eligible for California juvenile record sealing:
People Who've Cases Were Dismissed After 1st January 2015
Anyone whose juvenile case was dismissed after 1st January and hadn't committed any offense listed under Welfare and Institution Code 707(b) is eligible for automatic record sealing. Most of these cases are dismissed after the court finds out that they've satisfactorily completed their probation. However, those who do not complete their probation satisfactorily still have a chance to seal their records through a petition.
You've Attained Eight Years or Five Years Have Passed After Since Your Case was Terminated
You should be at least 18 years old if you want to seal your juvenile records. Under California laws, anyone at the age of 18 or above ceases to be a minor. Therefore, some juvenile records like orders not to drive can significantly affect you after becoming an adult when you expect to secure a driver's license.
Alternatively, if five years have passed since your juvenile case terminated, you can be eligible to seal your juvenile records.
There are No Civil Litigation Made Against You
Anyone who intends to seal juvenile records must not have any civil litigation made against them. Therefore, if any civil lawsuits arise from their juvenile offenses, they must be completed to have the records sealed. For instance, if someone filed a civil suit claiming compensation for something you did, this case must be over to be eligible for filing a petition to seal your juvenile records.
You've Not Committed a Crime of Moral Turpitude as an Adult
Despite attaining eighteen years old and being eligible to file a petition to seal your juvenile records, committing a crime of moral turpitude as an adult can bar you from this process. Under California laws, crimes involving moral turpitude are dishonest and are depraved, base, or vile conduct that is shocking to any reasonable person. Some of the crimes that fall under this category include:
Penal Code 273(d): Child abuse
Penal Code 288: Attempted lewd acts on a minor
Penal Code 459: burglary
Penal Code 422: Criminal threat
Penal Code 451: Arson
You Didn't Receive a Juvenile Conviction
You can also have your juvenile records sealed if your charges were dropped or acquitted by the court. A juvenile court judge can drop the charges made against you if there were insufficient evidence or when the judge acquits your charges.
You don't have to wait until you're 18 years old or after five years have passed since your juvenile court case terminated in this kind of scenario. You can plan for a petition to seal the records anytime as long as the above-stated situations occurred.
Ineligibility for California Juvenile Criminal Records Sealing
Although several people are eligible for juvenile criminal record sealing, particular people are ineligible for this process. This includes anyone who has been convicted of an offense listed under the California Welfare and Institution Code 707(b) after turning 14 years old.
WIC 707(b) offenses are among the most severe offenses in California. These offenses include:
Penal Code 211, robbery.
Penal Code 451, arson.
Penal Code 187, murder or attempted murder
Various sex offenses.
Various firearms offenses.
The Benefits of Sealing your Juvenile Records
Sealing your juvenile records comes with several benefits. Juvenile records can hold back your life, especially when you become an adult and engage in different things. Let's have a look at the benefits of having your juvenile record sealed.
Increases the Possibilities of Finding Safe Housing
Private renters usually perform background checks before they rent their property. During these background checks, homeowners or property managers might come to learn about your criminal history and probably deny you the chance of renting their property. Having a criminal background can derail your plans to find safe housing even when you can pay for your property, have a verified history of being a good tenant, and meet all other requirements of being a good candidate.
However, sealing your juvenile criminal records means that your information will not appear if someone makes a criminal background check on you. Therefore, you can find housing that matches your expectations.
You Can Secure Employment Easily
Similar to a situation where you're seeking housing, employers usually make a background check on candidates seeking employment with their companies. Most employers make these background checks despite not discriminating against job applicants due to their criminal background.
Fortunately, sealing your juvenile criminal record gives you the chance to apply for a job without fearing that you might be denied that opportunity solely based on your criminal history. This provides an option of seeking employment with the Department of Children and Family Services. These departments are legally required to acknowledge an arrest.
Provides a Smooth Opportunity for Job Promotion
Apart from securing employment, your juvenile criminal records can negatively impact your chances of having a job promotion. In most situations, when a person is seeking a job promotion, he or she must obtain additional licenses. Having a criminal record would negatively impact acquiring these licenses or other types of certifications needed.
Fortunately, sealing your criminal record will reduce the possibility of being denied the chances of being promoted since your employers cannot access your juvenile records.
Provides a Chance of Citizenship Through Naturalization
Green Card holders applying for U.S citizenship through naturalization are asked whether they were arrested for their applications to go through. Not all crimes would be a barrier to naturalization, but some would deny you the chance of gaining your citizenship.
However, sealing your juvenile criminal records would not put you in this kind of situation and would help you seek citizenship without any issues.
If you want a professional license to start a business, you should have no criminal records. In most companies or professionals, having a criminal record is viewed as an element of dishonesty that can relate directly to your practice. That's why sealing your juvenile record is a crucial step in ensuring that you are not denied the opportunity for a professional or business license.
No Longer Needed to Register as a Sex Offender
When you were convicted of a sex crime that requires registration as a sex offender in a juvenile conviction, you will no longer need to make this registration after sealing your juvenile records. However, this does not mean that you will not be required to register as a sex offender if you are convicted of a sex crime as an adult.
Guarantees Personal Satisfaction
There's nothing more satisfying than knowing that you'll be having a fresh start in life and your past will not be haunting you in your future endeavors. Whether you're applying for a job or seeking a license for your business, having a clean criminal record will help you pursue your dreams without worry.
Instances when Your Sealed Juvenile Records can be Reopened
Although your juvenile records cannot be accessible from the public domain once they are sealed, there are situations when they can be reopened. These situations are as follows:
When The California DMV Wants to Inspect your Drivers Record
Insurance adjusters require certified evidence to prove your eligibility to receive insurance services. Apart from that, the California Department of Motor Vehicles also has to check whether you have prior traffic-related offenses as a juvenile while deciding whether or not to accept your driver's license application.
When You're Facing a Defamation Lawsuit
The court can reopen your Juvenile criminal records if you are involved in a defamation lawsuit. Defamation is defined as any oral or written communication of a false statement of another person to harm their reputation unjustly. If someone sues you for defamation, your juvenile records might be reopened and have the criminal records admitted as evidence during the proceedings. This means that the person filing a defamation lawsuit against you has the authority to reopen your sealed juvenile criminal records.
When the Court Intends to Locate and Disclose Exculpatory Evidence in a Criminal Case
Under AB 2952, the prosecuting attorney can access, inspect, and utilize the content of a sealed juvenile criminal record to meet the constitutional or statutory obligation to disclose favorable exculpatory evidence to a defendant in a criminal case. The prosecutor must have a reasonable belief that accessing these records is necessary to meet the disclosure obligation after the court's approval.
Access of Sealed Juvenile Criminal Record After a Juvenile Court Case Dismissal and Sealing of your Juvenile Records
As stated earlier, you can have your juvenile criminal records automatically sealed by the court if the court dismisses your case and the alleged crime was not listed in WIC 707(b). Regardless of this situation, some agencies can still look at your juvenile records in some cases. These situations are as follows:
When the prosecutor and others want to look at your record to decide whether you are eligible to participate in an informal supervision program or a deferred entry of judgment.
When you apply for a non-minor dependent, the court might have to look at your record if you are in extended foster care.
When there is a new petition against you for a felony offense, probation might look into the program you've participated in but cannot rely on the information to keep punishing you or keeping you in a juvenile hall.
When the court finds out that you've committed a felony, it can use your seal records to decide on the disposition or sentence that it should order.
When the court has to decide whether to transfer you to an adult court for a new offense. In this case, the court will use your sealed juvenile criminal records to decide whether a transfer to an adult court is necessary.
When Child Welfare wants to decide whether you should live in foster care.
When the Department of Justice has to confirm whether you should buy or own a gun after your rights to gun ownership was removed following a juvenile court or transferred juvenile case hearing.
When the prosecution thinks that something in your record would be helpful in another case. In this situation, the court will tell you about this development and where you or your lawyer can object.
Destroying your Sealed Juvenile Records
You can have your juvenile criminal records destroyed even when they've been sealed. This means that they will remain inaccessible even when there are possibilities of reopening and looking at your sealed records. Usually, you can destroy your sealed juvenile criminal records five years after the court sealed them. For those considered "ward of the court" during their juvenile court proceeding, their sealed juvenile records can be destroyed only when they turn thirty-eight years old.
The Juvenile Record Sealing Process Under California Welfare and Institution Code 781
After establishing that you're eligible to proceed with the application, you can start making adequate preparation to seal your juvenile criminal records. In California, juvenile criminal record sealing can last for eight to ten months, depending on the requirements that the court wants you to fulfill. Let's look at the California juvenile record sealing process:
Petitioning with the Juvenile Court
You will have to file a court petition to the court to kick start your record sealing process. This is done by submitting relevant documents needed for this process. Your attorney should help you through this process by preparing necessary petition submissions and sending them to court.
Judges usually allow attorneys to submit a petition on behalf of their clients, but in some cases, you will have to appear in court when the judge wants to cross-examine you. Your attorney can be present during your in-person attendance at the petition hearing to help you answer the judge's questions.
After the presiding judge has accepted your petition, he or she will set an official hearing date for your case. Once you receive your date, your criminal attorney will begin compiling all relevant resources needed as part of your evidence to present in court.
At the set hearing, the judge will accept evidential sources that prove your eligibility for the record-sealing process. The judge will also receive and review your lawyer's presentation to verify that the reforms you made during probation make you eligible for the record sealing.
The district attorney and prosecutor in charge of the juvenile court will also be present during your hearing to disapprove your petition. The prosecutor might bring up an aggravating factor in your juvenile matters to discredit your application. It's your lawyer's responsibility to raise a counter-argument with acceptable responses to the prosecutor's claims.
Your probation officer can also be present during the hearing stage. The probation officer will present your probation report that determines your compliance with the probation requirements ordered by the court during your probation hearing. The judge will then assess the probation report to decide whether you complied with the probation requirement. If you followed the set directives, you'd have an easier time convincing the judge to allow you to seal the juvenile records.
Issuing of the Judge's Verdict
The judge will issue your petition's verdict after hearing all parties present during the proceeding. The judge will determine his or her ruling after analyzing all presented evidence. If the judge decides that your records should be sealed, he or she will authorize every agency and person possessing documents entailing your juvenile criminal records to seal them.
If the judge denies your petition to seal your juvenile records, the records will remain and can be accessed by anyone in the public domain. However, you can try to petition another record sealing at a later date.
Find a Reliable Juvenile Attorney Near Me
It's recommendable to have a criminal lawyer while sealing your juvenile criminal records. It helps in navigating the sealing process better than you could do alone. At the Orange County Criminal Lawyer, we are ready to help you seal your juvenile criminal records in the most stress-free way. Contact us today at 714-262-4833 and learn how we can help you.