If you were arrested or involved in a juvenile court case, the juvenile justice system and other agencies may have a record of your crime. When a juvenile record is accessible to the public, it can cause significant discrimination, which may hinder you from moving forward with your life.
Under California WIC 725, the court controls your juvenile record. Sealing your record will involve filing a petition and arguing your case in court. Although the process of sealing your juvenile record should be accessible, you must meet some requirements. Additionally, you must fill out a lot of paperwork to file a record-sealing petition.
Sometimes, the prosecutor who handled your case may contest the record sealing, making the process more complicated. Therefore, the guidance of a skilled defense attorney could go a long way for you. Your attorney will guide you through preparing the relevant documentation for a successful petition.
Understanding the Sealing of Your Juvenile Records
Minors who violate California law are arrested and charged in juvenile court. The juvenile justice system is more lenient when dealing with offenders. This is because children are believed to lack the necessary mental capacity to make the right decisions. However, the details of your criminal acts as a minor will remain on record and can be accessible to the public when you are an adult.
A juvenile record can make it challenging for you to:
- Obtain employment.
- Secure a loan.
- Seek a driver’s license.
- Rent an apartment.
- Receive student loans.
Under California law, you can avoid the disabilities of your juvenile convictions by sealing your record. When the court seals your record, it will cease and cannot be used against you. After completing the record-sealing process, you can truthfully state that you have never been convicted.
Components of a Juvenile Record
A juvenile record contains different documents depending on the circumstances surrounding your juvenile offense and trial proceedings. When you seek to have your record sealed, you must identify the type of documents you want to be sealed. This helps ensure that the record sealing serves its intended purpose in your life. The constituents of a juvenile record include:
When a minor is arrested, they will be booked into the juvenile hall while awaiting court hearings. At the booking stage of the juvenile case, the child will provide their details and fingerprints. This information is kept in juvenile court records and can be accessible to others unless it is sealed.
Probation is a typical rehabilitative sentence for juvenile offenders in California. A minor's conduct while on probation is compiled into a probation report. The probation report is a significant part of the juvenile record. When you petition the court to seal your juvenile record, you must ensure that the probation report is one of the documents made inaccessible to the public.
A juvenile court exhibit is any material the prosecution used to prove the juvenile case. These items are placed on the juvenile record, and their impact on your life could be tremendous.
Court Rulings and Judgments
All the preliminary rulings issued by a juvenile court judge are valid. The court rulings show the continuity of the juvenile court process for your case. Additionally, the final judgment or sustaining of your juvenile petition will be part of the record.
Whether the judge sustains or dismisses your plea, their decision will be noted. When filing a petition to seal your record, your attorney must ensure these documents are submitted for sealing.
Process of Sealing a Juvenile Record in California
Sealing your juvenile record is a process that involves several steps. Learning the requirements for each step is critical to ensuring a fast and stress-free process. You must take these steps to seal your juvenile record in California:
Ensure you Meet the Eligibility Criteria
You will be eligible to seal your juvenile record if you meet these requirements:
- You do not have a pending civil case. Before you file a petition to seal your juvenile record, you should ensure you do not have pending cases in the juvenile court. Civil issues often arise when you cause harm or loss to another person, and they file a compensation claim.
- The appropriate time has elapsed. A person can only seal their juvenile record after turning eighteen years old. This helps you avoid escaping your juvenile case obligations by sealing a record.
- You should not have committed a crime of moral turpitude. The court will accept your petition to seal a juvenile record if you have no history of committing a crime of moral turpitude. These offenses are addressed under WIC 707(b), including rape, child abuse, and murder.
File a Court Petition
If you are eligible to seal your juvenile record, you must file a petition requesting the court seal your record. Since the petition is your plea, you must have a skilled lawyer guide you into entering vital information to justify your request.
When filing a petition, you must indicate the records you want sealed. Additionally, you must provide a convincing argument why the specific record should be removed from public access. However, having a juvenile record may severely impact your life. Therefore, you should gather all the documents before you begin the process.
When the court receives your petition, the judge will assess it and prepare for an interview. Unless your case has extraordinary circumstances, your attorney can represent you at the interview. If the judge finds it necessary, they will ask you to appear for the interview.
When you appear for this interview, you make your first impression on the judge. Making a good impression could convince the court to grant your petition.
Attend your Hearing
After the physical interview, the court provides you with a date when you will attend your juvenile record sealing hearing. The court hearing involves the presentation of your arguments on why you deserve to have your record sealed. If the prosecutor in your case disputes the record sealing, the judge gives them a chance to present their arguments.
You would have a better chance of convincing the court to seal your juvenile record if you did not receive a sentence in juvenile court. After your court hearing, the court will accept or deny your petition. If your record-sealing petition is granted, the court orders all agencies with your criminal record to seal it.
Automatic Sealing of a Juvenile Record
Under certain circumstances, the court will automatically seal your juvenile records. If your case does not fall under these categories, you must file a petition to seal the record:
You Were Convicted for a Less Serious Case
The court will seal your juvenile record automatically if the case is dismissed after January 1st, 2015. However, the offense you were charged with should not fall under WIC 707(b). Offenses that fall under these categories are series and violent crimes.
Additionally, you must have completed your probation successfully. You must petition the court to seal the record if you violated your probation or did not complete the term.
Deferred Entry of Judgement
When a juvenile under the age of fourteen faces felony charges, the court could dismiss their case after completing the Deferred Entry of Judgment Probation. In this case, the court will automatically dismiss your case. However, you must have completed all the requirements of your agreement.
Pre-petition Diversion Program
The court can automatically seal your juvenile record if you participate in a diversion program instead of going to court for your case. With the pre-petition program, you must undergo a probation program. After your probation, the probation department will seal the probation record and notify the law enforcement agency that arrested you.
If the probation department does not seal your record after a pre-petition diversion program, they must notify you. This allows you to file a record-sealing petition.
Destroying a Sealed Juvenile Record
The record will eventually be damaged when the court grants a petition to seal your juvenile. However, the judge decides whether or not the record can be destroyed. Destroying a sealed record will bring finality to your juvenile delinquency acts. Unlike sealing, a destroyed criminal record cannot be accessed.
The first restriction you must meet to have your juvenile record destroyed is the time limit. The court can destroy your juvenile record for up to five years after the judge issues an order to seal the record. You would qualify for the destruction of your record if you were declared a ward of the court in your juvenile case.
In juvenile delinquency cases, being a ward of the court is equivalent to being found guilty of an offense in criminal court. The juvenile court will declare a minor a ward of the court for repetitive truancy.
If you were declared a ward of the court for a criminal offense, you would have to wait until you were thirty-eight years old to have your juvenile record destroyed. Individuals with a history of criminal acts are thought to pose a significant risk to others. Therefore, the public will have the right to access your record for as long as possible.
Can a Sealed Juvenile Record Be Reopened?
When your juvenile record is sealed, the reports on your arrest and juvenile sentencing cease to exist. You can truthfully state that you have never been convicted when someone asks about your criminal history.
However, there are circumstances under which the court can reopen the sealed record. Each time the court finds it necessary to open your juvenile record, it will notify you of the action. The court could reopen a sealed juvenile record under these circumstances:
In a Criminal Case
When you face criminal charges for a serious offense as an adult, the prosecution could access a sealed juvenile record. This will be the case if the information in the sealed record is critical to obtaining a conviction or clearing you of guilt for an accused offense.
In a Defamation Lawsuit
If you are the accused party in a defamation lawsuit, the court may order your sealed juvenile record to be reopened. Assessing the sealed record will help present evidence that can discredit the defaming characters against you. A typical example is when someone accuses you of being convicted of a sexual offense.
Such information can affect your personal and professional lives. Reopening your sealed record will help clarify issues about the crime you were charged with. After the defamation case has ended, the court will seal the record again.
For Scrutiny by an Insurance Company
An arrest and conviction for drunk driving will not only impact your driving privileges but can also affect your vehicle insurance. The company will perform a risk assessment when determining the amount you must pay as a premium for your insurance policy. Opening your sealed juvenile record helps them reach an accurate risk assessment.
However, the scrutiny must be authorized by the Department of Motor Vehicles. This helps to keep track of the opened records and ensure that critical documentation is maintained. When your juvenile record is reopened under these circumstances, the insurance company will only receive the relevant information for their assessment.
Find a Competent Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
The mistakes you made as a minor could follow you into adulthood in the form of a juvenile record. Your juvenile record includes the reports of your arrest, your probation report, and the court ruling. Due to this record, you could face discrimination from potential employers or even in your daily interactions.
Fortunately, California law allows you to have the records sealed and destroyed. Sealing your record will involve filing a petition and attending a court hearing to convince the court why you deserve to have your record sealed. The public will not access a sealed juvenile record, which cannot be used against you. Therefore, going through this process is critical to avoiding the disabilities of your juvenile conviction.
At the Law Office of Sara L. Caplan, we offer the top-notch legal guidance you need to file a successful petition to seal your juvenile record. If you are dealing with the consequences of a juvenile record as an adult in Los Angeles, CA, you will require our legal expertise. Contact us at 310-550-5877 for much-needed legal insight and representation.