PETITIONING THE COURT TO SEAL JUVENILE RECORDS
California law permits a person to petition the court to order the sealing of his or her juvenile criminal record if certain conditions are met. A juvenile who was found by the juvenile court to have committed any misdemeanor and some felonies can petition the court to seal all records at any time after the offender has reached the age of 18 or five years after termination of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction. Prior to January 2015, the juvenile offender had to petition to seal the juvenile records before the offender reached that age of 21. New law that took effect on January 1, 2015 now allows a person of any age to petition for this relief if his or her probation terminated after January 1, 2015. This relief is not available to juveniles who were found to have committed certain felonies as enumerated in Welfare & Institutions Code section 707(b), including murder, rape, robbery and other offenses. There are other restrictions making this relief unavailable under certain circumstances.
A petition for the sealing of a juvenile record would be particularly indicated and available in cases where a juvenile committed a relatively minor crime, such as possession of marijuana, criminal trespass, shoplifting, or even some more serious crimes such as simple assault or theft. If the petitioner has not committed certain subsequent crime (as specified in the statute and generally concern more serious felonies) after the age of 14 or as an adult, can demonstrate to the court that he or she has been rehabilitated, and is not on probation at the time of the petition, the court will order the juvenile records sealed. All records will be sealed, including arrest reports and district attorney records as well as the court records.
The statute provides that when the record’s are sealed, “the proceedings in the case shall be deemed to never have occurred, and the person may properly reply accordingly to any inquiry about the events . . . .” This means that a person can legally deny that he or she ever had a juvenile record upon an employment or other inquiry. However, the juvenile record, even though sealed, will always be available to the military and to law enforcement.
Beginning in January 2015, the law also changed to mandate that the court automatically seal certain juvenile records. If a juvenile was found to have committed any misdemeanor and those crimes not enumerated in Welfare & Institutions Code section 707(b) and satisfactorily completes probation, the juvenile record must be sealed. Certain felonies may also be eligible for this relief but first the offender must petition the court to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor.
Any juvenile who is now facing charges or who is on probation should make sure his or her attorney follows through with the court to make sure the juvenile records are sealed as the statute allows. Any adult who has a juvenile record should consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in order to assess whether his or her juvenile record might be sealed. Even juvenile records involving crimes under Welfare & Institutions Code section 707(b) may be sealed in some cases. If you have a juvenile record, please feel free to contact me to set up a confidential consultation without charge.