I frequently get calls from young men and women who are trying to get a job and have found that their history in juvenile court has become a problem. I find that people are under the impression that their juvenile record is automatically sealed and destroyed after the age of 18 years. What they don’t realize, is that this won’t automatically happen until after you reach the age of 38.
Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 826 provides that, if you have not petitioned the court for an order to seal and destroy your record, it will automatically be destroyed after you reach the age of 38. However, between the ages of 18 and 38, most young adults will apply for several jobs and run the risk of being turned down if their past history is revealed. My advise to young adults is always that they seek to have their record sealed and destroyed as soon as the law allows. Often times, young people don’t realize that their juvenile history is accessible until a prospective employer advises them. If this is how it is discovered, usually the chances of being hired are slim to none.
Welfare and Institutions Code, Sections 389 and 781 provides that juvenile court records, as well as arrest records, may be sealed and destroyed once one of the following has occurred:
1. Five years or more after the jurisdiction of the juvenile court has terminated. What this means is that the Juvenile Court no longer has jurisdiction over you.
2. Five years or more after you were cited to appear or were taken before a probation officer or any officer of a law enforcement agency where no petition was filed in the Juvenile Court.
3. At any time after you reach the age of 18 years.
Destruction or Release of Juvenile Court Records
What if you don’t want the records destroyed. What if you feel it is important to have a copy of your Juvenile Court file. This is provided for in Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 826, which, provides that you have the right to request that your juvenile court record be released to you rather than destroyed. This can be accomplished by sending a written request to the Juvenile Court with the relevant information, such as name, date of birth and case number. This request must be made before you reach the age of 38 and at least five years after jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court has terminated.
If, after your juvenile court record has been either destroyed or released, you discover that other agencies such as law enforcement agencies, still have the your juvenile record, you may petition the Juvenile Court for an order that the agency or agencies destroy any records they have retained regarding your juvenile arrest or court proceeding. Once you have obtained a court order, the agency retaining copies of your juvenile records must destroy them.
It is important to note that Federal government agencies do not recognize State Court orders to seal records. Federal agencies, including the F.B.I. and military services will have access to any and all juvenile records, whether sealed or not.