When you commit a crime as a minor, you can face an arrest and charges in juvenile court. Although minors are often arrested for conduct that is not criminal when exhibited by adults, any altercation with the juvenile justice system could enter your juvenile records. Like an adult record, juvenile records may significantly inconvenience your life which you could avoid by expunging or sealing the record. Sealing a criminal record involves destroying your records, such as arrests, probation reports, and court rulings. A sealed record will not show up on your background checks, and employers cannot use it against you.

Before you seal your juvenile record, you must meet the eligibility criteria. Dealing with various requirements set out by the court to qualify for the process may be challenging. Therefore, seeking legal guidance from a knowledgeable criminal attorney is crucial. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer we will guide you through the record sealing process to try and ensure the best possible outcome.

What are Juvenile Records under California Law?

When an individual under the age of eighteen commits a crime and enters the juvenile justice system, they will obtain a record based on their interaction with the system. Juvenile records exist to certify the existence of past arrests, court arraignments, and hearings. Although the juvenile justice system is confidential and keeps the juvenile court proceedings away from the public eye, your juvenile records may follow you to adulthood. Even when the juvenile court dismisses your case, the records are available for the public.

Juvenile records are all the official documents related to your juvenile violations, and they include:

Arrest Records

When you face an arrest for violating the law as a minor, the arresting officer will book you for court arraignment. During the booking process, the officer will note down your full names, your mug shots and create fingerprint copies. All materials collected during and after the arrest will be stored as part of your juvenile record.

Court Exhibits

If your juvenile case involves presenting exhibits against you, the items will remain in storage even after your case is concluded. Depending on the nature of your charges, court exhibits could be any item. For example, when charged with a drug crime, the prosecution can present the drugs as part of the exhibits.

Probation Reports

The probation department plays a significant role in juvenile cases. The probation department must recommend it before the judge releases a minor from detention with a pending case. If you are found to have committed the alleged crime, the judge may sentence you to some penalties, including probation. Sentences handed out in juvenile court are aimed at rehabilitating the minors and restoring the victims.

If the judge sentences a minor to probation, the court will assign a probation officer to monitor the conduct of the minor. The probation officer is responsible for creating a report informing the judge of our progress. If you violate probation orders, the probation officer must report the violation to the court. Probation information that is part of your juvenile record includes the reports from the probation officer and the initial order from the judge.

Court Rulings

Any court ruling and findings on your juvenile case are included in your juvenile records. The sentences in question have preliminary orders issued before your trial and the judge’s verdict regarding your case.

Sealing Juvenile Records

If you find yourself in trouble with the law as a minor, the effects of the arrest or proceedings in juvenile court may follow you to adulthood. Most people assume that the court will automatically seal their juvenile records after they turn eighteen years. Unfortunately, a juvenile record remains a public record until you make imminent measures to seal it. Unless the juvenile court granted you a deferred entry of judgment, you must seal your record to erase it from the public database.

Sealing a juvenile record means that the information regarding your arrest and the case will no longer be public. A sealed juvenile record will be erased, unlike expunging an adult criminal record where the records are still public. When the court grants your petition to seal a juvenile record, you can truthfully answer no when asked about past arrests and your criminal history.

Essentially all crimes you committed as a minor and were handled in juvenile court are eligible for sealing. However, if you committed a violent felony that caused you to be charged as an adult under California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 707(b), in that case, the court retains your record based on these factors. The record will eventually be sealed when you turn thirty-eight years.

Do I Need to Seal my Juvenile Records if I was Acquitted?

California Penal Code 851.7 allows individuals who were arrested for a misdemeanor offense but never conceited to seal their juvenile records under these circumstances:

  • You faced an arrest but were released for lack of sufficient evidence to support the claim that you violated the law
  • The prosecutor filed charges against you, but the court dismissed the charges without a conviction
  • The judge acquitted you of the charges brought against you

If you meet the above criteria, you do not need to wait until you turn eighteen years to petition to seal the juvenile records.

Eligibility Criteria for Sealing Juvenile Records

Before you file a petition to seal your juvenile records in California, it is necessary to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria. This will help you avoid wasting time and resources preparing for a petition that will face rejection from the court. The following are the requirements that you must satisfy before sealing your juvenile record:

Enough Time Has Passed Since your Convection

Before you file a petition to seal your juvenile record, you must ensure that enough time has passed between your juvenile conviction and the petition. In California, you can only seal a juvenile record when you attain the age of eighteen years. This helps minors from evading liability for their actions by sealing their records.

In addition, eighteen years is the official age when you are recognized as an adult. Although juvenile proceedings are confidential, a juvenile record will become accessible to the public when you become an adult. If you receive court orders that apply even after you turn eighteen, you may need to wait up to five years after the conclusion of your case to file for sealing.

There is Sufficient Evidence of Your Rehabilitation

When you apply to seal a juvenile record, the judge will require sufficient proof of your rehabilitation. Most juvenile dispositions are aimed at rehabilitating minors and help them avoid criminal activity in the future. Therefore, the judge will want an assurance that you will not reengage in illegal activity after eliminating liability for your past actions.

If you faced severe charges as a minor or were tried in adult court, you would be under more scrutiny. With the help of your attorney, you can present relevant information regarding your collaboration with the authorities and steps you have made towards avoiding criminal conduct.

You have not been charged with a Crime of Moral Turpitude as an Adult

Even when you attain eighteen years, the court could deny your petition to seal the record if you committed a crime of moral turpitude as an adult. Crimes of moral turpitude involve an adverse criminal activity that is considered unacceptable by society. Most moral turpitude crimes result in serious injuries or death to the victims. Some of the offenses under this category include:

  1. Child Abuse

Inflicting physical, mental, emotional, or sexual injuries to a child is a severe offense prosecuted under CPC 273(d). If you have been charged with this crime as an adult, your chances of successfully sealing your juvenile record may be slimmer.

  1. Murder

CPC 187 defines murder as unlawfully depriving another person of their life with a malice afterthought. Murder is a capital offense, and individuals who face charges for this came not to find it challenging to seal a juvenile record.

  1. Rape

Rape involves sexual intercourse that is accomplished by the use of force or fear. Rape is one of California's most serious sex crimes, and a conviction attracts severe penalties, including sex offender registration. Sealing your juvenile records may be impractical if you have been successfully convicted for this offense.

It would be best if you did not have Pending Civil Matters from the Juvenile Cases

When you prepare to seal juvenile records, it is crucial to ensure that you do not have pending civil matters arising from your juvenile case. Often the civil and criminal proceedings progress separately. If you were found to have committed a crime that resulted in injury or loss, the victims could file a civil suit against you. Although the juvenile court handles criminal matters, the judge will not accept your petition unless you have completed all the civil obligations related to the juvenile engagement.

The Process of Sealing Juvenile Records in California

If you believe that you are eligible to seal your juvenile record, you could start the process of filing a petition with the court. Often the process of sealing a criminal record takes up to ten months, depending on how fast you present the necessary documents. The process of closing your record involves:

  • File a petition. Your defense attorney will file a petition with the court, after which the judge sets a hearing date. When filing the petition, you must state the specific records that you seek to seal. If you have multiple cases, you must file a petition for each.
  • Receive a hearing date. At the hearing, the judge will review all your documents to ascertain eligibility for sealing the record. In addition, the district attorney and a representative from the probation department may appear to give their recommendations regarding the matter.
  • Receive the Judges Verdict. After listening to all the parties, the judge can accept or reject your petition to seal your records. If the court allows you to seal the juvenile record, all the information regarding the record will be destroyed and will not be accessible to the public. However, the records are maintained when the judge denies the petition, and anyone can still refer to them.

Benefits of Sealing your Juvenile Records

Like adult criminal records, juvenile records could be used to deny you opportunities. Some of the benefits you accrue from sealing your juvenile records include:

  1. You can truthfully answer “no” when asked about past convictions in a job interview while applying for a loan or applying for college scholarships with a sealed record
  2. A potential employer cannot see a sealed record and cannot legally use it to deny you a job opportunity
  3. If you must register as a sex offender solely based on your juvenile record, sealing it will lift the sex offender status
  4. Sealing a juvenile record allows you to put your mistakes as a minor behind you and have a fresh start

Frequently Asked Questions on Sealing Juvenile Records

Living with a juvenile criminal record can affect your life significantly even after you become an adult. Therefore, you may consider starting the record sealing process. The following are some of the commonly asked questions on sealing juvenile records:

  1. Are juvenile records automatically sealed in California?

Contrary to what most people believe, your juvenile record will not be automatically sealed when you turn eighteen. The reality is that your juvenile record will remain open and accessible to potential employers and landlords who can use it to deny you a job, place to live, or state licensing. If you meet the proper criteria, you should file a petition to seal your juvenile records.

  1. Can I seal my juvenile records if I have multiple cases?

Each criminal case in your juvenile record is treated separately. Therefore, when you seek to seal the records, you must file individual petitions for each case. If you have multiple cases eligible for sealing in California, it is crucial to contact a competent attorney for guidance through the sealing process.

  1. What reasons could cause the court to deny my petition to seal juvenile records?

Even when you turn eighteen years, the judge could deny your request to seal your record. This would happen if you have been charged with a crime of moral turpitude. Crimes of moral turpitude are offenses of serious dishonesty, fraud, and disregard for human life. Also, when there is pending litigation for your juvenile crime, you may not be able to seal the record.

  1. Does a sealed juvenile record show up on my background checks?

Even when you turn eighteen years, juvenile records will show up on your record and could impact your life significantly. However, when the court grants your petition to seal the record, they cannot show up on your background and cannot be used against you.

  1. Does sealing a juvenile record mean that the court will destroy it?

Yes. Unless the court decides to retain your rare record, a sealed juvenile record will be destroyed. If your juvenile record is retained for being a ward of the court or exhibiting habitual disobedience, it will be eventually destroyed five years after the judge orders the sealing. Also, when the court orders retention for the record for engaging in criminal activity, the record will be destroyed when you turn 38 years.

  1. Will a sealed juvenile record affect my chances of joining the military?

The US military is governed by federal law. All branches in the military will want to learn about your juvenile records before you join the service. If you fail to disclose your past convictions, you risk being dismissed from the military when the facts are discovered. It is recommended that you reveal all your convictions even when they were expunged or sealed.

  1. Do I need an attorney when seeking to seal my juvenile records?

The process of expunging or sealing a criminal record in California is complex. Since sealing your juvenile record is a legal process, it would be advisable to contact a competent criminal defense attorney to guide you through the process. Your attorney will help you put together all the documents you require for the petition and the steps to take to avoid denial of the petition. However, when hiring an attorney, you should ensure that they are conversant with California laws regarding sealing juvenile criminal records. California courts handle cases as they come. Therefore, contacting your attorney as soon as possible can help speed up your process.

Find a Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Sealing a juvenile record means that the information regarding your arrest and charges will no longer be a public record. A sealed juvenile record will be destroyed unless you are declared a ward of the court for exhibiting habitual disobedience. Sealing a juvenile record protects you from discrimination based on your past mistakes. Unlike the common belief, the California justice system will not seal your criminal record automatically. When you turn eighteen years and meet other requirements, you must file a petition to seal the records and avoid the disabilities that accompany the records. 

Finding a well-experienced and reliable criminal attorney is crucial to ensure the best outcome for your case. Your lawyer will help you gather the documents you require and guide you through the record sealing process. If you are seeking to seal your juvenile records, we invite you to contact the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer at 310-502-1314 for the legal guidance and representation you require for your case.