Attention adults! If you have a juvenile criminal record, now's the time to have it sealed.
Despite common misperception, juvenile records are not automatically sealed once you turn 18. These records remain accessible until you obtain a judicial order to seal and destroy them.
Stop allowing prospective employers, state licensing agencies, lenders, landlords, and school officials to discriminate against you based on your indiscretion as a youth.
We can help you seal your California juvenile criminal record so that you may proudly present yourself as the most qualified candidate.
Below, our California juvenile crime defense lawyers1 address the following:
If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
You may also be interested in our related articles on Sealing Adult Criminal Arrest Records; California's Expungement Laws; Penal Code 290 Sex Offender Registration; and Penal Code 1000 PC Deferred Entry of Judgment.
First of all, let's review what is included in your California juvenile record. It can include more documents than you may think.
What's in a California arrest record?
Your California juvenile record includes every report and court record having to do with any criminal activity you were involved in as a minor (that is, while you were under 18). This includes:
- arrest reports,
- judge's findings and rulings,
- exhibits, and
- probation reports.
When the court grants your petition to "seal" these records, it closes your file so that these documents essentially cease to exist. They are no longer public records.
The whole point of the process is to alleviate further stigmatization of a former juvenile offender. So, after you seal your juvenile records, you can answer "no" if you are ever asked
- if you were ever arrested,
- if you have a criminal record, or
- even if you have a sealed record.2
Actually, juvenile proceedings aren't even considered "criminal" in nature. This means that if you are found guilty and declared a "ward of the juvenile court," technically it isn't a criminal conviction. Thus even if your juvenile records aren't sealed, you could still say you've never been convicted of a "crime."3
But as Riverside CA criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi4 explains, "That technicality could land you in trouble if a prospective employer, state licensing agency, lending agency, school, etc. later discovers your record and believes you were being deceitful. That's why it's advisable to take the legal steps necessary to seal your juvenile record."
When can juvenile records, after having been sealed, be reopened?
There are two situations in which your sealed juvenile record may nevertheless be reopened:
- If you are a party to a defamation civil lawsuit, your juvenile record may be opened and admissible as evidence during the proceedings. Once the lawsuit is resolved, the records will once again be sealed.5
- The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may allow automobile insurance adjustors to inspect your driving record in order to evaluate your insurance eligibility and risk. This is the only reason the DMV may release this type of information.6
Will sealed juvenile records ultimately be destroyed?
Most likely, yes. Unless the court determines that your juvenile court record should be retained.which would only be in the extraordinary circumstances discussed below -- it will order your sealed juvenile records to be destroyed
- five years after the judge ordered your record sealed if you were declared a ward of the court for being "habitually disobedient or truant," or
- when you turn 38 if you were declared a ward of the court for engaging in criminal activity (unless you committed a crime under California Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b) when you were 14 years or older, in which case your juvenile record may not be sealed or destroyed).7
What are the benefits of sealing a juvenile record?
There are several benefits to sealing your California juvenile record. Some of the most significant include:
- being able to state truthfully that you have no criminal history, which opens doors for employment, licensing, loan, educational and other opportunities,8
- prevents prospective employers from discriminating against you for having.or even inquiring about.a sealed juvenile record,9
- ending Penal Code 290 PC sex offender registration for those who were required to register as a sex offender based solely on a juvenile conviction,10
- personal satisfaction of knowing that you have a "fresh start" in life and will no longer be haunted by your juvenile mistakes.
There are four basic criteria that make one eligible to seal his/her juvenile records:
- you are 18 years or older now OR the jurisdiction of the juvenile court terminated at least five years ago (whichever comes first),
- you have not been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony as an adult that involved moral turpitude (a crime of "moral turpitude" means one that involves dishonest or immoral behavior, such as
- the court believes you have been rehabilitated, AND
- there is no pending civil litigation arising from any of your juvenile incidents.11
However, you are ineligible to have your juvenile record sealed if
- you do not meet any of the above requirements, or
- you were convicted of an offense listed in California Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b) after you turned 14 years old.12 WIC 707(b) offenses are among the most serious types of offenses and include violations of:
- Penal Code 187 PC California's murder law or California's attempted murder law,
- Penal Code 451 PC California's arson law,
- Penal Code 211 PC California's robbery law,
- Penal Code 215 PC California's carjacking law,
- a variety of California sex offenses,
- a variety of California firearm offenses,
- Penal Code 206 California's torture law, and
- any California violent felony.13
Sealing records where the minor was never convicted
In addition to the eligibility described above, Penal Code 851.7 PC addresses another class of people who may qualify to have their juvenile records sealed. If.while you were a minor -- you were arrested for a California misdemeanor crime and
- you were released because there was insufficient evidence to hold you for the charge(s),
- the charges against you were dismissed or you were discharged without a conviction, or
- you were acquitted of the charge(s),
you may petition the court to seal your juvenile record at any time.14 These types of scenarios are more similar to the eligibility requirements that are necessary to seal and destroy adult arrest records.
Sealing and destroying adult criminal records is an entirely different process. For more information about how to seal those types of records, please review our article on Sealing and Destroying California Adult Criminal Arrest Records.
The process of sealing your California juvenile records takes, on average, eight-to-ten months. You file your petition in the juvenile court in the county in which you were most recently convicted.
Generally speaking, you won't even need to go to court. In most cases we can appear on your behalf. However, the judge may decide to interview you in person.
Once we file the petition, the judge sets a hearing date. At the hearing, the judge reviews your petition and any evidence presented by the petitioner, the local county's Department of Probation, the District Attorney, or anyone else that has relevant information.
After the court reviews all of the information, the judge will decide whether to
- grant the petition (in which case it will seal your records and send a copy of the order to all agencies who have possession or access to your records instructing them to seal and ultimately destroy the records), or
- deny the petition (in which case you may reapply at a later date).15
In order to help ensure that your petition is granted the first time, it is advisable to consult with an experienced California juvenile crimes defense attorney who is familiar with California's juvenile court system.
Deferred entry of judgment
If, as a minor, you were granted a Penal Code 1000 PC deferred entry of judgment.and successfully completed the program -- that juvenile incident should be dismissed, and your juvenile record with respect to that particular case should be automatically sealed.
Upon the successful completion of your deferred entry of judgment, check with the court to make sure it took this action.
Call us for help.
If you or loved one is in need of help sealing juvenile records and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.
To learn how to seal Nevada juvenile records, go to our article on how to seal Nevada juvenile records.
1Our California criminal defense lawyers have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier. We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
2California Welfare and Institutions Code 781 -- Sealing California juvenile records. ("(a). Once the court has ordered the person's records sealed, the proceedings in the case shall be deemed never to have occurred, and the person may properly reply accordingly to any inquiry about the events, the records of which are ordered sealed.")
California Welfare and Institutions Code 389 uses the same language as WIC 781 but applies to the juvenile dependency court, rather than delinquency court. Dependency court has jurisdiction over neglected and abused children, while delinquency court oversees cases involving minors who commit crimes.
See also T.N.G. v. Superior Court (1971) 4 Cal.3d 767, 775. ("The process of the juvenile court involves determination of the needs of the child and society, provision for guidance and treatment for the juvenile, and protection of the child from punishment and stigma.")
3California Welfare and Institutions Code 203 -- Order adjudging minor ward of juvenile court; effect; proceedings. ("An order adjudging a minor to be a ward of the juvenile court shall not be deemed a conviction of a crime for any purpose, nor shall a proceeding in the juvenile court be deemed a criminal proceeding.")
4Riverside criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi uses his former experience as an Ontario Police Officer to represent clients throughout the Inland Empire including San Bernardino, Riverside, Banning, Fontana, Joshua Tree, Barstow and Victorville.
5California Welfare and Institutions Code 781 -- Sealing California juvenile records, endnote 2, above. ("(b) In any action or proceeding based upon defamation, a court, upon a showing of good cause, may order any records sealed under this section to be opened and admitted into evidence. The records shall be confidential and shall be available for inspection only by the court, jury, parties, counsel for the parties, and any other person who is authorized by the court to inspect them. Upon the judgment in the action or proceeding becoming final, the court shall order the records sealed.")
6See same. ("(c)(1) Subdivision (a) does not apply to Department of Motor Vehicle records of any convictions for offenses under the Vehicle Code or any local ordinance relating to the operation, stopping and standing, or parking of a vehicle where the record of any such conviction would be a public record under Section 1808 of the Vehicle Code. However, if a court orders a case record containing any such conviction to be sealed under this section, and if the Department of Motor Vehicles maintains a public record of such a conviction, the court shall notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of the sealing and the department shall advise the court of its receipt of the notice. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, subsequent to the notification, the Department of Motor Vehicles shall allow access to its record of convictions only to the subject of the record and to insurers which have been granted requestor code numbers by the department. Any insurer to which such a record of conviction is disclosed, when such a conviction record has otherwise been sealed under this section, shall be given notice of the sealing when the record is disclosed to the insurer. The insurer may use the information contained in the record for purposes of determining eligibility for insurance and insurance rates for the subject of the record, and the information shall not be used for any other purpose nor shall it be disclosed by an insurer to any person or party not having access to the record. (2) This subdivision shall not be construed as preventing the sealing of any record which is maintained by any agency or party other than the Department of Motor Vehicles. (3) This subdivision shall not be construed as affecting the procedures or authority of the Department of Motor Vehicles for purging department records.")
7California Welfare and Institutions Code 781 -- Sealing California juvenile records, endnote 2, above. ("(d) Unless for good cause the court determines that the juvenile court record shall be retained, the court shall order the destruction of a person's juvenile court records that are sealed pursuant to this section as follows: five years after the record was ordered sealed, if the person who is the subject of the record was alleged or adjudged to be a person described by Section 601; or when the person who is the subject of the record reaches the age of 38 if the person was alleged or adjudged to be a person described by Section 602, except that if the subject of the record was found to be a person described in Section 602 because of the commission of an offense listed in subdivision (b), of Section 707, when he or she was 14 years of age or older, the record shall not be destroyed. Any other agency in possession of sealed records may destroy its records five years after the record was ordered sealed.")
8See same. ("(a). Once the court has ordered the person's records sealed, the proceedings in the case shall be deemed never to have occurred, and the person may properly reply accordingly to any inquiry about the events, the records of which are ordered sealed.")
9California Code of Regulations 7287.4 -- Employee selection. ("(d) Specific Practices. (1) Criminal Records. Except as otherwise provided by law (e.g., 12 U.S.C. 1829; Labor Code Section 432.7), it is unlawful for an employer or other covered entity to inquire or seek information regarding any applicant concerning:
(A) Any arrest or detention which did not result in conviction; (B) Any conviction for which the record has been judicially ordered sealed, expunged, or statutorily eradicated (e.g., juvenile offense records sealed pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Section 389 and Penal Code Sections 851.7 or 1203.45); any misdemeanor conviction for which probation has been successfully completed or otherwise discharged and the case has been judicially dismissed pursuant to Penal Code Section 1203.4; or (C) Any arrest for which a pretrial diversion program has been successfully completed pursuant to Penal Code Sections 1000.5 and 1001.5.")
10California Welfare and Institutions Code 781 -- Sealing California juvenile records, endnote 2, above. ("(a). In any case in which a ward of the juvenile court is subject to the registration requirements set forth in Section 290 of the Penal Code, a court, in ordering the sealing of the juvenile records of the person, also shall provide in the order that the person is relieved from the registration requirement and for the destruction of all registration information in the custody of the Department of Justice and other agencies and officials.")
11See same. ("(a) In any case in which a petition has been filed with a juvenile court to commence proceedings to adjudge a person a ward of the court, in any case in which a person is cited to appear before a probation officer or is taken before a probation officer pursuant to Section 626, or in any case in which a minor is taken before any officer of a law enforcement agency, the person or the county probation officer may, five years or more after the jurisdiction of the juvenile court has terminated as to the person, or, in a case in which no petition is filed, five years or more after the person was cited to appear before a probation officer or was taken before a probation officer pursuant to Section 626 or was taken before any officer of a law enforcement agency, or, in any case, at any time after the person has reached the age of 18 years, petition the court for sealing of the records, including records of arrest, relating to the person's case, in the custody of the juvenile court and probation officer and any other agencies, including law enforcement agencies, and public officials as the petitioner alleges, in his or her petition, to have custody of the records. If, after hearing, the court finds that since the termination of jurisdiction or action pursuant to Section 626, as the case may be, he or she has not been convicted of a felony or of any misdemeanor involving moral turpitude [which includes crimes such as California theft crimes, California fraud crimes, certain California sex offenses, and certain California drug offenses] and that rehabilitation has been attained to the satisfaction of the court, it shall order all records, papers, and exhibits in the person's case in the custody of the juvenile court sealed, including the juvenile court record, minute book entries, and entries on dockets, and any other records relating to the case in the custody of the other agencies and officials as are named in the order.")
12California Welfare and Institutions Code 781 -- Sealing California juvenile records, endnote 2, above. ("(a). Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the court shall not order the person's records sealed in any case in which the person has been found by the juvenile court to have committed an offense listed in subdivision (b) of Section 707 when he or she had attained 14 years of age or older.")
13California Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b) -- ("(b) Subdivision (c) shall be applicable in any case in which a minor is alleged to be a person described in Section 602 by reason of the violation of one of the following offenses: (1) [Penal Code 187 PC California's] Murder [law]. (2) [Penal Code 451 PC California's] Arson [law].(3) [Penal Code 211 PC California's] Robbery [law]. (4) Rape with force, violence, or threat of great bodily harm. (5) Sodomy by force, violence, duress, menace, or threat of great bodily harm. (6) A lewd or lascivious act as provided in subdivision (b) of Section 288 of the Penal Code. (7) Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace, or threat of great bodily harm. (8) An offense specified in subdivision (a) of Section 289 of the Penal Code [these last few crimes are included in California sex offenses]. (9) Kidnapping for ransom. (10) Kidnapping for purposes of robbery. (11) Kidnapping with bodily harm. (12) [California's] Attempted murder [law]. (13) Assault with a firearm or destructive device. (14) Assault by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury. (15) Discharge of a firearm into an inhabited or occupied building. (16) An offense described in Section 1203.09 of the Penal Code. (17) An offense described in Section 12022.5 or 12022.53 of the Penal Code. (18) A felony offense in which the minor personally used a weapon listed in subdivision (a) of Section 16590 of the Penal Code [these last crimes are included in California firearm offenses]. (19) A felony offense described in Section 136.1 or 137 of the Penal Code. (20) Manufacturing, compounding, or selling one-half ounce or more of a salt or solution of a controlled substance specified in subdivision (e) of Section 11055 of the Health and Safety Code. (21) A violent felony, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 of the Penal Code, which also would constitute a felony violation of subdivision (b) of Section 186.22 of the Penal Code. (22) Escape, by the use of force or violence, from a county juvenile hall, home, ranch, camp, or forestry camp in violation of subdivision (b) of Section 871 if great bodily injury is intentionally inflicted upon an employee of the juvenile facility during the commission of the escape. (23) [Penal Code 206 PC California's] Torture [law].(24) Aggravated mayhem, as described in Section 205 of the Penal Code. (25) [Penal Code 215 PC California's] Carjacking [law].while armed with a dangerous or deadly weapon. (26) Kidnapping for purposes of sexual assault, as punishable in subdivision (b) of Section 209 of the Penal Code. (27) Kidnapping as punishable in Section 209.5 of the Penal Code. (28) The offense described in subdivision (c) of Section 26100 of the Penal Code. (29) The offense described in Section 12308 of the Penal Code. (30) Voluntary manslaughter, as described in subdivision (a) of Section 192 of the Penal Code.")
14California Penal Code 851.7 PC -- Petition to seal court records by person arrested for misdemeanor while a minor; grounds; exceptions. ("(a) Any person who has been arrested for a misdemeanor, with or without a warrant, while a minor, may, during or after minority, petition the court in which the proceedings occurred or, if there were no court proceedings, the court in whose jurisdiction the arrest occurred, for an order sealing the records in the case, including any records of arrest and detention, if any of the following occurred: (1) He was released pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 849. (2) Proceedings against him were dismissed, or he was discharged, without a conviction. (3) He was acquitted. (b) If the court finds that the petitioner is eligible for relief under subdivision (a), it shall issue its order granting the relief prayed for. Thereafter, the arrest, detention, and any further proceedings in the case shall be deemed not to have occurred, and the petitioner may answer accordingly any question relating to their occurrence.")
15California Welfare and Institutions Code 781 -- Sealing California juvenile records, endnote 2, above. ("(a).Once the court has ordered the person's records sealed, the proceedings in the case shall be deemed never to have occurred, and the person may properly reply accordingly to any inquiry about the events, the records of which are ordered sealed. The court shall send a copy of the order to each agency and official named therein, directing the agency to seal its records and stating the date thereafter to destroy the sealed records. Each such agency and official shall seal the records in its custody as directed by the order, shall advise the court of its compliance, and thereupon shall seal the copy of the court's order for sealing of records that it, he, or she received. The person who is the subject of records sealed pursuant to this section may petition the superior court to permit inspection of the records by persons named in the petition, and the superior court may so order. Otherwise, except as provided in subdivision (b), the records shall not be open to inspection.")