After filing a petition to seal your juvenile record, the court will hold a hearing where you, your attorney, and the prosecutor must appear. The court will consider several factors, including the seriousness of the crime you committed, the length of time since you were arrested, and whether you have been charged or convicted as an adult since your juvenile arrest.
If the court decides to seal your record, your court documents will be sealed, and you will be allowed to quote that you have never been arrested or convicted. However, this is a complicated process, and you need the help of our qualified defense lawyer at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm to navigate the whole process.
The Legal Definition of Sealing Juvenile Records
Sealing a juvenile record is the process of making juvenile records confidential in a way that they cannot be accessed by the public. Once a juvenile record is sealed, it can only be accessed by the juvenile's attorney, the juvenile probation department, and the court.
The criminal records that are deleted during record sealing include:
- Arrest records
- Court records
- Probation records
- Detention records
Who is Eligible for Juvenile Record Sealing?
You may be eligible for juvenile record sealing if:
- You were charged with a crime when you were under 18 years old
- You were convicted of that crime or had the charges dismissed
- You were placed on probation
- You completed your probation
- You have not been convicted of any other crime as a juvenile
- You have not committed a crime of moral turpitude as a grown-up (e.g. rape, child abuse, or murder)
If your case was handled in juvenile court, you can seal your record without a judge’s order. But, if your case was handled in adult court, your record must be sealed by a judge’s order. You can make a petition to seal your juvenile record as soon as you turn 18.
You can also make a petition to seal your juvenile record after your juvenile probation is over, but your juvenile records are available for public review for three years after your juvenile case is over; therefore, it is best to make your petition as soon as you turn 18.
Who is Not Eligible for Juvenile Record Sealing?
The court cannot seal your juvenile records if:
- You committed a serious crime (a felony) such as murder
- You were adjudicated (found guilty) of a serious crime
Juvenile Record Sealing
California law requires that the juvenile record sealing process be initiated by the court. The process can be initiated by the court on its own initiative or at the request of the person who was adjudicated. The court must make a finding that the best interests of the person and the public would be served by sealing the record.
Once the court makes this finding, the record is sealed and the court orders that all law enforcement agencies and other entities that maintain the records destroy them. The juvenile record sealing process is different from the expungement process in that the records are not destroyed. The court orders that the records are sealed and the agencies are to maintain them, but these agencies are not allowed to disclose the records to the public.
The courts in California have been directed by the legislature to promote the use of the juvenile record sealing process to give young offenders a second chance. The legislature has also directed the court to give priority to sealing records in cases where the person has been adjudicated of a nonviolent offense and has not been adjudicated of any other offense within a specified period.
What is the Process for Juvenile Record Sealing in California?
The process for juvenile record sealing in California is as follows:
- Filing a petition for juvenile record sealing which must be done in the juvenile court where you were adjudicated. Note that the petition must be accompanied by a certified copy of the juvenile court records to be sealed.
- The court then holds a hearing on the petition, at which the petitioner must demonstrate that he or she has been rehabilitated and that sealing the records is in the best interests of justice.
- If the court grants the petition, it will order the records to be sealed and the individual will be treated as if he or she had never been adjudicated a ward of the juvenile court.
If the judge denies the petition, quo status is maintained, which means that the records can still be viewed. However, you can still re-file a petition to have the records sealed again after adequate time has passed.
Benefits of Juvenile Record Sealing
Sealing your juvenile records or that of your child is a great way of protecting their future. Juvenile records are usually public, and anyone can access them, and sealing the records is a way of protecting your child’s future. Some of the benefits of sealing juvenile records include:
- The minor can apply and be admitted to a college of their choice
- The young adult can get into the military
- The minor can get into a job training program
- The young adult can get into a housing program
- The child can get into a federal program
- The child’s rights are protected
- The minor can get into a good job
How Can Proposition 47 Realignment Affect Juvenile Record Sealing?
Proposition 47, also called the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act was passed in November 2014. The proposition changed the classification of certain non-violent and non-serious crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. This change in classification makes eligible individuals eligible for early release from jail and probation. Additionally, it makes eligible individuals eligible to have their criminal records cleared through a process called realignment. This is mainly beneficial to individuals with juvenile records. Before Proposition 47, individuals with juvenile records were not eligible to have their records cleared. However, with the passage of Proposition 47, individuals with juvenile records may now be eligible to have their records cleared through the process of realignment.
Can Sealed Juvenile Records be Reopened?
Most juvenile records are confidential, but there are some exceptions. In general, however, the confidentiality of juvenile records is not absolute. If a juvenile offender is charged with a crime in adult criminal court, a judge may order disclosure of the juvenile offender's record to the prosecuting attorney. If the juvenile offender is tried as an adult and convicted of the crime, the juvenile offender's record will likely become part of the adult criminal record and will be accessible to the public. However, note that your sealed records will be deleted after five years.
Cases Where Juvenile Records are Automatically Sealed by the Court
In certain situations, the court will automatically seal your records without filing a petition. For example:
- If the court dismisses your charges
- If you are found not guilty
- If you are a juvenile offender
- If you complete a pretrial diversion or intervention program
- If the case is not prosecuted
Having your records automatically sealed means that they are not available to the public. This includes employers, landlords, and anyone else who might perform a background check on you. However, the court will still keep your records on hand and you may be required to disclose your criminal history in certain situations. For example, if you are charged with a crime in the future, the court can unseal your records. The records may also be unsealed if you are applying for a job in law enforcement or a job with the government.
Deferred adjudication is a type of probation that allows you to avoid the consequences of a guilty plea. If you are placed on deferred adjudication, that means that you have not been convicted of a crime. Instead, the court decides to put off the sentencing for a limited time. If you complete the terms of your probation, the charges against you will be dropped.
Deferred adjudication works in a similar way to a pretrial intervention program. The main difference between the two is that you do not have to admit that you committed the crime if you are placed on deferred adjudication. Once again, the court will consider your criminal history, the severity of the crime, and whether you are likely to commit additional crimes when deciding whether or not to place you on deferred adjudication.
Deferred adjudication is also generally available to first-time offenders. You are not eligible for deferred adjudication if you have been previously convicted of a crime, if you are facing charges for a crime of violence, or if you are facing charges for a crime of a sexual nature.
If you complete the terms of your probation, the court will dismiss the charges against you. The court will then order for your records to be sealed.
Expunging Your Record
An expungement is different from having your records sealed. If you have your records expunged, that means that the records are destroyed. Once your records are expunged, it is as if the crime never happened.
You may be eligible to have your records expunged if you have completed a deferred adjudication or if you have been convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor crime. A non-violent misdemeanor is a misdemeanor that does not involve physical violence.
An expungement is not available to you if you have been convicted of a violent crime or a crime of a sexual nature. You are not eligible for an expungement if the court has granted you an order of nondisclosure when the charges against you were dismissed.
You will have to file a petition with the court to have your records expunged. Once the court grants your petition, the records will be destroyed.
The Difference Between Record Sealing and Expunction
The biggest difference between record sealing and expunction is that record sealing is not a complete removal of a criminal record. It is still possible for those with access to sealed records to view them. Expunction is the complete removal of a criminal record. Once a record is expunged, it can no longer be viewed by anyone. If a person’s record is sealed, it is still possible for:
- The government can view and access sealed records
- The court can view and always access sealed records
- Law enforcement can always access sealed records
- Potential employers to view the record – Employers can view sealed records if they conduct a background check or if they have a legitimate reason to view the record
- Potential landlords to view the record – Landlords can view sealed records if they conduct a background check or if they have a legitimate reason to view the record
There is no guarantee that your record will stay secret if it is only sealed. If people look hard enough, they could find out about your record. The only way to guarantee that your record stays hidden is to have it expunged. No one can view your expunged record, or access the court files and any of the other places where records are kept.
The only way to view an expunged record is to obtain a court order. This is extremely rare and will only happen in a very serious case. Your record does not exist if it is expunged. If you have a criminal record, you should look into having it sealed or expunged. It could make a big difference in your life. You should also contact an attorney to discuss your options. They can help you determine if you qualify for record sealing or expunction.
Refiling a Juvenile Record Sealing If You are not Successful the First Time
In California, if you are not successful the first time you apply to have your juvenile record sealed in California, you can reapply after six months from the date of the denial.
Seeking Employment After Sealing my Juvenile Record
If you have had your juvenile record sealed or have a juvenile record expungement, you will be able to say that you have never been convicted of a crime on your employment application. When asked if you have been convicted of a crime on your employment application, you may answer "no" to this question.
Faqs about Sealing Juvenile Records in California
Below are questions to help you understand the process of sealing your juvenile records.
How long does it take for a juvenile record to seal?
It typically takes about three to six months for a judge to rule on a petition to seal a juvenile record. However, the actual process of sealing a juvenile record can take up to a year.
How much does it cost to seal a juvenile record?
There is no cost to file a petition to seal a juvenile record. However, there may be court filing fees associated with the case.
Do I have to continue to register as a sex offender if my records are sealed?
No. If your records are sealed, you are not required to register as a sex offender.
How long does a sealed juvenile record stay sealed?
A sealed juvenile record stays sealed indefinitely. However, the records may be destroyed after five years and when you turn 38 years.
Can a sealed juvenile record be used against me in the future?
A sealed juvenile record cannot be used against you in the future. However, if you are charged with a crime as an adult, the court may unseal your juvenile record if it is relevant to the case.
Can I get a juvenile record sealed in California if I was found innocent?
Yes. If you were found innocent or if the charges against you were dismissed, your juvenile records will be automatically sealed.
Can I get a juvenile record sealed in California if I plead guilty?
You may still be eligible to have your records sealed, but the process will be more difficult. You can file a Petition for Relief from Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction.
Can I get a juvenile record sealed in California if I was adjudicated for a crime?
Yes, but you will have to file a Petition to Seal and Destroy Arrest Records.
What is the difference between a juvenile record and an adult criminal record?
Juvenile records are not accessible to the public and are sealed automatically when the juvenile reaches the age of 18 (or 21 for certain serious offenses). Adult criminal records are accessible to the public and are not automatically sealed.
Can I seal records of a drug charge if I completed a drug court program?
Yes. You may file a petition to seal your drug charge if you were convicted of a drug offense, you completed a drug court program, and you meet other conditions.
Can I seal records of an offense committed when I was on juvenile probation?
Yes, but it may not be possible in every case. You may file a petition to seal your juvenile record if your offense is eligible, you have not been convicted of any other offense in the past four years, and if you meet other conditions.
Can a juvenile strike be sealed?
A juvenile strike can be sealed from the public but if you were charged with a felony, the DA has the discretion of referring to the sealed strike if you commit another felony offense.
What happens if I have multiple cases on my record that I want to be sealed?
The law allows you to seal one eligible case per filing. If you have multiple eligible cases, you must file a separate application for each case.
Do I need an Attorney when Sealing my Juvenile Records?
It is important to hire an experienced attorney to help you in the sealing process of your juvenile record. The attorney can help you with the following:
- Filling a petition with the court
- Serving the petition to the district attorney and law enforcement, and;
- Appearing in court during the hearing
- An attorney can also help you know if you are eligible for record sealing
Can my life go back to normalcy if my criminal records are sealed?
While your arrest record will no longer be available to the public, it may still be available to government agencies, such as police and immigration. If a court order is issued to unseal your records, they can be opened for the public to view.
Can the juvenile records of a minor who was never convicted be sealed?
In cases where the minor is never convicted, the records may be sealed. This can happen for several reasons, such as being found not guilty at trial, being let off on probation, or being arrested without a warrant.
What Happens if I fail to seal my arrest records?
If you don’t seal your arrest record, it will remain public and accessible to anyone who conducts a background check on you. This can make it challenging to get a job, rent an apartment, or obtain a loan.
How long does the court take to seal juvenile criminal records?
It varies. If the jury does not challenge your request it can take about 3-6 weeks for the court to process your request and issue an order. If your request is challenged, then it can take much longer.
Can my juvenile record be sealed if I was tried in adult court?
No. If you were tried in adult court, then your juvenile record cannot be sealed. However, you may try to have your records sealed through the adult court process after completing your sentencing.
Find a Juvenile Defense Attorney Near Me
If your juvenile records were not sealed automatically, you need to go through the process of record sealing. This process can be complicated and you will need the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Our experienced defense attorneys at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm know the ins and outs of the process and will be able to guide you through it. We offer free online and phone consultations to our clients in Riverside, CA. Call us today at 951-946-6366.