Criminal records are available to the public, meaning anyone can access your criminal history. Insurance firms, landlords, and prospective employers can access these records during background checks, and this could harm your life. California allows you to seal arrest records if you were never convicted or had your petition sustained at a juvenile court. Nonetheless, when you are an adult, and the court finds you guilty of a crime, you can only petition the court for an expunction and not record sealing. Only individuals with a juvenile conviction can have their records sealed.
A successful expungement or record sealing petition for juveniles eliminates the need to reveal a criminal record during a job application, renting an apartment, and any other situation requiring you to disclose the history. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we understand how you want to obtain a clean slate post-conviction, which explains why we are here to help you seal the record or an expunction.
Juvenile Record Sealing
The Welfare and Institution Code (WIC) 781 allows you to seal your juvenile criminal record. When you file a petition to close, and the court grants it, your documents and any files relating to the conviction are erased or deleted from the public records.
The purpose of criminal conviction record sealing for juveniles is to eliminate the stigmatization for mistakes you made as a minor. Once these records are sealed, you can proudly answer “no” when a prospective employer, landlord, or insurance company asks whether you have ever been arrested or convicted for a crime.
The juvenile criminal records that will be deleted include:
- Arrests reports
- The court’s findings and verdict
- Probation report
Note that the juvenile court system aims to rehabilitate and not punish minor offenders. So, even if you end up with a sustained petition during case adjudication, the court will only declare you a “ward of the court,” meaning you will not have a criminal conviction record. You can proudly say you have never been convicted of a crime.
Although you do not have to disclose to the employer, insurance agency, apartment owner, or licensing agency about the record, failure to reveal this information could put you in trouble when they discover the criminal record later. Therefore, if you have a sustained petition, you should take the necessary steps to have the record sealed to avoid a situation where people consider you deceitful for failing to reveal a criminal record.
Reopening Juvenile Records
Even if your juvenile record has been sealed, it can be reopened under the following circumstances:
- When you are a person of interest in a defamation lawsuit, under these circumstances, the record will be opened and used as evidence to support the defamation claims. After the close of the case, the documents will be resealed.
- Also, the Department of Motor Vehicles can open your sealed records for the insurance companies to review your driving record and determine whether you are a high-risk driver. In the circumstances, the DMV will release these records.
- Lastly, under Assembly Bill 2952, the prosecuting attorney can open your sealed records to find and present exculpatory exhibits in a criminal proceeding.
The fact that a sealed record can be reopened begs the question of “are the records destroyed once sealed?” The answer is yes. Once your petition to seal a record is granted, the court will delete all the documentation relating to the case. Nevertheless, the records could be retained under extraordinary circumstances. Your sealed documents will be deleted in the following circumstances:
- Five years after the record sealing, when a sustained petition resulted from being a habitual truant
- On your 38th birthday, if you ended up with a sustained petition for participating in the commission of criminal activity.
Criteria for Juvenile Record Sealing
Before commencing the juvenile record sealing process, you must talk to your Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm to learn if you are a candidate. Under WIC 781, you can file for record sealing if:
- You are above 18 now, or it has been five years now after the juvenile court jurisdiction was terminated.
- You have not been convicted for a felony or misdemeanor moral turpitude crime like theft, drug crime, sex crime, or fraud as an adult.
- The court is convinced you are rehabilitated.
- You have zero pending civil suits arising from your delinquency.
Note that you are ineligible for record sealing if the offense that resulted in a sustained petition is listed under WIC 707(b) and you were already 14 or older.
Juvenile Record Sealing Process
Sealing your juvenile record under WIC 781 is a lengthy and complex process. On average, it takes between eight to ten months, which is when you need help from an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you decide to represent yourself, the process may become even more prolonged and overwhelming because you are not familiar with the procedures and the rules that apply. However, when you have a criminal attorney by your side, the process will be simplified and less stressful.
Your attorney will start by filing a petition in the county juvenile court where you were last convicted. You do not even need to appear for the court proceedings in person. Your legal defense team will appear on your behalf, although sometimes the judge can request you appear in person for the interview.
After the necessary paperwork has been filed, the judge will schedule a court date to evaluate the petition and evidence presented by your attorney, the local probation officer, prosecutor, and any other party with info relevant to the case.
Once the hearing concludes, the judge can choose to:
- Grant the petition for juvenile record sealing
- Turn down your request for record sealing
The records will be sealed when the court grants the petition. It will then issue instructions to all relevant agencies to close and eventually destroy the records.
On the other hand, you should not give up if your petition is denied. Instead, you keep trying your luck.
Nonetheless, you can ensure the petition is granted in the first petition by working closely with the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. Our attorneys are familiar with WIC 781 and the court procedures involved, increasing your chances of a successful record sealing petition.
It is worth noting that if you obtained a deferred entry judgment and completed a drug diversion program without a violation, the delinquency petition will be dismissed and the record automatically sealed. In a case like this, you will not need to petition the court for record sealing.
Benefits of Juvenile Record Sealing
You will obtain several benefits when you seal your record under WIC 781. The benefits include:
- You can confidently state you have no criminal record, making you a desirable candidate for employment, state licensure, education, and loan opportunities.
- Potential employers will not discriminate against you based on your previous juvenile delinquency.
- When registered as a sex offender solely because of juvenile delinquency, record sealing will eliminate the need for continued registration.
- You obtain a fresh start that gives you peace of mind knowing your childhood mistakes will not haunt you in the future.
Legal Meaning if Post Conviction Record Sealing
Recall the law only allows you to seal an arrest or juvenile record and ultimately delete your fingerprints, mugshot, and police report. However, when the arrest results in a conviction, this becomes a post-conviction matter, and only those convicted as juveniles can have the records sealed. When an adult arrest results in a sentence, the criminal record is never deleted. Instead, the court removes it from the public catalog in a legal process known as expungement. An expungement acts as a post-conviction relief made possible by PEN 1203.4.
The relief releases you from all disabilities of a sentence, especially today when finding employment is almost impossible. You would like to increase your chances of obtaining employment, and one way to do this is to say that you do not have a criminal history, something PEN 1203.4 makes possible. Expungement offers many benefits, including giving you a clean slate from a criminal record.
Eligible Candidates for Expungement
You can expunge your misdemeanor, or felony record provided the following is true:
- You complete either formal or informal probation
- You currently face criminal charges, are on probation, or serving jail or prison sentence for a crime
An expungement does not come easily. If yours was a probation sentence, you must complete the term in its totality or obtain an early probation termination.
PEN 1203.4 gives judges the discretion to grant a request for early probation termination. However, the ending is not easy to come by. You will need an attorney to file a petition with the court and DA two days before the scheduled hearing. The probation will end if you have served at least twelve months of informal probation or eighteen months of a felony probation sentence.
Furthermore, the judge will consider your request if you have completed your counseling program, community hours, and court-ordered victim restitution. When deciding, the court will consider your criminal record, case severity, challenges caused by the probation, and the DA’s opinion. Once the court grants the motion for an early probation termination, you can file a petition to expunge your record under PEN 1203.4.
Successful completion of probation means meeting the following criteria:
- Complete all the probation requirements, including court fines payment, community labor, victim restitution, and counseling.
- Show up for all the scheduled court dates in person or through a criminal attorney.
- You did not engage in any contravention of the law while on probation.
It is worth noting that if the adult criminal conviction or a violation of probation terms resulted in prison incarceration, you are not eligible to file for expunction under PEN 1203.4. Nonetheless, there is an exemption to this rule when you have served a jail sentence if you participated in the commission of an offense after realignment.
Also, if you were a firefighter while serving a prison sentence, you are eligible for expungement under 2020’s AB 2147.
It is a fact that when you want to qualify for expungement, you must complete all the terms of probation. Nonetheless, just because there was a probation violation does not make your petition for expungement entirely hopeless. The court can grant you a hearing to determine whether you meet the candidacy criteria. The judge has the discretion to grant or deny probation, but before this decision, they must put into account:
- Your overall performance while on probation
- The severity of the baseline offense
- Your criminal history
- Or conditions like a chance for a job opening, family support, and strong community links
Individuals Who do not Qualify for Expungement
As mentioned above, your conviction cannot be expunged if you have been sentenced to prison, lest the laws have changed since the sentence allowing the same offense to be punishable by a jail sentence.
Outside that, felony crimes are ineligible for expunction, primarily those involving sex crimes against children like:
- PEN 286(c) prohibits sodomy with a child
- PEN 288 that criminalizes lewd acts with a minor
- PEN 287(c) that criminalizes oral copulation with a minor
- PEN 261.5 criminalizes sexual penetration between adults over 21 and persons sixteen years or younger.
Proposition 47 Realignment and How it Affects your Expungement
You still qualify for expungement if you were charged and sentenced to a state prison incarceration. However, you are only eligible if the judge imposed a county jail sentence after adopting Prop 47 in 2011.
This relief under PEN 1203.42 is not guaranteed. The court has the authority to grant or deny your request depending on the interest of justice. You are eligible for the post-conviction relief if:
- It is at least twenty-four months after you completed your sentence
- And you are not on probation for a crime, under a supervised release, or in jail for another sentence
Obtaining an Expunction Under PEN 1203.42
The expunction process starts by petitioning the court in person, through an attorney, or writing from a supervision officer. Once the court receives and reviews your petition, they can opt to:
- Allow you to withdraw your plea of guilt or no contest and enter a not guilty plea
- Alternatively, they can set aside a conviction if you were sentenced after pleading not guilty
Either way, the court will release you from all disabilities and consequences of a sentence the same way the typical expunction does.
Expunging your California Criminal Conviction
You can erase your criminal history in California by doing the following:
Employing an Attorney
As indicated earlier, expungement is a lengthy and complex process due to the extensive documentation. Without knowing these laws and how to fill out the documents, you will make many mistakes that will delay the process further or result in petition denial. Nevertheless, when you enlist the services of a profound attorney, the process will be more simplified, and the chances of obtaining an expunction on the first try will be high.
An experienced attorney understands the changes in the law and will guide you on incidents where filing for expungement is necessary and when it is not. For example, you do not need to file an expunction if you were convicted for marijuana possession before it was legalized.
Complete the Necessary Paperwork
An attorney understands the forms to complete based on your case’s nature. When filing a petition, the documents you need to fill out can be found online or in the court where you were convicted.
For instance, when you have completed your informal probation, you should file for an expunction as per PC 1203.4. However, you must file for early termination of probation first if you are yet to complete probation before starting the expunction process.
On the other hand, felony convictions will first require the offense to be reduced to a misdemeanor before you can request for the expunction. Additionally, you will need separate forms to file for expungement for every sentence.
A lot is involved in filling out these forms. With the help of an attorney, you will easily find all the relevant documents and fill them out correctly to prevent delays or the court from denying your petition.
File for Expunction
Once all the necessary paperwork is ready, you should file them with the court that convicted you. After filing the petition, you will wait for five months to obtain a response.
You can be asked to pay a fee and deliver the forms in person or by mail during filing. Talk to your attorney to know the best way to provide the paperwork because time is of the essence in these cases and the available financial assistance options if you cannot afford the filing fee. You should serve the prosecuting team with a copy of the petition 15 days before the hearing to give them adequate time to evaluate the case.
Arrange for the Trial
You will only present your evidence to a judge in the hearing because no jury is involved in these proceedings. After a thorough evaluation of the evidence showed, the court will grant your request for expunction if you have no extra convictions, you can maintain a job, and have completed your community hours.
Whether you need to be present for your case hearing depends on the case. When you opt to have an attorney appear on your behalf, make sure they keep you updated and assist with all the necessary preparations.
Refile If you are not Successful the First Time
The petition does not always go as planned. Sometimes, the court will deny your request for an expunction, but this should not mean you give up. You can refile the petition after six months, and probably this time, it will be granted.
After the expunction, your attorney should move in swiftly to seal the record from the general public.
Benefits of California Expungement
The benefits of an expunction are very similar to juvenile record sealing. These merits include:
- An expunged conviction cannot impeach your integrity as a witness
- Obtaining a professional license is much quicker
- It eliminates immigration consequences
- It prevents discrimination by prospective employers
California Expungement Limitations
Although expungement has several benefits, it has a set of limitations. These are:
- It cannot overturn the suspension of your driver’s license
- It cannot restore your firearm rights
- Cannot end the requirement to register as a sex offender
Additionally, an expunction will still count as a prior during subsequent sentencing of priorable offenses. Again, an expunged sentence will be deemed a strike under the Three Strikes Rule.
Alternatives to California Expungement
You can explore other ways of post-conviction reprieve when not eligible for expungement or require additional rights that cannot be obtained through an expunction. These options include a California governor’s pardon and a certificate of rehabilitation.
Difference Between Record Sealing and Expunction
When you contact an attorney for an expunction, you also want to seal the records. Record sealing and expunction are different when it comes to post-conviction matters. Record sealing after conviction only happens in juvenile cases but not adult ones. As an adult, you can only file for expunction after being convicted, but you cannot seal the records unless the court finds you innocent or appeals the verdict.
Also, once the court seals juvenile records, they should destroy them after three years. They will issue orders to all relevant agencies to delete every document relating to the conviction. However, with an expunction, the criminal records are only hidden from the public, but law enforcement can use them when need be.
The Right Time to Seek Post-Conviction Juvenile Record Sealing and Expunction
If you qualify for an expunction, you should file a petition right after completing probation or after the court grants an early termination. Also, two years must have passed before filing the petition after completing your sentence, as the records are available indefinitely.
Find and Experienced Post-Conviction Record Sealing Attorney Near Me
Having a juvenile record sealed or an adult conviction expunged has many benefits, and if you are a candidate, you obtain a clean slate. A criminal conviction record can adversely impact your life in many ways, and the collateral damages are life-changing. Even after rehabilitation and completing your sentence, you will still face a lot of stigmatization from the community. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we can help you seal your record to fit in society. Call us today at 951-946-6366 to arrange a meeting in Riverside, CA.