If you get into trouble as a minor, you might assume that your records are automatically sealed and inaccessible to the general public or even destroyed. Unfortunately, unless you take proactive measures to seal your juvenile records, they will still be available even when you become an adult.
If your juvenile records remain accessible, it means that they will remain in public databases where landlords, employers, financial lenders, and schools will still access and examine them. Sealing juvenile records might seem easy, but it is a process that needs the intervention of a professional criminal attorney.
Your attorney will gather all necessary information, analyze the case, determine whether the records are eligible for sealing and draft the right petition for relief. Schedule an appointment with the California Criminal Lawyer Group and let us help you seal your juvenile records.
Meaning of Sealing Your Juvenile Records
When the court grants former juvenile delinquents the petition to "seal" their records as per the provision of Welfare and Institutions Code 781, it means that the juvenile records essentially cease to exist and are no longer available publicly.
The main objective of sealing a record is that former juvenile delinquents do not need to acknowledge their criminal history to employers, landlords, and other key players in their professional and personal lives. At the same time, you do not have to overcome the stigma associated with your juvenile criminal records in the future.
Please note, contrary to popular misconception, juvenile records are not automatically sealed once a minor turns 18 years old. Only a few juvenile records are automatically sealed once an offender turns 18 years. However, the rest have to wait until a later date. Once you seal your criminal history, the court will destroy them in five years.
Additionally, a small number of people can access these documents, although sealed juvenile records are inaccessible to the public. Technically, once documents have been sealed, they do not exist by law and cannot show up through traditional means used in background checking.
However, certain government officials can access these records. For instance, if a person who has sealed juvenile records wants to obtain a federal security clearance or wants to join the police force, these records might become relevant.
Ideally, juvenile court proceedings are not considered criminal. Therefore, even when found guilty and declared a ward of the juvenile court, there will be no "criminal conviction" on your record. Thus, even when you do not seal your records, you can still say that you've never been convicted of any crime.
The only limitation with this advantage is that you can only deny any former conviction verbally or in writing. However, if your prospective employers, lending agencies, or state licensing agencies do a background check on you, they can still learn about your juvenile records. Therefore, it is necessary to seal your records.
The Difference Between Record Sealing and Expungement
The terms "sealing" and "expungement" are usually used interchangeably in criminal records for minors and adults. In that case, it is recommendable to know the difference between these two terms to avoid confusing them while sealing your child's record.
When it comes to sealing a record, it is available in two situations. Adult criminal records are sealed if their arrest did not result in a conviction. An attorney can only seal an adult arrest record only if they prove that the alleged perpetrator was factually innocent of the charges that led to his or her arrest. The second situation involves a juvenile record, which is sealed once the court grants their petition.
On the other hand, criminal record expungement marks the only relief available for adults once they are convicted of a particular crime. Once a document is expunged, it means that the official records will be modified as "dismissed" rather than "convicted." Therefore, an adult can answer "no" to a past criminal conviction in almost every questionnaire and application. The criminal record will not be accessible when someone makes a background check on the respective person.
You might be wondering how the term "expungement" and "sealing" apply in juvenile records. These two terms do not have any significant differences in this context. However, the term "sealing" is commonly used to describe the permanent removal of any juvenile records in public databases.
Possibility of Destroying your California Juvenile Records After Sealing Them
The fact that your juvenile records are sealed does not mean that they are entirely done away with. These records have to be destroyed to wipe them off government databases completely. However, this does not happen automatically but has to take quite some time. For those that the records were sealed and declared a “ward of the court” for being a truant or habitually disobedient, it takes five years to destroy the records.
For those who were declared a ward of the court, their juvenile records are destroyed once they turn 38.
Possibility of Reopening Your Juvenile Records after Sealing Them
Only three situations can have your juvenile records reopened. These situations are as follows:
- When you are part of a defamation civil lawsuit, your juvenile records will be reopened and used as evidence in your court proceeding. Your records will be sealed again once the case is resolved.
- When automobile insurance adjusters are inspecting your driver's record to evaluate your eligibility and risk on your insurance
- Access by prosecutors when locating and disclosing exculpatory evidence in a new criminal case
The Advantages of Sealing your Juvenile Records
Your juvenile records can significantly impact your life if you do not seal them. Therefore, despite how hard-working or abiding you might be, your juvenile records will always harm you. Below is an explanation of why sealing your criminal record is a worthwhile endeavor that you should consider.
Sealing Records Increases the Chances of Finding Safe Housing
Private renters and home management companies usually perform background checks on every potential renter. Since you might be interested in finding safe housing once you turn 21, failure to seal your juvenile records might have your rent request denied due to your criminal record. However, if the records are sealed, they are inaccessible even after a thorough background check by the house owners or home management companies. This increases the chances of finding a safe place to live.
It's Much Easier to Secure Employment when Your Juvenile Records Are Sealed
Even though California discourages discriminating job applicants due to criminal records, having juvenile records can make it hard to compete with other candidates. Most companies would prefer employing a candidate without a clean criminal record. Therefore, with your juvenile records sealed, you can apply for any job without the fear of being denied based on your history.
Most departmental jobs, especially with the Department of Children and Family services and education, legally require applicants to acknowledge an arrest. Therefore, having your records sealed gives you the chance to work in these departments without bringing out your past.
Guarantees Future Promotion Opportunities
Once you have secured a job, your juvenile record can still negatively impact your promotion opportunities. Whenever you are applying for a promotion, you might be required to provide additional licenses. A juvenile record can negatively affect your ability to obtain certifications like a real estate license. Even when you acquire the necessary certification needed for your promotion, your employee can still dismiss your applications in favor of someone without a juvenile record.
Guarantees Smooth Educational Financial Assistance
Pursuing higher education is one way to improve your employment opportunities and increase your standard of living. Unfortunately, most people cannot afford to pay for their higher education and rely on financial assistance. One way that the government uses to eliminate some of the applicants is by checking their criminal history. This brings the importance of sealing your juvenile records since your criminal history is inaccessible to those shortlisting candidates eligible for education financial assistance.
Guarantees Easy Loan Application
Some financial agencies disregard applicants with criminal records with the belief that they have a lower likelihood of honoring their financial obligation. Since sealing your juvenile records puts them inaccessible, you do not have to worry about facing prohibitive interest rates or getting a loan altogether.
Guarantees Easy Adoption Process
When you want to adopt a child, the last thing that you would like to experience is having your prior juvenile criminal records obstructing your decision. In California, child welfare services can deny anyone with a criminal record for certain felony crimes the chance to adopt a child. Prospective adoptive parents must go through a background check before being approved to adopt. Therefore, sealing your records will help you go through the adoption process successfully without the worry of having a criminal background.
Ensure that you Get Peace of Mind
There is nothing more assuring than knowing that there is no criminal background that would deny you the chance of achieving your dreams. Anyone with a criminal record on them finds it hard to feel truly free. Once you clear your records, you know that you are entitled to every citizen's rights and privileges.
You Don't Have to Register as a Sex Offender
In California, anyone convicted of a felonious sex offense should register as a sex offender. Fortunately, once you seal your juvenile records, you do not have to make this registration.
Therefore, anything to do with your prior sex offense conviction will not be accessible in the future.
Types of Records that you Can Seal in a Juvenile Conviction
Your California juvenile records include every report that is related to your juvenile criminal activity, such as:
Arrest reports are documents that detail every event leading up to and immediately after an arrest. The report documents and describes all information found and experienced by law enforcement handling the arrest, crime in question, and incident. The report aims to record the names, witnesses, incidents, offenders involved, and the incident's nature. It is also a means of recording all criminal activity details, whether the information was significant or not.
The report typically includes information on the incident, witness report, crime notices, photos taken from the site, and other information. The report reflects the details of the incident and a review of the happenings that cannot be altered once written down, making it useful in the future.
Due to the accessibility nature of arrest reports in the future, it is recommendable to consider sealing your juvenile criminal history to avoid any implications related to these criminal records.
Judge's ruling and findings
A judge's ruling or judgment is the final part of a court case. A valid ruling terminates a lawsuit and resolves all contested issues since it is an official court pronouncement of the pending action.
Judgment is always in writing and clearly shows that the issue at hand is adjudicated. It must show the parties for and against whom it was given. It is dated and docketed with the court's administrator's office after a judgment. With the modern use of computers, these records are docketed and indexed electronically, making them accessible by different agencies.
Since judgments are accessible by different governmental agencies and departments, it is recommendable to seal your juvenile's record to avoid their negative impacts on your endeavors.
Exhibits or Evidence
Exhibits are pieces of evidence used in a criminal conviction. They are usually presented by the arresting police officer and the prosecution. Criminal evidence can range from a weapon allegedly used in a juvenile crime, a video recording, or other sources of information that links a perpetrator to the crime. Eyewitnesses are also part of the evidence used in a juvenile court case.
Exhibits usually remain in existence even after a case concludes. Therefore, anyone who intends to know about your juvenile records can still access these exhibits and probably make a decision that implicates you.
Eligibility to Seal a Juvenile Record
The process of sealing juvenile records is not automatic to everyone. There are specific criteria that one must meet to be fit for the sealing process, as you will learn below:
- Must be eighteen years or older, or your juvenile delinquency jurisdiction ended within the last five years, whichever comes first.
- You have no adult conviction for a misdemeanor or felony that involves moral turpitude. A crime involving moral turpitude means that it was out of dishonesty and immoral behavior. These crimes include sex crimes, drug offenses, fraud crimes, and theft crimes.
- You have completed your rehabilitation.
- You have no unresolved civil lawsuits from your previous delinquent actions.
The aspects mentioned above make you eligible to seal your juvenile records. However, particular elements make you ineligible to seal your juvenile records. These include any crime listed under the California Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b) once you turn 14 years old.
California Welfare and Institution Code 707(b) involves the most severe offenses and violations such as:
- Murder and attempted murder
- Sex offenses
- Violent felony
- Firearm offense
The Process of Sealing Juvenile Records
It takes about eight to ten months to complete your juvenile records sealing process. It starts with completing and filing a petition in the county court where your juvenile proceedings were held.
Once you file a petition, you should schedule a hearing. The court might accept or deny the motion. Usually, petitioners have to be present to answer some of the judge's questions regarding the offense and their rehabilitation. The Department of Probation and the prosecutor's office can also be in attendance to provide the necessary evidence needed to help you seal the records or object to the entire process. It is rare for these two departments to object to the process unless presented with an unusual circumstance.
If the court grants the petition, it will issue an order to all agencies with your juvenile records to seal and destroy the records later. If the court denies the petition for some reason, you can try again, but later.
You should consult an experienced criminal attorney familiar with the juvenile court system if you want the court to grant your petition in your first attempt.
Please note that the court automatically seals juvenile records concerning the particular case that placed a minor under drug diversion under Penal Code 1000. The youth must have completed the diversion program to have the records sealed. You should check with the court to ensure that it takes this action once you complete this program.
Sealing Juvenile Records without Prior Conviction
Other people stand eligible to seal their California juvenile records, whereas they were not successfully convicted. These include those arrested for misdemeanor crimes and were released due to inadequate evidence to convict them. It also consists of those that were acquitted of their allegations or charges were dismissed.
This class of people can have their juvenile records sealed at any time. Therefore, they don't need to wait until they turn 18 or wait five years to pass since the court adjudicated on their case.
Understanding the Need of Having a Lawyer while Sealing your Juvenile Records
Patients cannot perform surgery on themselves for obvious reasons. The same applies to representing yourself in court, especially when you petition to seal your juvenile records. Representing yourself can lead to a costly mistake that is hard to rectify at any point in your petition. Below are a few reasons why you need an attorney to seal your juvenile records.
Attorneys Know the Law
This seems pretty obvious, right? If you are going to work on a legal matter, especially one that is as important as this, you need someone by your side who understands the nuance of how juvenile record sealing works in California. Having an attorney by your side also eliminates common misconceptions, like believing that the court will automatically seal your records once you win a case.
It might be possible to read relevant information related to juvenile record sealing on your own. Still, the law is a notoriously complicated area requiring a professional to avoid making a mistake.
Attorneys Have a Better Chance at Sealing Your Records
Sealing your juvenile records is not all about familiarity with the law but following through with the right procedures. It involves filling out the correct forms, turning them on time, and mailing them to the right offices.
All that might seem simple, but the entire process might be deceptively confusing and time-consuming. Many people cannot deal with this process. Therefore, this makes it necessary to have an attorney who can help you through this process.
Attorneys have an Insider's View
When you are looking for an attorney to help you seal your juvenile records, choose someone with a proven track record of success in this area.
Why? Since this kind of attorney knows what they are doing and probably has established a relationship with all sorts of people that would help you seal your juvenile records. Additionally, these attorneys are familiar with the "gray" areas that you cannot learn through reading rules and regulations.
Even though you might be eligible for juvenile records sealing, you must convince several people that you deserve the decision to have your records sealed. No better person could help you do this other than a criminal attorney.
Saves You Money
An experienced criminal defense attorney can be spendy, but once you weigh your decision of hiring one against the money you save by hiring one, it’s a no-brainer. The time of work, fees, and other costs that your attorney will negotiate for you save you money in the long run.
Find a Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Sealing your juvenile records seems easy, but it is a task that needs the intervention of a criminal defense attorney. If you are looking for an attorney who can help you seal your juvenile records, contact us, the California Criminal Lawyer Group.
We focus on offering top-notch legal services to clients looking to have their children’s juvenile records sealed in San Jose. We build strong defenses that increase the chances of having your minor’s records sealed. Contact us today at 408-622-0204 and schedule a free non-obligatory consultation with our attorneys.