A juvenile record encompasses all documents, court orders, and reports in a juvenile court file. It also includes any documents that relates to the underlying case in the possession of the Department of Justice, the Probation Department, and other law enforcement officers. If you did get in trouble as a minor, most people assume that your records are automatically sealed and inaccessible to the general public or even destroyed. Unfortunately, you have to take proactive measures to seal your juvenile records or when you do become an adult, they remain on public databases for employers, landlords, schools and financial lenders to examine.
The only exception is if the juvenile court granted you a deferred entry of judgment pursuant to Penal Code 1000. Once you fulfilled the court’s conditions, then your charges would have been dismissed and your records automatically sealed.
Your Juvenile Record
Your juvenile record is similar to an adult one except that you are not incarcerated as a juvenile, though you may have served time in a juvenile detention facility or residential treatment center or other program, or you may only have committed status offenses such as breaking curfew. In any event, juvenile proceedings are not the same as adult ones as they are not considered criminal in nature. Still, criminal offenses are routinely committed by juveniles, some of which are serious, but they are not considered “criminal” even if they would be if committed by an adult.
The difference is if the juvenile is commits a serious offense such as armed robbery or a homicide. In these cases, the juvenile may be prosecuted as an adult.
A juvenile record typically contains the following:
- Arrest records
- Investigation reports
- Judge’s findings and orders
- Probation reports
These are the documents that anyone having access to the internet can examine for a small fee.
Why Should You Seal Your Juvenile Record?
2. While an adult criminal record can present substantial barriers to leading a normal life, the same may be true for adults who committed juvenile offenses even if they are not considered crimes. Landlords and employers may not know or appreciate the difference and deny you rental of a residence or employment based on offenses you committed as a teenager or adolescent.
Accordingly, it is always in your best interest to seal your juvenile records. This enables you to state on any school, rental or employment application or one for public licensing that:
- You have never been arrested
- You have no criminal record
- And you may state this under penalty of perjury
However, the Department of Motor Vehicles will allow auto liability insurers to review your driving record as a juvenile in determining your liability risk and to set your premiums.
Also, in the unlikely event you are ever involved in a defamation lawsuit, these records would be available and admissible at trial.
What Does It Mean To “Seal” A Record?
Unlike expungement of your adult criminal records, you can have your juvenile records ultimately destroyed unless you committed a crime under California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 707(b). This section refers to felony offenses and for which you were adjudged to not be a fit and proper subject to be dealt with under the juvenile court.
Otherwise, your juvenile records will be destroyed when:
- 5 years have passed when your records were ordered sealed by the court if you were declared a ward of the court
- You turn age 38 and if you were adjudged a ward of the court for engaging in criminal activity (unless California Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b) is applicable)
An added benefit to destruction of your records is that a public licensing agency such as the State Bar or California Bureau of Real Estate will no longer have any records to examine as it would if these were adult records that had been sealed or expunged.
Also, if you were required under Penal Code 290 to register as a sex offender based solely on a juvenile conviction, this obligation is eliminated.
Who Is Eligible To Seal A Juvenile Record?
4. There are two main criteria to meet in order to qualify or be eligible for record sealing. The first is that you must be 18 years of age or older or the jurisdiction of the juvenile court ended 5 years previously, whichever comes first.
The second requirement is that you must not as an adult committed any crime that involved moral turpitude, regardless if it was a misdemeanor or a felony. Such crimes include the California crimes of:
Of course, your juvenile offense must not have a serious one under California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 707(b). These crimes include:
If you meet the above conditions, the court will review your overall circumstances since you last offended and determine if you have been rehabilitated. Also, there must not be any pending civil litigation regarding your juvenile offense.
Should you only have been arrested and never prosecuted, had the charges dismissed or you were acquitted of the charged offense, then you may petition the court at any time or age to have those records sealed.
Process for Sealing Juvenile Records
To have your juvenile records sealed, you need to complete and file a petition in the county court where your juvenile conviction or proceedings were held. After filing, the court will schedule a hearing. In most cases, you will not need to be present unless the judge has some questions about the offense or your rehabilitation. The prosecutor’s office and the Department of Probation can present evidence or object to the process, although this is rarely done unless there are unusual circumstances present.
Once the petition is granted, the court will issue an order to the various agencies that retain such records and instruct them to seal and later to destroy them. If for some reason your petition is denied, you do have the right to petition again.