A common misconception among many is that someone’s juvenile record in California is automatically sealed on that individual’s 18th birthday. However, it is important to understand that a person’s record is accessible beyond the teenage years unless a judicial order has been obtained specifically to have it sealed and destroyed. This means, one’s criminal record could be reviewed by a prospective state licensing agency, potential landlord, a future employer and present school personnel until it is sealed.
What is in a juvenile record?
Someone’s juvenile record in California can include more information than one might think.
In California, this record often includes each report regarding an arrest and court hearing, which includes a judge’s findings and rulings and probation reports. A record basically details an individual’s criminal activity that he or she was involved in while under the age of 18.
To have a juvenile record sealed, the court must grant a petition to do so. If a court grants a petition to seal a juvenile record, a person’s file is closed, which means the documents basically no longer exist. Therefore, one’s criminal record no longer is public record. After a person has his or her record sealed, he or she doesn’t have to answer “yes” when asked if ever arrested or if he or she has criminal record.
Who may have his or juvenile record sealed?
To have a record sealed in California, one must be eligible. There are four factors that must be met to have a record sealed:
- The person must now be 18 years or older or have had the jurisdiction of the court terminated at least five years ago,
- The person must not have been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony as an adult that involved dishonest or immoral behavior,
- The person, as an adult, specifically must not have been charged with a crime in California that includes a drug offense, fraud crime, sex offense or theft crime, and
- The person must have showed the court he or she is rehabilitated and no litigation remains regarding the juvenile incident or incidents that took place years prior.
Who may not have his or her juvenile record sealed?
Criteria also exists in California that would make one ineligible to have his or her juvenile record sealed. These factors are:
- The person did not meet the required eligibility requirements, or
- The person was convicted of a more serious offense in California, which could include arson; carjacking; firearm offenses; robbery; murder; or a violent felony.
How to apply to have a juvenile record sealed?
To have a record sealed in California, one must petition the juvenile court in the county in which they were convicted most recently. Typically, the applicant won’t need to go to court to have his or her record sealed if he or she has hired a criminal defense attorney to guide him or her through the application process.
There is a chance, however, the judge could ask to interview the applicant. In general, the application process to have one’s juvenile record sealed can take between eight and ten months. Once a petition has been filed, the judge commonly sets a hearing date. The judge then reviews the petition during the hearing, paying attention to any evidence presented concerning the petitioner. The judge will decide, after his or her review, to either grant or deny the petition, based on the person’s eligibility. If the petition is granted, the juvenile record will be sealed.