Arrest records can follow you for many years after the fact, affecting your ability to find employment, get into the certain colleges, obtain housing, and earn professional licenses. Sealing your juvenile arrest records is a good way to prevent youthful mistakes from affecting you throughout adulthood.
California Welfare and Institutions Code section 781 governs the sealing and destruction of juvenile court records. This statute dictates that any arrest reports, judge’s findings, rulings, exhibits, and probation reports created for your juvenile offense can be sealed and eventually destroyed as long as certain conditions exist. According to this law, only certain juvenile offenders are eligible to have their court records sealed; in order to be eligible to have your records sealed in California, you must:
- Be 18 years old and have completed probation (or if you are under 18 years old, at least five years must have passed since your arrest or discharge from probation)
- Show the court you have been “rehabilitated”
- Not have been convicted of a felony or any misdemeanor that involves a crime of “moral turpitude” (i.e. fraud, theft, sex offenses, drug-related offenses, and offenses involving great bodily injury) since your initial arrest or discharge from probation
- Have started and ended your case in juvenile court
- Not have an open civil suit regarding the actions that led to your juvenile record
Records for certain offenses, such as murder, arson, robbery, and carjacking, cannot be sealed if the crime was committed after you turned 14 years old.
Keep in mind that these requirements apply to those who were arrested and charged with a crime. You are able to petition the court to seal your juvenile record at any time if you were released due to insufficient evidence, the case was dismissed, you were discharged without a conviction, or you were acquitted of the charges.
If your records are successfully sealed, your file will be closed to the public and the documents essentially cease to exist. After a certain period of time, as dictated by California law, these records will be destroyed. After the records are sealed, no one is able to track down this information besides the branches of the military and the Department of Motor Vehicles (which would only use the information if asked by an insurance adjuster whether or not you have driving-related convictions on your record).
When it comes to answering questions on an employment application, it is important to understand how exactly juvenile offenses work. Juvenile proceedings are not considered “criminal” in nature, so you can truthfully answer no if asked on an application if you have ever been convicted of a “crime.” However, if a prospective employer, licensing organization, school, or other entity checking your background discovers your juvenile conviction, your response could be seen as deceitful. Therefore, it’s important to have your records sealed to ensure they will not be held against you.
Petitioning the California courts to seal your juvenile record typically takes 8-10 months from the start of the process. Visit the Seal It website or contact the Law Offices of Peter Blair for more information about the exact process in your county.