When your juvenile criminal records are publicized, you will be disadvantaged since the records will hinder you from moving. Juvenile records may also attract significant discrimination, including your daily interactions. When you seal the records, you will enjoy numerous advantages. For example, the legal process helps you avoid discrimination and scrutiny you might face from potential partners, employers, among other groups of people.
Navigating the legal process might be challenging. You require the legal help of a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer. The attorney will ensure you have a smooth legal process. We have highly experienced and trained criminal defense attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney.
Arguing your case is our main priority. We offer legal assistance to present a petition and increase your probability of winning your case. Therefore, if you seek legal services in Los Angeles, including sealing your juvenile criminal records, we are ready to help you.
Understanding Sealing of Juvenile Criminal Records
Under California WIC 781, the law allows you to seal juvenile criminal records. Apart from sealing criminal records, the court also closes your file. After closing the juvenile file, no one can access your juvenile record. Before sealing the records, you must meet all the requirements the law sets. The legal process might be complex, so you require the help of a criminal defense attorney. An experienced attorney understands the legal process and will help you whenever you need legal help.
What Includes Juvenile Records in California?
The juvenile records include many documents. The items and documents vary based on the juvenile court proceedings. So, you must identify the record you need to seal; you will be able to know what to expect if the court agrees with the appeal.
Often, juvenile criminal records involve items related to the arrest. Your criminal defense attorney must determine whether the documents you want to seal are included in your petition. Leaving specific records unsealed would also have impacts on your future life. So, work with a well-skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney for the best outcomes for your case. The following are the critical components of juvenile records:
When cops arrest a child, they book the minor for a juvenile court hearing. During the booking process, the minor provides their names. The police obtain the minor's fingerprints. Again, the arresting officers will record the information in a records book. If the police collect materials from the minor, they keep the material.
In many cases, the juvenile court issues probation to juveniles. The reports are essential as they detail the entire probation term. For example, the probation reports show whether you adhered to the terms and conditions of the test period. When petitioning to seal your criminal records, your attorney must incorporate the probation details.
Court Judgement and Ruling
All court rulings and judgments are logical records. The court ruling shows the ongoing court proceeding until the judge gives the ruling. Your criminal defense lawyer should investigate your records and tender them for sealing.
The court ruling is an essential record. No matter the ruling, the final verdict from the court remains as your juvenile criminal record. Note you should seal your records regardless of your conviction.
A juvenile case might involve the presentation of exhibits during the court hearing. After the case trial, the court can keep the court exhibits. These exhibits usually include the items used by the offender to commit a crime. For example, when a child is convicted of possessing controlled substances, the drugs will be presented to the judge as proof of illegal indulgence.
Who Can Seal Their Juvenile Records in California?
According to California laws, WIC 781 allows children with a past criminal history to seal their previous criminal records. The law also outlines the requirements the minor must meet. The following are the conditions your child must meet before they seal their criminal records:
You Do Not Have an unsettled Civil Case
Before you seal your juvenile criminal history, you must ensure you do not have a pending civil from the juvenile court. California's criminal and civil case appeals take place at different rates, meaning you cannot conclude the cases simultaneously. When a minor faces criminal and civil charges, the trial ends fast, leaving pending charges.
The California juvenile court system deals with criminal cases and not civil cases. So, as a minor, you want to handle all pending issues and acquire court directives to seal your juvenile records.
The Required Time Has Elapsed After the Conviction
Before a minor applies to seal their juvenile records, they must ensure enough time has passed since their conviction. The law allows you to be aged 18 years and above before you seal your criminal records. The age factor limits ensure the minor does not escape their criminal charges by sealing their records.
For example, when the juvenile court judge instructs a child to avoid operating a vehicle until they turn 18, they will be restricted by time from destroying their juvenile records. You must meet the requirement before you seal your records.
You Should Not Have Committed an Offense of Moral Turpitude
In California, offenses of moral turpitude are considered shocking and unacceptable in society. These crimes attract significant repercussions for the victim. You cannot seal your juvenile records when you have a criminal record of committing moral turpitude crimes. The crimes considered moral turpitude in California include:
Murder is the unlawful killing of a fetus or human being and is a crime. The crime attracts harsh penalties, including life imprisonment. So, when you kill a fetus or another person, you are not eligible to seal your juvenile records.
As per California PC 261, committing rape attracts heavy penalties. Therefore, it is impossible to apply to seal your juvenile records. Instead, you face enhanced punishment and sentence.
The crime is outlined under California PC 273. It is unlawful to abuse a minor in California. The crime hinders you from sealing your juvenile criminal records. Therefore, if you are a minor and face any of the above offenses, you want to speak with your criminal defense attorney. The attorney will help you know what to do next.
The Court Must Obtain Information about the Child’s Rehabilitation
After you apply to seal your juvenile records, the criminal court judge may inquire about evidence from the rehabilitation center. The evidence ensures the child does not commit the offense after sealing the criminal record. As the minor, you must prove you never committed criminal acts after serving your sentence.
Minors who face criminal charges for executing serious offenses want to reassure the juvenile court they have reformed. For example, if a juvenile faces charges for engaging in theft, the minor must present rehabilitation sessions to prove they have changed their behaviors.
You were Not Previously Convicted
The juvenile court will drop your charges when law enforcement officers arrest you after committing a misdemeanor offense. Therefore, you may apply to seal your records after the case conclusion. The court can seal your records considering the following factors:
Lack of Sufficient Evidence
The court may drop your case when they lack enough evidence. For example, police officers engage in misconduct like creating fake records. The court will consider the reports inadmissible. Also, the court may drop the charge if the prosecutor has presented insufficient evidence.
Acquittal of the Charges
The judge automatically acquits the charges if the cases proceed to the determination and the DA’s claim fails. After the case is acquittal, you are not guilty; therefore, you cannot be convicted.
The Process for Sealing Juvenile Records in California
Before you file an appeal to seal your juvenile criminal records, you want to understand the legal process involved in the court. It would be best to work with a well-skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorney will help you determine eligibility for the legal process. Also, the attorney will guide you through all the legal steps. The following are the legal processes involved in sealing juvenile criminal records in California:
Filing a Petition to Destroy the Juvenile Records
Your criminal defense attorney will file a petition requesting the court to seal your juvenile criminal records. Note the petition works like the backbone in your case. Your lawyer must be keen on including all the essential information you require to seal your records.
Also, the petition must include the specific criminal record you want to seal. You must also include detailed arguments to support your claim. If your details are precise, the court will try to track your juvenile records and easily make a final verdict.
Ensure you file your petition early enough to avoid inconveniences. Ask your lawyer about the statute of limitation set by the state to seal your juvenile criminal records. Do a lot of research before filing your petition to ensure you are eligible for the legal process.
The Juvenile Court Interview
When you file a petition, the court receives the petition and prepares for an interview. The court requires you or your criminal defense attorney to appear for the court proceeding. During the court interview, the judge asks critical questions about the request to seal your records.
The judge wants to know whether your attorney comprehends the purpose of filing the petition. During the interview, the judge can make the initial impression. Making the best impression is critical since you increase your probability of winning the case.
Also, the court will want to investigate if you have any pressing matters. The issues might include whether you are traveling outside the US. The judge then analyzes the application and sets the court date.
Knowing Your Hearing Dates
When the court determines your hearing day, the judge communicates to you through a formal notice. Once you obtain the notice, you must comply with the court day. Remember that your attendance at the court hearing might be compulsory. If unforeseen circumstances occur, the court can also change the date with the help of your attorney.
In an emergency, you want to speak to your attorney to convey all the details to the court. Afterward, the court sets dates considering your availability. Under rare circumstances, the case may proceed in the presence of your attorney.
The court listens to your argument during the hearing and evaluates the evidence presented. Usually, the hearing comes to light when the prosecution team who dealt with your case attempts to dispute your push to apply the petition to seal the records. The prosecution might claim your case was severe. So, the prosecution can ask the court not to destroy the records for future reference.
Your attorney can collect documentary evidence at the hearing to help persuade the court to destroy your juvenile criminal documents. For example, your attorney can collect all certificates showing completion of rehabilitation.
You should bring the initial court judgment. The judgment is essential if you want to argue you are required to seal your juvenile criminal records because the court never convicted you of the crime. You may also appear before the judge who dealt with your case. After doing that, you obtain ample time to convince the juvenile court lawyer.
The proof you present is crucial in ascertaining the nature of your previous juvenile case. The prosecutor also provides evidentiary material. Usually, the prosecutor uses information from the probation board and the DA’s office.
Once the judge analyzes the evidence, they make the court's final verdict. The court might adjourn numerous times to ensure the judge has enough time to research the case extensively.
Court Decision and the Potential Effects
The court will accept your request to destroy your juvenile criminal records if you meet all the requirements. When the court approves your petition, the judge sends a court order to all agencies accessing your criminal records. The juvenile court order includes statements ordering the organizations to seal the juvenile records.
Therefore, nobody can access juvenile criminal records anymore. Alternatively, the court may turn down your petition, meaning they retain your criminal records. After the court disapproves of your petition, you can still re-apply again after a period. Again, you will have the opportunity to go through the final court judgment. Again, you will understand what could have led to the denial of your petition.
When Does the Court Automatically Seal the Juvenile Records?
A few years ago, the court needed help automatically sealing juvenile records. However, from 2015, if a minor commits an offense not outlined in WIC70(b), the juvenile court can seal the records automatically. Minorities can file a petition and seal their records with the help of their attorney.
When the court orders your child to serve probation, you should encourage your child to comply with the conditions and the terms of the probation. When you do so, the court will automatically seal their criminal records.
Apart from sealing your records, agencies may access the records for specific reasons. The circumstances may include the following:
When you face a charge for a new felony offense, the judge may access the sealed record to determine the punishment and sentence for the current crime.
The prosecution team may access your records to determine whether you qualify for deferred entry or probation.
If the crime prohibits the minor from owning or possessing a firearm, the justice department may refer to the records to ensure the minor does not possess a firearm.
Remember, although the court seals the records, they will remain visible under the above situations. You want to speak with your defense attorney to help you understand the sealed juvenile records.
Possibility of Reopening the Sealed Juvenile Records
The juvenile court may allow several entities to reopen your records for reference. In every instance, the court will notify you of the aim to open your juvenile records so that you know the process. There are instances where the records might be reopened.
In a Defamation Case
When you are a party to a defamation case, the juvenile court may authorize reopening sealed records. Assessing the records presents evidence that can assist in discrediting the statements against you. An example is when the individual defaming you accuses you of a sexual crime. The records provide evidence of the charges you faced. After the lawsuit, the court will seal your records again. So the public will not access your criminal records.
Insurance of the Company's Scrutiny
An insurance adjuster might request access to your records, mainly when you face DUI charges. The company wants to make a risk assessment when applying for insurance. The department of motor vehicles authorizes the scrutiny.
The requirement helps keep track of reopened juvenile records to avoid an arbitrary process that may result in losing your important documents. Again, the DMV regulates submitting only relevant information to the adjuster.
Does The Court Seal Juvenile Records For All Minors?
California law allows minors to seal their criminal history, but not every minor may seal their records. The court prohibits minors from sealing the records if:
- Your case was transferred to an adult, and the court convicted you as a grown-up, not a child. In this case, you want to destroy your criminal records at the adult criminal court.
- You faced conviction for felony at 14 years and above and were registered as a sex offender.
- When you face conviction for moral turpitude crime as a grown-up, moral turpitude crimes include murder, drug violation, forgery, etc.
Destroying Sealed Criminal Records
After the court accepts your application to seal your juvenile criminal records, there is a high possibility the records will be damaged. However, the judge determines whether the documents will be destroyed or retained.
Sealing juvenile records are different from destroying them. The juvenile court can seal the minor's criminal records and fail to destroy the records. Destroying your juvenile records occurs following sealing the criminal records. However, destroying criminal records takes time, subsequently sealing them. California juvenile court's orders to destroy your criminal records are in two phases.
The first step occurs seventy months after the record sealing. For the court to seal your records, the case must have resulted in you being declared a ward. A ward is equated to pleading guilty to the offense. But, the unwanted actions do not attract significant harm. And that is why the records are destroyed after five years.
The second one occurs when the minor waits for 38 years to have their juvenile records destroyed. The category includes minors declared wards of court after engaging in Offenses. The minors are considered dangerous to the public due to their crimes. So, the public can access your criminal records for longer.
Advantages of sealing Juvenile Criminal Records
Your Juvenile Criminal records may affect you at different points in life and limit you from various opportunities. Therefore, you want to seal your records as it comes with several benefits, including:
- The minor qualifies for undergraduate loans.
- The minor will receive license and professional documents after completing school.
- The juvenile criminal record will not be a barrier to you when looking for a job, as employers cannot see the record.
- The minor's criminal history will stop appearing after the background check.
- The peace officers will respond positively to any inquiry about your record.
- The minor can apply for jobs in different agencies, enhancing their earning capacity. Potential employers cannot inquire about sealed juvenile records.
- You can rightfully deny having a criminal record, including facing arrest.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
When you seal your juvenile criminal records, you enjoy numerous benefits, including a fresh beginning in different fields of your life. However, the legal process can be complex, especially when you have never faced a criminal charge. That’s why you must work with a criminal defense attorney to ensure the process is smooth.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we help you know the requirements to seal your juvenile records. We offer unmatched legal services to our clients. Therefore, we are here if you want to seal or destroy your juvenile criminal record in Los Angeles. Call us today at 424-333-0943 and speak with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.