After living with a juvenile record on your criminal record, you may face several inconveniences in your daily life that you would have otherwise avoided by having the records sealed. Therefore, you may consider starting a record sealing process for your records to promote more accessible interactions when looking for employment prospects or simply to attain peace of mind. Dealing with the various requirements set out in statutory provisions and court orders should guide you to learn whether you qualify for the process. If you are eligible to have your juvenile records sealed, you can get in touch with a criminal attorney who will help you meet the various requirements stipulated in procedural guidelines.
Finding a reliable and well-experienced criminal attorney is essential for the best results, as he/she will be responsible for a significant part of the record sealing process. Hence, you want to entrust your petition to a lawyer who has worked on record sealing and is conversant with technicalities. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, you will have access to our highly skilled team of attorneys serving Los Angeles, California. Partnering with us will promote a smooth process to help you seal your juvenile records and continue with your life without experiencing any more setbacks.
The Legal Definition of Juvenile Records and Record Sealing
When a minor faces a court process to answer charges for an offense, he/she will obtain a juvenile record based on the interaction with formal court proceedings. Consequently, juvenile records exist to certify any past court arraignments and hearings you underwent as a juvenile. Usually, the juvenile records are available even when the juvenile court’s presiding judge dismissed a case based on several factors.
Juvenile records include all official documents related to your criminal activities. Among the records is police reports written by the law enforcement officers who took you in their custody after your engagement in unlawful activities. Moreover, court records form part of juvenile records, as they indicate every court appearance and matter related to your illegal indulgences that the judge handled. Court records include:
If your juvenile court proceedings had found you to be a ward of the court (guilty of the charged offense), you might have been subject to several penalties, including probation. The sentences issued in juvenile cases focus on rehabilitating the minor instead of retribution or punishing him/her. The judge may have assigned a probation officer to follow up on your rehabilitative program.
The officers should create reports for presentation in court to inform the presiding judge of your progress. For example, the reports will include your DUI school attendance record if you had faced juvenile DUI charges. Therefore, all probation records, including the judge’s initial written orders, form part of the juvenile records.
Moreover, your records will include arrest documents. Usually, police officers will book you for a court arraignment after the arrest. You will provide your full name during the booking, take mug shots, and create fingerprint copies for identification. Also, the arresting officers must make an entry in the occurrence book, whereby he/she gives details surrounding the arrest. All the material created or collected after your arrest will remain in storage until needed, meaning that it becomes part of your juvenile record as well.
If your juvenile court proceedings involved presenting exhibits in court as evidence used against you, the items would also remain in storage even after the trial conclusion. Court exhibits can be any items, depending on what you used to commit an offense. For example, if you faced arrest as a minor for possessing drug paraphernalia, the things in question are exhibits presented to the judge as proof of your unlawful indulgence.
Court Rulings Prepared by the Judge
Any written court rulings and findings available in the judgment are also juvenile records. The sentences in question include any preliminary orders issued before your juvenile matter proceeded to trial. Additionally, when the presiding judge gives a final verdict, relevant court officials store them as part of your records.
Parties Eligible for Sealing Juvenile Records
When you decide to have your juvenile records sealed, it is necessary to check whether you meet the eligibility criteria. This way, you will avoid making preparations, only to face rejection based on ineligibility. Section 781 of the Welfare and Institutions Code creates the provision that allows all persons with past juvenile records to petition for record-sealing and provides the requirements for any prospective petitioner. The following are the requirements to satisfy before the record-sealing process begins:
requirements for any prospective petitioner. The following are the requirements to satisfy before the record-sealing process begins:
1. Adequate Time Has Lapsed Since your Juvenile Conviction
Ensuring that you have allowed enough time to elapse before applying for a juvenile record-sealing is essential. Here, the primary requirement to fulfill is that you are at least eighteen years old when beginning the application process. The age limit exists to prevent minors who are still under juvenile court directives from evading liability by sealing their records. For example, if the court ordered you not to drive until you are eighteen based on a past DUI offense, you will face the time limit restriction that prevents record-sealing for minors.
Additionally, since eighteen years marks the official recognition as an adult, you must satisfy the set requirement before seeking services to seal your juvenile records. You no longer identify as a juvenile by eighteen years, meaning that documents are irrelevant to your current status.
Alternatively, suppose you received juvenile court orders that apply after you are eighteen years. In that case, you will have to wait for five years after the relevant court’s jurisdiction on your matter concludes. Hence, you will wait before applying your records for sealing despite finishing your rehabilitative sentence, despite meeting the age limit criteria. After confirming that the five-year jurisdiction period is over, you may then make the relevant record-sealing applications.
2. The Court Receives Persuasive Information on Your Rehabilitation
Additionally, after making an application for sealing juvenile records, the presiding judge may require proof of your rehabilitative efforts. The demands aim to ensure that you will not re-engage in criminal activities after the record dealing process is complete. Hence, you want to make adequate preparations to prove that you have engaged in lawful activities since your juvenile sentence concludes.
People who faced charges of severe crimes as minors will most likely be under more scrutiny and pressure to persuade the court of their reformed ways. For example, suppose you faced juvenile charges for involvement in gang activities. In that case, you should show any rehabilitative sessions you had with a professional to guide you away from the unlawful engagements. Moreover, it would help if you presented any relevant information concerning your collaborations with law enforcement to track down your former gang members.
3. You Do Not Have Pending Civil Matters from Juvenile Engagements
Before preparing a petition to seal your records, you must also ensure that you have no unfinished civil cases dating back to your juvenile engagements. Usually, criminal and civil case hearings progress at different rates, meaning that one is likely to conclude earlier than the other. Therefore, if you faced criminal and civil charges as a minor, the criminal trial may have ended sooner, leaving a pending civil matter.
It is also crucial to note that the juvenile court only handles criminal matters, meaning that any civil cases filed against you as a minor are in a different jurisdiction. Consequently, you cannot have your juvenile records sealed unless all matters are conclusive and you receive the relevant court directives. Thus, we recommend checking all possible civil cases emerging from unlawful activities as a minor to ensure that you are ready to apply for the record-sealing.
4. You Have Not Committed Crimes of Moral Turpitude as an Adult
Despite meeting the general criteria of attaining eighteen years, you may become ineligible for juvenile record sealings after committing crimes of moral turpitude. The crimes involve engaging in adverse criminal operations that the general public considers shocking or unacceptable in society. Thus, most moral turpitude crimes cause devastating effects on the victims, including irreversible outcomes like death. Some common crimes of this nature are:
Unlawfully depriving another human being of life is a severe offense provided for in section 187 of the California Penal Code. Additionally, the crime is a capital offense that attracts harsh penalties like life imprisonment without a parole option. Hence, you are ineligible for a juvenile record sealing while facing murder charges.
Violating section 273(d) PC also amounts to moral turpitude, as you will have abused a child. The crime may also include physical violence on the child victim, making it hard for you to apply for record-sealing successfully.
Additionally, committing rape, contrary to section 261 PC, is a severe offense that attracts hefty penalties to defendants found guilty. Thus, applying for juvenile record sealing may be impractical, especially if you are likely to face enhanced sentences for your criminal charge.
5. Persons Who Did Not Receive a Juvenile Conviction
A final group of past accused minors falls within the category of people eligible for record-sealing. If you faced arrest for committing a misdemeanor as a minor but had the charges dropped, you can apply for the sealing of records any time after the proceedings’ conclusion. There are several reasons for the judge to drop charges, leading to case closure.
Since records like court rulings will still be available as your juvenile records, you can have them sealed based on:
Sometimes, the judge will dismiss a juvenile case based on insufficient or inadmissible evidence. For example, if the arresting police officers engaged in police misconduct like creating falsified reports, all evidence related to the misconduct becomes inadmissible. Other times, the prosecutor may present insufficient evidence from the onset, leading to an early case dismissal.
Acquittal of Charges
If your juvenile case proceeded to trial whereby the prosecutor/District Attorney’s claims failed, the judge would acquit you of the charges. Upon a case acquittal, you will not face subsequent penalties or court orders, as you are innocent.
The Process of Sealing Records
After establishing your eligibility to proceed with applications, you can begin making adequate preparations with your criminal attorney for the record-sealing process. Usually, the entire process may last for eight to ten months, depending on the court requirements you need to fulfill. We recommend contacting your criminal attorney as soon as you decide to apply for record sealing, as he/she provides professional advice during each step. The procedure to follow involves:
Filing a Record-Sealing Petition in Juvenile Court
In your petition documents, you want to include submissions that state the specific juvenile records for sealing. Working with a criminal attorney makes your work easier, as he/she will prepare the petition submissions and send them to court on your behalf.
Also, the judge may allow your lawyer to present the petition application in your absence, meaning that you will only have to review the updates sent by the attorney. However, the judge may require you to appear in person for an oral interview that determines whether you meet the set requirements. Nevertheless, you do not have to worry about an in-person interview, as your criminal attorney will be present to help you answer the judge’s questions.
Receiving a Hearing Date
After the presiding judge accepts your petition, he/she proceeds to set an official hearing date for your case. Upon receiving the date, your criminal lawyer will begin compiling all relevant sources of information and evidence to present in court.
During the set hearing, the judge accepts evidential sources that prove your eligibility for the record-sealing process. He/she will also review evidence that your lawyer presents to prove your ongoing reforms that aim to assure the court of improved character since serving the juvenile sentence.
The prosecutor or District Attorney in charge of juvenile court trials and records will also appear during the hearing proceedings to affirm your records and present any concerns involving the allowance of sealing records.
For example, the prosecutor may bring up previous aggravating factors in your juvenile matter to discredit your current application. However, your lawyer’s counter-arguments will be beneficial for your case, as he/she will provide acceptable responses to the prosecutor’s claims.
Further, documents from the probation department are acceptable during the hearing stage, whereby the probation officer assigned to you during the juvenile sentence presents all necessary records. The judge will then assess the probation reports to check on your compliance. If you followed all set directives, you would have an easier time convincing the judge to allow you to seal the juvenile records.
Receiving the Judge’s Verdict
Lastly, the judge will issue the final verdict after hearing all parties present in the hearing proceedings. The basis of the judge’s determination is from analyzing all presented evidence to determine whether you are a suitable party for the record sealing. If the judge allows you to seal juvenile records, he/she authorizes a court order to any person or agency who possesses the documents. The confirmed court orders require all addressed parties to seal your records and seize from referring to them in the future.
Conversely, if the judge denies access to sealing your juvenile records, the status quo is maintained, meaning that anyone who can access the documents may still refer to them. However, you can retry filing a petition after a reasonable time lapse.
Instances When Sealed Juvenile Records Undergo Re-Opening
Despite concluding a successful sealing of juvenile records, some scenarios require reopening the documents and other available material for reference. However, the authorities responsible for reopening the sealed records must observe the set procedures to promote an orderly and discreet re-opening process. Instances leading to re-opening sealed records include:
When the Department of Motor Vehicles Needs to Inspect Your Driving Records
If you faced previous DUI or other traffic-related offenses as a juvenile, the DMV would need to re-open your records to obtain reference material. The need to reopen the documents arises when you have pending applications with insurance adjusters who require certified evidence of risk factors and your eligibility to receive insurance services.
When You Get Involved in a Defamatory Suit
You may also have to re-open your juvenile records after involvement in a defamation lawsuit to provide the required evidence for the case. After applying the necessary details to the defamation suit, you can then begin the process of re-sealing the records.
Having Sealed Records Destroyed
Lastly, you may choose to have the sealed records destroyed, meaning that they will be unavailable for re-opening. Usually, you can have the sealed juvenile records destroyed five years after the order to close them. However, suppose the judge presiding over your juvenile case declares your ward of the court for engaging in criminal activity. In that case, you can only have closed records destroyed when you turn thirty-eight years old.
Benefits of Sealing Juvenile Records
Undoubtedly, sealing your juvenile records presents several advantages. They include:
- You have access to more employment opportunities, as potential employers cannot inquire about sealed juvenile records.
- You can rightfully deny having a criminal record, including facing arrest.
- You do not have to register as a sex offender if the orders were under a juvenile conviction.
Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me
When you decide to have your juvenile records sealed, you will need to work with a skilled and experienced criminal attorney for a smooth process. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we dedicate ourselves to providing excellent legal services to our clients in Los Angeles, California. With our help, you can get started by filing a petition geared towards a successful record-sealing process. Call us today at 424-333-0943.