Sealing California Juvenile Records
By Robert Little
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 781 allows a person to have their juvenile record sealed.
What is in My Juvenile Record?
A juvenile record contains the juvenile court file, all papers and records pertaining to the case, minute book entries, and any other recordings or documents in the custody of law enforcement, probation agencies, or the district attorney’s office. When a juvenile record is sealed, the case and the proceedings are deemed never to have occurred, and the individual can answer “no" to any questions regarding their criminal record or arrests. California Welfare and Institutions Code § 781(a).
Who is Eligible to Petition for Sealing California Juvenile Records?
A person is eligible to petition for a sealing of their juvenile record when they reach the age of 18 or five years after the jurisdiction of the juvenile court has ended (completion of the sentence), whichever comes earlier. The case must also have been completed entirely within the juvenile court system (not tried in adult court). California Welfare and Institutions Code § 781(a).
An individual is eligible for petition if they have not been convicted of any felony or any misdemeanor that involves moral turpitude following the juvenile offense. Moral turpitude is defined as conduct that is contrary to community standards, such as crimes of fraud, theft, sex, or drugs. California Welfare and Institutions Code § 781(a).
An individual is not eligible to petition to seal their California juvenile records if after the age of 14 they were found to have committed an offense listed in California Welfare and Institutions Code § 707(b). Examples of these types of offenses include murder, attempted murder, arson, robbery, certain sexual offenses, violent felonies, and some types of assault. (See below for a complete list of § 707(b) offenses.)
The Process for Sealing Juvenile Records
Your California expungement lawyer will create petition according to specific county procedure. This petition is then filed with the juvenile court. The court will then set a hearing date. The district attorney and the county probation officer will be notified of the hearing and permitted to testify, as well as any other person having relevant information. California Welfare and Institutions Code § 781(a).
At the hearing, the court will evaluate evidence and hear arguments for and against the petition to seal the juvenile record. The court will also determine if the individual has attained rehabilitation. After the hearing the court will make its decision either at the live hearing or later in writing. California Welfare and Institutions Code § 781(a).
Petition Granted – Records are Sealed, then Destroyed
If the petition is granted, the court will order all records in the custody of the juvenile court to be sealed, as well as records relating to the case held by any other agency or official. Once the agencies or officials have complied with the order, they must send a confirmation to the court, and the record will then be considered officially sealed. From that moment forward, the individual can answer questions regarding the incident as if it never occurred. That is, you may answer “no" to employers’ questions regarding prior convictions. California Welfare and Institutions Code § 781(a).
Destruction of the record will occur five years after it is sealed or at 38 years of age depending upon the offense, unless the court determines that for good cause it should be preserved. California Welfare and Institutions Code § 781(d).
Petition Not Granted
If the petition is not granted, an individual is free to try again at some future date. There is no penalty for a denied petition. The petition can also be appealed and will be judged to determine whether there was an abuse of discretion. 
Opening a Sealed Record
Once sealed, a record can only be opened upon court order in actions and proceedings regarding defamation. The record will be confidential and available only for those involved in the action. The record will be re-sealed when the judgment is finalized. California Welfare and Institutions Code § 781(b).
Sealing juvenile records is not applicable to DMV records that contain convictions for Vehicle Code or local ordinance offenses that are considered public record. If a case record containing a DMV conviction is ordered sealed, the DMV will comply by maintaining the record but making it unavailable to the public. The record will only be made available to authorized insurance providers for determining eligibility and rates. California Welfare and Institutions Code § 781(c).
The main reason to obtain a sealing of juvenile record is to be relieved of having the incident available on record. The individual can answer any questions on employment forms, college applications, and loan forms, as if the incident never occurred. This allows the person to no longer be prejudiced by a past conviction.
Relief for Sex Offenders
If an individual was required to register as a sex offender and the juvenile record regarding this matter is sealed, the individual is relieved from the requirement to register. In addition, the court will order the destruction of all registration information held by the Department of Justice and any other agencies or officials. California Welfare and Institutions Code § 781(a).
What Offenses Make You Ineligible for Sealing of Juvenile Records in California?
California Welfare and Institution Code sec. 707(b) lists those juvenile crimes that are not eligible for sealing of records.
The following offenses are not eligible for sealing of juvenile records:
Murder. Penal Code § 187.
Arson causing great bodily injury or done to a home. Penal Code § 451(a)(b).
Robbery. Penal Code § 211.
Rape with force, violence, or threat of great bodily harm. Penal Code § 261.
Sodomy by force, violence, duress, menace, or threat of great bodily harm. Penal Code § 286.
A lewd or lascivious act done by force, violence, duress, menace, or threat of great bodily harm. Penal Code § 288(b).
Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace, or threat of great bodily harm. Penal Code § 288a.
An act of sexual penetration committed by force, violence, duress, menace, or threat of great bodily harm. Penal Code § 289(a).
Kidnapping for ransom. Penal Code § 209.
Kidnapping for purposes of robbery. Penal Code § 207.
Kidnapping with bodily harm. Penal Code § 207.
Assault with a firearm or destructive device. Penal Code § 245.
Assault by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury. Penal Code § 240.
Discharge of a firearm into an inhabited or occupied building. Penal Code § 246.
Certain elder abuse crimes. Penal Code § 1203.09.
A felony offense in which the minor used certain concealed weapons. Penal Code § 12020(a).
Manufacturing, compounding, or selling one-half ounce or more of a salt or solution of a controlled depressant or barbiturate substance. Health and Safety Code § 11055(e).
Certain jail escapes involving the intentional injury of a juvenile facility employee, as defined in Welfare and Institutions Code § 871(b).
Aggravated mayhem, as defined in Penal Code § 205.
Carjacking, as defined in Penal Code § 215, while armed with a dangerous or deadly weapon.
Kidnapping for purposes of sexual assault, as punishable in Penal Code § 209(b).
Certain cases involving kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking. Penal Code § 209.5.
Certain gun enhancement offenses, as defined in Penal Code § 12034(c).
Certain explosive offenses, as defined in Penal Code § 12308.
Voluntary manslaughter, as defined in Penal Code § 192(a).
 In re Gina S., 1333 Cal. App. 4th 1074 (1st Dist. 2005).
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