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Would a juvenile record affect my chances for college/university?

Westminster, CA |

I got charged with a misdemeanor for petty theft when I was 15. Since then, I have changed and done good things for my community. I am now 17 and am worried about colleges and universities. So my question is, would my juvenile record affect my chances of attending universities/colleges? I have big dream for the future on becoming medical doctor.

Thank you so much for your time!

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Attorney answers 3


Many people have been in your position, including lawyers. Make sure that whoever handled your case, that your record is sealed. Sometimes the case is over but the county the case was handled in didn't seal the records. This can be done with a simple phone call. Good luck!


It perhaps matters on the college or university you apply to.

I am on the admissions board of a particular college that does consider such things. So if there are two equally qualified applicants - same SAT's, same GPA from comparable schools, both candidates have varsity sports on the background and both are Eagle Scouts, but one has a criminal record and the other does not, the choice between the two is easy. It will affect you.

Sealing the file is an excellent idea and you ought to move forward on this for precisely this reason. However, sealing the file does not erase the record and it will show a record for 484(a), which is a crime of dishonesty and thus a big deal. Sealing the file prevents someone from reading the contents of the charges and any materials in the file without court permission.

Some schools will be willing to take into account that the lapse in judgment took place two years ago and that people change.

Good luck.


Juvenile criminal history law can be a complex issue and often draws a range of attorney responses that can't be harmonized. I respectfully disagree with the other attorney posts here.

In California, juvenile offenders are not "convicted" -- they are adjudicated. It is an important distinction under the law.

Sealing of records of CA juvenile adjudications doesn't happen without the juvenile bringing a petition for an order re sealing in the court where the matter was adjudicated. Sealing never happens automatically; never without a petition requesting it and findings by the court; and never by phone call. The District Attorney must be served a copy of the petition and may object to the petition. This is all set forth in CA Welfare & Institutions Code.

Yours is one of the offenses that is sealable, as specified by statute, and in the absence of any other criminal history your Petition re Sealing can be expected to be successful.

Once sealed, everything about your juvenile case will be removed from any publicly accessible record and will not be visible -- by any trace -- for any private sector non law-enforcement background checks. In many instances, even law enforcement cannot access a sealed juvenile record without (1) the consent of the juvenile (consent will be requested if you apply for law enforcement employment) or (2) a court order (as may be sought by law enforcement in a critical criminal investigation). CA is very serious about the meaning of a sealing order and even State agencies will back down from a formal demand for statutorily-required info -- as, for example, in an investigation of an application for State license -- once the State agency is notified that the non-disclosed matter has been sealed pursuant to court order pursuant to CA law. That is good news for you as a prospective applicant for CA physician's license.

Even without a sealing order, juvenile adjudications and criminal history are confidential under CA law pursuant to CA Welfare & Institutions Code and it is exceedingly difficult for any private organization or person to gather any info about a juvenile criminal record. The exception is those matters that show up on a DMV record, such as a DUI, but even there no info other than what is set forth on the DMV print-out is available or accessible.

If you are applying for admission to a private university or college, you have few legal rights on any issue. Private schools are private businesses and they can ask for all of the same info that a private employer would ask for -- that doesn't include info about arrests not leading to conviction. Private schools do not have the right or the ability to access legally-confidential juvenile criminal history records, much less sealed records.

But private schools gather such confidential info not by having access to criminal history info that is confidential by law, but by requiring that their applicants "voluntarily" disclose it. Most applicants don't have the sophistication to artfully and effectively decline to provide statutorily-confidential juvenile criminal history info, but it can be done (it is a regular element in my Firm's university-college administrative law practice).

If you are applying to a State school, you won't likely be asked for info that is confidential by law. If that happens, arrange for a short and subject-specific consultation with an attorney who practices education law or university administrative law and you will get some very specific and effective advice as to how to NOT disclose any info that is sealed by order of a court or confidential by statute.

Go for sealing even though the record is confidential. Belt and suspenders. Call me if you need a referral for an attorney to file a Petition for Sealing. I don't presently do work in juv court, but I work closely with many lawyers who do a lot of petitions for sealing.

Christine McCall, License Advocates Law Group

No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.