As a minor, you can easily assume that a sustained juvenile petition will automatically be sealed from the public after completing your disposition. Nevertheless, unless you take steps towards sealing records, they will be available to the public even when you are an adult. The public's access to these delinquency files will hurt all aspects of your life. The records will lead to discrimination and deter life advancement.

Sealing the records will prevent discrimination by schools, employers, property owners, and money lenders when they run background checks. While sealing juvenile records is advantageous, the processes involved are complex and hard to navigate without the help of a lawyer. At the California Criminal Lawyer Group in Anaheim, we will gather all the case’s facts, review them, and determine whether you are eligible for record sealing. We will draft the petition to give you a clean slate if you qualify.

Juvenile Records Components

Your juvenile record comprises various documents and reports based on the nature of your delinquency and the juvenile court processes followed. So, before drafting the petition to seal these records, it is crucial to identify the documents that require sealing to help you set your expectations when the court grants your request.

Typically, juvenile records include all materials relating to your apprehension or petition relating to a delinquency you engaged in as a juvenile or underage. At the California Criminal Lawyer Group in Anaheim, we will closely examine your juvenile delinquency records to ensure that all documents and reports relating to the case are captured in the application. The main elements of the papers are:

  1. Arrest Reports

The arresting officer must draft a detailed report of the events leading to your apprehension, called the arrest report. It contains your name, the alleged crime or delinquent act, witnesses, and the surrounding circumstances. All the details of the incident, minor or not, appear on the report, including pictures from the scene. The report helps record the details of the crime for future reference.

Arrest records are accessible to the public and can haunt you even if the charge against you was never sustained. Therefore, it is only suitable to seal it to avoid future implications.

  1. The Court’s Judgment

Preliminary rulings issued by the court during the adjudication of your petition are usable records. Typically, a judgment is the final part of your petition. It is an official court pronouncement that ends the charges against you and all issues of contestation.

A ruling or judgment is generally in writing and precisely indicates that the petition before the court has been adjudicated. It also shows the petitioner, the defendant, and the date the judgment was entered. With courts adopting technology, court findings are docketed and indexed electronically, making them easy to access.

Many government agencies have access to the records, so we recommend that you seal them so they do not hurt you in the future.

  1. Exhibits or Proof

Any evidence used by the prosecutor and the police to secure a conviction is a court exhibit and includes deadly weapons used in violent crimes, photographs, eyewitnesses, transcribed audio records, and video footage. After case adjudication, these are stored as records, and anybody who wants to access them can, resulting in severe implications depending on the reason for accessing the files.

Understanding Juvenile Record Sealing

When you file a petition for record sealing, you ask the court to close your juvenile file. If the presiding judge grants your request, you deny the public access to these records, as they do not exist. The provisions for sealing juvenile files are provided under the Welfare and Institution Code (WIC 781).

The goal of sealing your file is that, as a former delinquent, you do not want to acknowledge or deal with extra scrutiny from potential employers, landlords, lenders, or colleges about your criminal history. Again, when these records are closed, you will not have to deal with the stigma associated with juvenile delinquency in adulthood.

The common misconception is that juvenile files are automatically sealed when you turn 18. However, this is untrue because only a few records or files are automatically closed when the delinquent attains the legal age. Most documents are sealed later, and you must petition the court to do it. Once closed, the records are destroyed after five years.

Just because the juvenile records have been expunged does not make them completely inaccessible. Only the general public is denied access. A few government agencies can access the records even though, after sealing, they technically cease to exist. For example, when you want security clearance from the federal government or want to join the military or police, these government agencies can access sealed records.

A sustained petition in juvenile court is not the same as a criminal conviction. Therefore, even without sealing your juvenile delinquency records, you can confidently say you have never been sentenced whenever this question arises.

The downside of this, however, is that you can only deny it orally or in text. Still, when the employer, lender, landlord, or licensing agency runs background checks, they will encounter the sustained petition, implicating you. Even if a sustained petition is not a conviction, seal it and all other records relating to your delinquency for a fresh start.

Record Sealing vs. Expungement or Expunction

The terms “record sealing” and “expunction” are used interchangeably, and it is crucial to distinguish the difference when seeking to seal your juvenile delinquency record.

There are two situations when you can use record sealing. One is in juvenile cases, where records are closed when the judge grants your petition. The other situation was in criminal court cases where you were arrested for a crime but never convicted because you were innocent. You can file a motion to seal the arrest record in these circumstances.

On the other hand, record expungement is only for adults convicted of specific criminal offenses. After the expunction, the court changes official records to show that the charges against you have been “dismissed” instead of indicating a “conviction”. With an expunged record, you can confidently answer “no” in a questionnaire or job application when asked whether you have been convicted.

In juvenile delinquency record sealing, the terms “sealing” and “expungement” have no significant difference. Nevertheless, the phrase frequently used to refer to removing delinquency records from the public database is “sealing”.

WIC 781 Eligibility

Before filing a petition under WIC 781 for juvenile delinquency record sealing, finding out if you qualify is crucial. This step is essential, preventing you from filing an invalid application and wasting money and time. You qualify for record sealing if:

  • You are above 18 years old, or the court’s jurisdiction ended five years ago.
  • You have not been recently found guilty of a felony or moral turpitude crime.
  • The court is convinced your rehabilitation from delinquent conduct was successful.
  • You do not have any pending civil suits due to your previous delinquency.

On top of these eligibility requirements, PEN 851.7 highlights another category of persons eligible for juvenile delinquency record sealing. Under the statute, you qualify for record sealing if, as an underage, you were apprehended for a misdemeanor offense and:

  • You were acquitted of the charges.
  • The court dismissed the charge.
  • Or were discharged due to a lack of evidence.

If you belong to this class, you must not wait five years or turn 18 to seal the juvenile records. You can do it at any time, just like it happens with adult criminal apprehension records.

Nevertheless, you are ineligible to file a petition for expunction under WIC 781 if the offense leading to a conviction is listed under WIC 707(b), like arson, murder, robbery, carjacking, violent felonies, and firearm offenses.

Juvenile Delinquency Records Sealing Process

Understanding the procedural information involved in filing a petition to close your juvenile delinquency records is essential. Typically, you bring the petition to the county court where the conviction or petition was sustained. The process itself takes approximately eight to ten months and involves the following steps:

Petition Filing

The first step in obtaining a clean slate from your criminal past is to file a petition requesting that the court seal your records. At the California Criminal Lawyer Group in Anaheim, we encourage you to partner with an experienced lawyer when filing the petition. This phase is the strength of your plea to the court, and you must enter all the necessary information diligently to increase the chances of the court granting your request. Your lawyer understands what is needed in the petition and will complete the required forms to capture the details that justify your request, including:

  • The types of records you want to seal.
  • Arguments for your petition.

Your legal representative will fill in precise details to make it easy for the court to track the records and issue a verdict early. Also, the lawyer will ensure you bring the petition early enough to avoid inconveniences hindering the record expunction. The law does not provide a timeline within which you must submit the petition to the court, although you must consider the time-related conditions provided under the law.

Petitioner Interviewing

After submitting your petition to the court, the judge will review it thoroughly before arranging an interview. Do not worry about attending the interview because your criminal defense lawyer can appear for you unless there are exceptional circumstances in your case.

Nevertheless, some judges will insist on cross-examining the petitioner seeking to seal records instead of their legal representative. Under these circumstances, you must appear for the interview. In the court meeting, they will ask questions regarding your application for juvenile delinquency record sealing to establish whether you and your lawyer have clear reasons for requesting record sealing.

Also, the interview with the judge allows for a first impression of you. Therefore, when appearing in person for the interview, build an excellent first impression to elevate the chances of a favorable ruling.

Lastly, it is at the interview that the judge asks about any pressing matters that can prompt the court to hold a hearing as soon as possible. Your lawyer can cite that you will be leaving the country almost immediately for an overseas business or work opportunity, hence the need for the court to rule on the petition as soon as possible. The judge will then review your lawyer’s application and determine if the reasons given warrant an adjustment to the petition hearing date.

Obtain a Court Date

After the judge has reviewed your application, they will settle on a date for the proceeding and send an official notice to your lawyer and all other relevant parties. Ensure you set a reminder for the date, especially when your presence in court is mandatory.

And just because the court has issued a hearing date does not mean the proceeding must happen as scheduled. Unforeseen situations can arise on the hearing date, preventing you from attending court. If you have an emergency that prevents you from appearing, communicate it with your lawyer as soon as possible to deliver the information to the judge.

When the judge is promptly notified of your unavailability, they will reschedule the hearing. Nevertheless, the judge can proceed with the hearing with your legal representative appearing on your behalf.

The Petition Proceeding

If the prosecutor assigned to your juvenile delinquency case challenges your application for an expungement, a petition hearing must happen. In the hearing, your lawyer will present arguments for the petition, while the prosecutor will oppose the application for record closing.

The prosecutor will oppose the closure of your juvenile records if they believe your delinquency act was a severe crime and that there is a need to maintain your documents for future review. The opposing side will present evidence against the petition. Therefore, ensure that you prepare adequately for the proceeding by gathering all the relevant evidence to show that you have completed your rehabilitative treatment. Make copies of the probation officer’s report and certificates for completing mandatory rehabilitative treatment.

If the petition against you in juvenile court was never sustained, you can bring a copy to court to convince the judge that the records should be closed to the public because you were never convicted. Again, if you are lucky enough to appear before the judge who presided over your juvenile case, you will easily convince them to seal your records.

By gathering solid evidence, you can convince the judge that you have corrected and learned from your previous mistakes and are a law-abiding citizen.

Once you have made your arguments for the application, the prosecutor will have an equal chance to water down the facts you have presented to discredit your claim. After you have all presented your arguments, the judge will evaluate the evidence submitted for a decision.

Possible Rulings

The court can grant your request for record sealing and issue orders to close your juvenile files. All entities with access to the files will be ordered to destroy them. Also, the records on the public database will be sealed, and the public will not have access, giving you a clean slate.

Alternatively, the judge can turn down your application and choose to keep the juvenile files. Do not lose hope when your petition is denied. There are several reasons the court can deny your application. Therefore, you must review the court’s judgment and identify errors or weaknesses in the application that could have prompted the denial. That way, you can appeal the decision or apply afresh for record sealing.

Benefits of Sealing or Expunging Your Juvenile Files

If your juvenile file remains open or accessible to the public, it will adversely affect many aspects of your life. Regardless of your hard work and efforts to become a responsible citizen, your past will always haunt you. At the California Criminal Lawyer Group in Anaheim, we have explained the benefits of record sealing that you should know about:

  1. It Increases the Likelihood of Finding Proper Housing

Property owners or managers typically run background checks on potential tenants before offering a lease agreement. And because once you become an adult, you will need to move out of your parent’s home, refusing to close your juvenile records can result in being denied a rent or lease agreement for an apartment. Nevertheless, if you seal these records, your criminal record will be inaccessible to the landlords who run background checks, and you will be free to rent or lease an apartment in a place of your choice.

  1. It Becomes Easy to Find Employment

The law prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants based on their criminal records. However, even if you qualify for the job, the employer can use your juvenile delinquency record to discriminate against you because they find you untrustworthy due to your criminal past. Luckily, if you seal these records, they will no longer be accessible to employers, and you will have an equal shot at a job like other applicants with no history of delinquency.

  1. You Do Not Lose Out on Future Promotion Chances

A juvenile delinquency record can hurt your chances of securing a promotion, even if you have a job. When applying for a job promotion, the employer could require a license or certification to secure it. Unfortunately, most entities issuing these licenses or certifications run background checks on applicants. If they encounter a criminal record, they will deny you a license or certificate, and you will miss out on the promotion. Nevertheless, when your file is clean after record sealing, you will obtain the relevant certification, and the employer will consider you for the promotion.

  1. Increases Your Chances of Receiving Educational Financial Aid

If you wish to pursue higher education to improve your employability and living standards, you will need money. Higher education is expensive, and many people are forced to rely on financial help from the government. One way the government eliminates applicants is through criminal records. If you have a juvenile record, the chances of receiving assistance are minimal compared to those with a clean record. The issue of sealing your records comes up because, with sealed records, your criminal history will be inaccessible, giving you an equal chance to receive monetary assistance for your higher education.

Other benefits of record sealing include:

  • It gives you peace of mind.
  • Streamlines the adoption process.
  • It becomes easy to access loans from financial lenders.

Record sealing offers many benefits, but you need the right criminal lawyer to have the record sealed.

Reasons You should Hire a Lawyer to Seal Your Juvenile Delinquency Records

In the same way that you need a physician for a medical procedure, you need the help of a lawyer to apply for juvenile record sealing. You require a legal representative because they understand the juvenile court laws and WIC 781. With an experienced lawyer, you will avoid misconceptions like believing the record will automatically clear once you win the case or complete your sentence. Sealing a juvenile record is complex; you need a lawyer to help you maneuver.

Similarly, a profound lawyer will increase your chances of sealing the records. A juvenile attorney understands WIC 781 and the correct procedures for filling out application forms. They will ensure all the files you want to close are captured in the application and submit the petition on time. If you opt to do it yourself, you could make errors that result in the denial of your application.

A reputable juvenile record sealing lawyer knows what they are doing and has developed relationships with prosecutors and judges through the many clients they have represented. Also, they understand the areas of these petitions that you can only learn through practice and not reading, enabling them to convince multiple parties that you deserve a fresh start from your past wrongdoings.

Find an Experienced Anaheim Criminal Lawyer Near Me

You will enjoy several benefits by sealing your juvenile delinquency records, including obtaining a fresh start in many aspects of your life. The sealing process appears easy, but you need the help of a criminal defense lawyer with knowledge of WIC 781. At the California Criminal Lawyer Group in Anaheim, we provide top-notch legal representation when applying to seal juvenile records. With our assistance, you can start afresh and leave your past mistakes behind. Contact us today at 714-766-0965 to schedule a no-obligation consultation.