Sealing Juvenile Records

If you went to court when you were under 18 for doing something wrong, you may be able to get the record sealed. This includes records held by law enforcement, the district attorney, probation, and the courts.  When the court orders your records sealed, it means that the offense that brought you to court no longer exists by law and you can legally and truthfully say you do not have a criminal record when asked about your criminal history (there may be an exception to this if you want to join the military or get a federal security clearance).

Since you can legally say you do not have a record in most cases, sealing your juvenile records may make it easier for you to find a job, get a driver’s license, get a loan, rent an apartment, or go to college.

In some cases, the court will automatically order your records sealed. In others, you must file a petition asking the court to seal your records.

Situations where the court automatically seals your records

Less serious cases dismissed after January 1, 2015
If your case is dismissed by the juvenile court after January 1, 2015 and you were NOT found to have committed an offense listed in Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b) (these are violent offenses like killing, raping, or kidnapping, and also some offenses involving drugs or weapons), you do not need to ask the court to seal your records because the court will do it automatically.  If you complete your probation successfully and the court finds that you did, the court must dismiss your case.  If the court does not find that you have satisfactorily completed your probation, it may not dismiss your case and will not seal your records automatically. If you want to have your records sealed in this situation, you will need to ask the court to seal your records (click to find out how to ask to seal your records).  This is another reason why it is important for you to pay attention to the terms and conditions of your probation and work to get your case successfully dismissed.

Deferred Entry of Judgment
If your probation supervision was under “deferred entry of judgment” under Welfare and Institutions Code sections 790 to 795 and you did what you were supposed to do during the time of that agreement, the court had to order your records sealed when it dismissed your case.  If you did not complete the agreement adequately and the court entered judgment against you, you will need to ask the court to seal you records by filing a petition.

Note: If you do not know or are not sure if your records were automatically sealed, talk to your lawyer or probation officer.

Asking the court to seal your your records

If your records were not sealed automatically by the court, you will need to ask the court to seal your records.  If your case was dismissed before January 1, 2015, it is very likely you will need to do this. In most counties, you will need to contact the probation department to have your records sealed, and that department will help you to file a petition. You can find information online on how to seal your records in your county.  If you have records in more than one county, you should contact the county with the most recent records.

Who qualifies to seal their juvenile records?
You qualify if:

  • You are at least 18; or
  • It has been at least 5 years since:
    • your case was closed, or
    • your last contact with probation; and
    • a judge decides you have been rehabilitated.

Who cannot seal their juvenile records?
The court is not allowed to seal your records if:

  • The court found that you committed a serious offense listed in Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b) when you were 14 or older,
  • Your record is for an adult  conviction in a criminal court (if this is the case, read expunging or cleaning an adult record), or
  • You were convicted as an adult of an offense involving “moral turpitude” (such as a sex or some drug crimes, murder or other violent crime, or forgery, welfare fraud, or other crime of dishonesty).

Can anyone see my sealed records?

  • Car insurance companies can see your DMV records.
  • The federal government (and the military can see your sealed records if you apply for a federal job that requires a security clearance or if you want to enlist in the military.
  • The court may see your records:
    • If you are a witness or involved in a defamation case, or
    • To decide if you qualify for extended foster care benefits after turning 18 (only if you apply for the benefits).
  • The prosecutor and others can look at your record to determine if you are eligible to participate in a deferred entry of judgment program.
  • You can request the court to unseal your records if you want to have access to them.

How do I ask to have my records sealed?
The specific procedures for sealing your records are different from county to county.  Many counties have forms that you will need to fill out listing all of your juvenile arrests and cases.  In most counties, those forms must be given to the probation department which will research your case to determine if you are eligible.  In many counties there is a fee for sealing your record.  If you cannot afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver.  Click to find more information on the specific requirements and contact people in each county.

How long will it take to seal my records?
If your records are only in one county, then the probation department will have 90 days to review your forms and let the court know if you are eligible to seal your record.  If you have cases in more than one county, the probation department has 180 days to do that review.  The court will review your application. The court may decide right away. Or the court may order a hearing. If there is a hearing, you will receive a notice in the mail with the date and time of the hearing. If the Notice says your hearing is “unopposed,” it means no one is opposing your request and you can decide not to go to the hearing without penalty.

Which records will be sealed?
If you qualify, the court will make an order to seal all the eligible records listed on your application. The court can seal only records it knows about. Make sure you list all records from all counties where you have any records. The probation department should be able to help you identify your records, but you can also get a copy of your criminal history from the California Department of Justice if you provide your fingerprints and pay a fee.  The court will order each agency on your list to seal your records. The court will also order the records destroyed by a certain date. The court will mail you a copy of its order. Be sure to keep it in a safe place.

Do I have to continue to register as a sex offender if my records are sealed?
No. If the court seals a record that required you to register as a sex offender, the order will say you do not have to continue to register.

If my records are sealed do I have to report the offenses in the sealed records on job, school or other applications?
No.  Once your records are sealed the law treats those offenses as if they did not occur.  However, the military and some federal agencies may apply different rules and seek to inquire about your juvenile records.

If you are not sure if you qualify to seal your records or if you have other questions, talk to a lawyer.

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