Having your juvenile records accessible to the public exposes you to all sorts of ridicule. The criminal records may prevent you from taking a step in your life and cause significant discrimination in your daily interaction. Alternatively, sealing your juvenile records has numerous advantages, like having an easy time seeking employment opportunities. Sealing your records may be challenging without legal help from an attorney. This is a result of the numerous requirements the court will require you to fulfill.

Working with a skilled attorney is crucial for a better outcome. If you partner with the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, you will work with a team of highly trained attorneys. Our attorneys will provide legal assistance throughout the entire process of sealing your juvenile records. After expunging your criminal record, you will have a fresh start without more setbacks. We provide our services to clients seeking to have their children’s juvenile records sealed in Orange County, CA.

What it Means By Sealing Juvenile Record

Apart from petitioning the juvenile court to seal your criminal records, you will ask the court to close your juvenile file. Upon closure of your documents, no member of the public will access your past juvenile history since they will no longer exist. According to WIC 781, California allows you to seal your juvenile criminal records.

The law requires you to meet multiple requirements before closing the records. The exercise will help avoid scrutiny and discrimination you may face from possible employers, partners, and other public members. The process may be hectic, and thus you will need legal help from a competent criminal attorney. The attorney will help you understand the whole process and represent you before the court if necessary.

What Constitutes Juvenile Records?

Juvenile records consist of several items and documents. The documents vary as per the case and the court proceedings. Identifying the records you want to seal is essential since you will know your expectations after the juvenile court grants you the petition.

Usually, the records constitute any document related to charging and arrest provided it provides information about a criminal offense you did at the age of 17 years and below. With your attorney’s help, you should investigate your criminal records to determine the documents to include in the sealing process. The significant juvenile records are:

Arrest Records

After the police officers arrest a minor offender, they book him/her for court arraignment. During the minor’s booking process, they provide their full names, and the police officers prepare fingerprint copies for the offender’s easy identification. Also, the police officer will make entries in the occurrence book. They provide details about the collected/created materials stored until the court needs them, thus becoming a part of the juvenile’s record.

Probation Reports

If a minor offender is found guilty of the alleged crimes during the court proceedings, the court may issue punishments against the kid, including informal probation. The punishment issued aims at rehabilitating the offender rather than punishing them. The juvenile judge may assign a probation expert to investigate the rehabilitation program.

Subsequently, a probation report is critical since it provides details involving the whole probation program. The report might include minors’ school attendance if the offender faced driving under the fluence charge. For instance, a probation report states if the offender completed the term and whether he/she complied with the conditions and term of the probation. As you petition for sealing the records, ensure the probation report is included in the petition.

Court Ruling and Judgement

All written court findings and ruling are valid juvenile records. The rulings show all the ongoing proceedings which occurred until the court gave a final verdict. Your attorney should investigate all the existing documents and submit them for record sealing. The final ruling issued by the court is a critical record. The court may hold the offender as a court’s ward, meaning they will be held liable for their actions. Alternatively, the juvenile judge may dismiss the case due to various factors.

Regardless of the judge’s decision on the final judgment, the report remains a part of juvenile records. Primarily, you need to seal them even if they never resulted in a conviction. By doing so, you will skip the negative associations from the juvenile records, although the judge acquitted the charges.

Court Exhibits

The juvenile’s case may involve presenting exhibits in the court proceedings; the court may retain the items/products after trial. The exhibits may include any item based on what the offender used when committing the offense. For instance, if your child faced arrest for possession of drugs, the items in question will be exhibited before the court as evidence for the unlawful indulgence.

Who Qualifies To Seal Juvenile Records?

Under WIC 781, the law allows minors with previous juvenile criminal records to file petitions for sealing their juvenile records. Additionally, the code details the requirements for the prospective petitioner to meet. Below are the basic requirements you should meet before beginning the exercise for sealing the records:

  1. You Don't Have Pending Civil Matters From Juvenile Engagement

Before sealing your criminal records, you have to ensure you don't have unfinished civil cases from your juvenile engagement. Civil and criminal case hearings occur at varied rates in California, meaning they don't conclude simultaneously. As a minor, if you faced civil and criminal charges, the criminal trial may end faster, leaving you with pending civil charges.

Juvenile courts handle criminal matters, not civil matters. Therefore, you cannot seal your criminal records unless you conclude all the issues and obtain the court's relevant directives. Consequently, minors should check on civil activities emerging from unlawful acts to be ready to apply criminal records sealing.

  1. Enough Time Had Passed After When You Received The Juvenile Conviction

Before you apply for juvenile records sealing, you should ensure adequate time has elapsed. You should be at least 18 years when you start the process. This age limit prevents minors under the court's directives from escaping their punishment by sealing juvenile records.

For instance, when a court orders a minor to avoid driving until they attain 18 years after driving under the influence, they will have time limit restrictions that prevent them from sealing their criminal records. You should also meet the set requirements before sealing your records since at 18 years, you are recognized as a grown-up.

  1. You Haven’t Committed Moral Turpitude Offenses As A Grown Up

Moral turpitude offenses are the adverse crimes considered to be unacceptable and shocking in society. The crimes result in significant effects on the alleged victims, including death. If you previously faced charges for committing crimes of moral turpitude, you may be ineligible for sealing your juvenile criminal records despite attaining 18 years. The following are the common examples of crimes of moral turpitude:

  • Rape

Under section 261, PC, rape is considered a severe offense is attracting hefty penalties to offenders. Thus applying for Juvenile record sealing may be impossible; instead, you may face enhanced sentences for the criminal.

  • Murder

According to California laws, murder is a severe offense. The offense may attract harsh penalties, like life imprisonment without parole. Thus after depriving another human being of life or a fetus, you cannot seal your criminal records.

  • Child Abuse

Violating California penal code section 273 equals moral turpitude since you have abused a juvenile. The crime may hinder you from applying for your criminal, juvenile record sealing.

  1. The Court Obtains Persuasive Information On The Rehabilitation Of The Minor

After the minor applies for sealing his/her juvenile criminal records, the judge may ask for evidence from their rehabilitative efforts. Thus, the proof will ensure the minor won't re-engage in crime after completing the process of record sealing. The minors make necessary preparation for proving they did not engage in unlawful actions after concluding a juvenile sentence.

Minors who faced charges for committing severe crimes are primarily under pressure to convince the court of their reformed behavior. For instance, when a minor faces charges for involvement in gang activities, they have to show rehabilitation sessions with a professor on guidance away from committing the crime. Additionally, the minor may present information on their collaboration with police officers to track former gang members.

  1. When You Have Never Received A Conviction

If the police arrest you for a misdemeanor crime, and the juvenile court drops the charges, you can apply for record sealing after the preceding conclusion. After the judge drops charges resulting in your case, your juvenile file will still have juvenile records, including the court judgment. You may have your records sealed depending on the following:

  • Lack Of Enough Evidence

At times, the juvenile court judge dismisses a case due to insufficient evidence.

For instance, the arresting law officers were involved in misconduct, including creating false reports. The produced evidence will become inadmissible. Sometimes, the prosecution team may present inadequate evidence, leading to the dismissal of the case.

  • Acquittal Of Juvenile Charges

When your case proceeds to trial and the district attorney's claims fail, the juvenile judge will acquit the charges. Thus after the acquittal of your case, you will be innocent and cannot face court orders or subsequent penalties.

When The Juvenile Court Automatically Seals Your Criminal Records

Many years ago, the juvenile court did not automatically seal the records. But according to California law, from 2015, when a juvenile offender committed a crime not recorded under WIC70(b), the court would seal the records automatically. This means, if the offender has to complete their probation, the juvenile court has to seal their criminal records.

If the offender fails to complete the probation as per the court, their criminal records won't be sealed automatically. The defendant will file a petition to seal the criminal records through their criminal lawyer’s help. As a parent, if the court issues probation for your child, you should encourage him/her to observe the probation’s terms and conditions. By doing so, your child will have their criminal records automatically sealed.

Note that apart from sealing juvenile criminal records, several agencies may access the records for specific reasons. The situations may include:

  • If the court charges you with another felony offense. The juvenile judge may look at your sealed records to know the sentence/punishment for your current crime.
  • When the prosecutor wants to know whether you qualify for the probation department or deferred entry, the prosecution team may access your records.
  • If the court charges you for a new crime after sealing your criminal record, a prosecutor wants to refer it to a criminal court.
  • In case the offender is already under a juvenile resident, the child welfare will investigate your criminal records to determine the best services and place for you to live.
  • When the offender’s offense prohibited them from possessing a firearm, the department of justice may look at his/her records to ensure they don't own a gun.

Although the law allows your juvenile criminal records to be sealed, it doesn't mean the records are open to the public. The juvenile records will remain sealed but visible under the above circumstances.

The Procedure of Sealing Juvenile Records

Understanding the steps to undertake when sealing your juvenile records is essential as it will equip you with procedural and substantive information. The process of sealing juvenile records may be complicated, and thus, you will require a criminal attorney's help. The process may take around ten months based on the requirements the court will require you to fulfill. The attorney will guide you through the whole legal process.

  • Filing a Petition For Sealing Criminal Juvenile Records

The first step involves your defense attorney filing a petition to seal the court's records where you faced trial. The petition becomes the backbone for your plea. Thus your attorney should include vital information to justify your need to seal the records. Mainly, you won’t be required to present yourself in court. Your attorney will represent you unless the juvenile judge is necessary to interview you.

After your attorney files a petition, the court sets a hearing date. During the hearings, the judge reviews any evidence your attorney resents. The court shared the petition with the department of probation and the district attorney.

  • The Juvenile Court Interview

Upon filing the petition, the juvenile court will receive and then assess it to prepare for an interview. Mainly, the judge will require your attorney to appear before the court for an interview unless otherwise. At the interview, your attorney will answer basic questions about the application.

The interview will allow the juvenile judge to meet you when you appear together with your attorney. You need to make a good first-time impression. Lastly, the juvenile judge will inquire if the court has pressing issues which may hinder an immediate court hearing. For instance, if the offender will travel abroad, their attorney may represent them in court.

  • Receiving The Court Hearing Dates

After the court sets a date, the judge sends a notice to the district attorney. Upon receiving the court dates, set reminders since attendance may be mandatory; the court may adjust the dates because of unforeseen situations. Alternatively, you may fall into a circumstance, thus hindering your court attendance.

Once you're in a similar case, contact your attorney immediately to let him/her convey the message to the juvenile court promptly. The juvenile judge will then set a different date aligning with your availability. When extreme cases prohibit you from attending court, the juvenile court will allow your defense attorney to represent you.

  • Petition Hearing

According to the law, the actual court hearing involves the court holding presentations with the judge assessing the arguments and the available evidence. The hearing usually arises if the juvenile judge who handled the juvenile case blocks your move for sealing your criminal records. The prosecutor may argue your offense was severe. During the hearing, your attorney should present arguments to plead for your claim and fight the prosecutor's arguments.

Your criminal attorney should help you gather documentary evidence to persuade the juvenile judge to seal your criminal records. For instance, you may provide certificates for completing rehabilitation programs and probation reports ordered by the court.

If you never received a conviction after the trial, it's recommended to present your initial juvenile court ruling. Luckily, you may meet the juvenile judge who sentenced you. By doing so, you will have an easy time convincing the same judge.

The evidence you provide before the court is essential to convince the juvenile judge. Alternatively, the prosecution team will present their evidence from different sources. After the juvenile judge analyses all the arguments and evidence, he/she makes a final verdict.

  • Court Decisions and The Possible Effects

The juvenile judge may either approve or deny your request. After approving your request, the judge will order you to seal your criminal record records. Then, the court will send orders to every agency with access to your records. The orders may include statements that order the agencies to destroy your records. So, no public member will access your records anymore; thus, you will have a new start.

If the juvenile judge may deny you the petition, thus maintain your records. Once the juvenile court dismisses your petitions, you will still have room for a re-appeal after a specific time. You will also have an opportunity to access the court verdict and know why the court dismissed the petition.

Minors Whom The Court Cannot Seal Their Juvenile Criminal Records

The law allows you to seal for your criminal records, but not everyone is authorized to seal. The court may prohibit you from sealing for juvenile records when:

  • The court transferred your case, and you received conviction as an adult and not a juvenile. However, you may seek expungement at the criminal adult court.
  • You committed a severe felony listed in WIC707(b) at the age of 14, and the court required you to register as a sex offender.
  • You were convicted for a moral turpitude offense as an adult. The offenses include murder, violent crimes, forgery, drug violation, among other dishonest crimes.

Destroying Sealed Juvenile Records

To Seal juvenile records and to destroy them are different things. At times the court may seal your records but not destroy them. Destroying juvenile criminal records takes place after sealing the records. Although destroying the records does not occur immediately after sealing them. The juvenile court orders for the destruction of past criminal records in two different periods:

  • The first phase takes place five years from the records' sealing when you were a court ward because of truancy.
  • Alternatively, the second phase occurs when you attain 38 years after you were declared a court ward for committing criminal activities.

What are The Benefits of Sealing Your Juvenile Criminal Records?

Just like in the criminal adult record, the juvenile record may affect your various aspects of life and deny you several opportunities. Sealing your criminal records is crucial with the following benefits:

  • Your past juvenile criminal history will not define you. Thus you will be able to start afresh.
  • Your child will qualify for student loans.
  • The criminal record will cease to appear after a background check.
  • All law enforcement agents will have a positive response to any question of your records.
  • The offender will be eligible for professional certificates and license opportunities.
  • Prospective employers will not victimize you.
  • You will be able to apply for more job opportunities, thus enhancing your earning capacity.

Contact A Orange County Criminal Attorney Near Me

Sealing your juvenile records comes with numerous benefits, like having a fresh start in various aspects of your life. However, the process of sealing the records may be complicated, especially when it's your first time. Working with an experienced attorney is the best choice for a smooth legal process. A competent attorney knows the petition process and the requirements; thus, they are critical to your case's success. At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we provide quality legal services when you seek to file a petition for sealing your criminal records. If you seek to seal your juvenile records for crimes charged or convicted in Orange County, CA, call us at 714-740-7848 and talk with our attorneys.