Now it’s time to see if you’re eligible to seal your juvenile records. Not everyone is. Like most other laws, there are some exceptions and limitations. To determine your eligibility for this remedy, we'll go over the eligibility requirements by pretended we’re traveling on a road with signs, which are actually questions specifically designed to help you assess your situation and determine your eligibility.
1. Why were you detained?
The first road sign on our journey says, “This way for anybody detained as a juvenile for committing a crime.” If the reason you got in trouble was that you were accused of committing a criminal act (called a “delinquent act” in juvenile court lingo), you’re on the right road. Keep on traveling to the next sign.
If you were detained because you were a “status offender,” i.e. you got in trouble because of your status as a minor for such as acts as truancy from school, disobeying your parents, or occurrences such as these, you should stay with us.
If you were taken into custody because you were a “dependent” child (your parents or guardian abused you or didn’t care for you properly and the court asked to do something about it), keep reading for now.
2. How did you case end?
The second traffic sign on our trip says “Only people whose case went no further than juvenile court should proceed.”
If you were under 14 when your record was “earned,” then your case ended in juvenile court and you’re entitled to remain on the trip.
On the other hand, if you were 14 or older and the court decided you weren’t fit for juvenile court treatment, and your case was transferred to regular adult criminal court, you have a problem. Unless both of the following statements are true, you’ll have to detour.
- Your adult criminal court case ended without your being convicted; and
- You haven’t been convicted in an adult criminal court on any other offense.
Are both these statements true as applied to you? If so you’re still on the journey (Welfare & Institutions Code §707.4)
3. Did the case end with a juvenile court finding that you committed a serious offense?
Our third traffic sign says “Pull over and wait if your juvenile court case ended with a finding that you committed any of the offenses listed in Welfare & Institutions Code §707b.” This section lists the most serious crimes of violence (murder, armed robbery, assault with a firearm, etc.) as well as certain sex, drug, weapons crimes. If you cases ended with a finding that you committed one of these crimes, you must wait six year from the date the crime was committed before the court will order your juvenile court records sealed.
4. Have you been in trouble since your juvenile matter ended?
Just about a mile along the way, a roadblock appear out of nowhere. The highway patrol pulls us over and aks the following questions:
- Have you been convicted of a crime since you juvenile record occurred?
- Do you have criminal case currently in the courts?
- Have you done something bad that might lead to a conviction in the future?
If you answer “no” to the above question, you’re entitled to pass the roadblock, get in the express lane and put it on cruise control. You’ve got it made.
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, or even feel the need to hem and haw a bit, keep reading. You may be able to complete our journey instead of detouring.
5. Do you understand the effect of a conviction after juvenile offense?
There are three types of convictions that concern us here:
- Misdemeanors involving moral turpitude
- Regular misdemeanors and infractions
If you were convicted of a pure felony offense after you “earned” your juvenile record, it’s time to part company, since later felonies disqualify you from getting your juvenile records sealed.
If your trouble led to being convicted for a misdemeanor considered to be a “moral turpitude” crime it’s also time for the exit sign, since a conviction for a “moral turpitude” crime after your juvenile record was “earned” disqualifies you for this remedy.
What is a moral turpitude crime? Good question. If we translate that phrase into English, it means crimes that reflect poorly on your morals, such as fraud, theft, sex-and-drug related crimes. If your misdemeanor falls within these or similar topics, ask a lawyer if the crime you were convicted of is a “moral turpitude” crime.
Shoplifter’s Note: Even though shoplifting seems to be a minor crime, it may qualify as a moral turpitude crime because of the theft involved. Again, check with your lawyer.
c. Regular Misdemeanors, Infractions, and Pending Cases
If you’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor, infractions, or have a case pending against you, and still want to seal your juvenile record that was earned before these subsequent events, all isn’t lost. In order to seal your juvenile records, the court must conclude that you’ve been rehabilitated since the time you juvenile record was earned. Obviously, late convictions reflect poorly on your “rehabilitation status.” It all depend on what the convictions were for, when they occurred, or what the convictions were for, when they occurred, or what you’re charged with. A minor traffic ticket (infraction) won’t have the same devastating impact as would conviction for criminal trespass, for example.
If you’ve had some trouble since your juvenile record days and don’t know whether a court would now consider you rehabilitated, check with your lawyer or the juvenile probation officer for your county and tell him or her your situation. You may be able to proceed now or you may have to wait for awhile. In any event, if your later scrape with the law didn’t involve a felony or moral turpitude misdemeanor, then sooner or later you may be able to seal your juvenile record.
If your juvenile record was for “dependency”then likewise, you may be able to seal your record after awhile, even if you’ve had a subsequent conviction.
6. Is there a civil suit still open about the actions that cause your juvenile record to be created?
Since it is possible that the juvenile records may be needed as evidence in the civil case, your juvenile records cannot be sealed until the civil case has been concluded. Once the civil law-suits regarding the criminal act that caused your juvenile record to be created, then there is no need to delay.
7. Are you over 18?
The last question is simple. Are you over 18? If you are, great, you qualify. If you’re under 18, you need to wait until your eighteenth birthday, or until five years after your case was closed.
The Morales Law Firm would like to thank NOLO Press Self - Help Law for sharing this information with us.