In California, it is possible to seal juvenile court records for all but very serious offenses. If a juvenile court record is sealed, it may still be accessed in a few situations -- for example, when you apply for a job in the field of law enforcement or health care, if you committed a driving offense, or when the DMV checks your background for the purpose of setting car insurance rates. Under most circumstances, however, after a record is sealed, the events in the record are treated as though they never occurred and you may legally state that you were never arrested or convicted of a juvenile offense.
When a court orders that your juvenile record be sealed, it will also set a later date upon which the record will be expunged -- that is, physically destroyed -- unless the court finds that there is good cause to keep the record intact. (Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code, § 781.)
California law also requires that by 2015 each juvenile court and probation office provide informational materials about eligibility and procedures for sealing and destroying juvenile records to any child who appears before a juvenile court or is placed on probation. (Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code, § 781.)
To ask a court to seal your juvenile record, you must be at least 18 years old or at least five years must have passed since your juvenile court supervision ended. Then, your record may be sealed if a court finds that:
Your record does not qualify for sealing if you committed rape, murder, robbery, or one of the other serious offenses listed in California Welfare & Institutions Code section 707(b) when you were at least 14 years old. (Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code, § 781.)
To seal your juvenile record, you must file a petition with the juvenile court in the county where your case was handled. You can find forms and information by visiting the Juvenile Delinquency section of the California Courts website and, beginning in 2015, juvenile courts and probation offices will be required by law to offer juveniles information on how to seal their records.
It is certainly in your best interest to seal and expunge your record if possible. A juvenile record can make it hard to obtain a job or a professional license, but sealing your record can make it easier to move on with your life. Clearing a juvenile record can be complicated. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for sealing and expungement in California -- or if you need help filing the necessary paperwork -- you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can guide you each step of the way.