Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records in California, process to seal

The State of California allows for the sealing of juvenile court records to protect minors from future prejudice resulting from their juvenile records. Contrary to popular believe, juvenile court records (legally called “juvenile delinquency adjudication”) are not automatically sealed in California when you reach the age of 18.  In fact, to have your juvenile court records sealed you must affirmatively file a petition with the juvenile court in the county where the conviction occurred.  The judge has the broad discretion to decide whether or not to seal your juvenile criminal records (for this reason, hiring an experienced attorney who can effectively deal with the judge increases your chance of a successful outcome). Both arrests and convictions can be sealed.  Once sealed, no one can gain access to them and they will be completely destroyed five-years from the date of the sealing.

You can start the process once either: 

     1. You have turned 18 and completed probation, OR 

     2. Five or more years have elapsed after the end of Juvenile Court supervision.

Exceptions: You are not eligible for juvenile record sealing if any of the following are true:

        1. You were convicted as an adult of any felony or misdemeanor moral turpitude offenses (e.g. crimes such as theft, giving false information to a police officer). 

       2. You have any law violations or warrants as an adult or juvenile.

       3. You have any unpaid fines or restitution, including some traffic fines.

       4. You are undergoing any type of adult criminal court action and/or you are on any form of adult probation now.

       5. There are civil cases pending based on the offenses you are attempting to have sealed.

       6. You were convicted of a major felony (e.g. robbery, murder, kidnapping, arson, rape) after you turned 14.

Once your criminal records are sealed, a person may legally answer “no” to any inquiries regarding a juvenile conviction, and the courts and public agencies must say they have no record of the matter.

If you graduated from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Division of Juvenile Justice, your juvenile conviction(s) will have been dismissed as part of your graduation. If you do not petition to have your juvenile records sealed and destroyed, the convictions will remain on your record until your 38th birthday, then they will be destroyed.

Traffic violations: Traffic records may be sealed. However, insurance companies can access DMV records to determine eligibility for auto insurance, and/or for setting insurance rates.

Process to Seal Juvenile Court Records

To begin the process to seal juvenile court records, a person must affirmatively file his or her petition in the juvenile court in the county where the juvenile conviction occurred. The process of sealing your California juvenile records takes, on average, eight-to-ten months.

This petition will be sent to other agencies that have your juvenile records (i.e. District Attorney, Probation Department, Police Department, Department of Justice, courts).  These agencies may oppose the petition at their discretion, and based on their respective policies and regulations they remain authorized to take whatever actions they please except those explicitly forbidden by your successful petition (e.g. searching for sealed information or asking certain questions about your past).

A probation officer may interview you, conduct an investigation, and provide a report to the court.  At the court hearing, the judge will review any opposition to the petition. If the court approves the motion, the judge will order the police department, the district attorney, the Department of Justice, and the probation department to seal all records, fingerprint cards, and booking photos for 5 years, and those agencies will be required to destroy the records after that 5 year period, including the court record.  If the judge does not grant the Petition, ask for a reason at the hearing and whether you can later re-file.

There is a fee charged for record sealing (a fee waiver may be granted by the court depending upon your financial situation).

Sex offender registration: Sealing your California juvenile records ends your requirement to register as a sex offender, provided the basis for the registration requirement existed solely within your now-sealed juvenile records. If there is any manifestation of a sex crime in the offender’s adult life, then sealed sex offender conviction information can and will be used by prosecution or the judge to increase minimum sentencing guidelines, create harsher registration requirements, and so on.

For more information on California criminal expungements, see the following articles:

Overview of California Criminal Expungements

Eligibility for Record Dismissal or Expungements in California

Process for Expunging Criminal Adult Records in California

Sealing and Destroying Adult Arrest Records in California: Factual Innocence Remedy

Expunging Adult Criminal Records in California

California Certificate of Rehabilitation

Do I Need an Attorney in California to File an Expungement or Petition to Seal my Criminal Records?