How Do I Seal My Juvenile Record in California?

Below is the general method of sealing a juvenile record. Sealing a record is fact specific with many unique exceptions and possibilities depending on your unique case. Sealing a record is a complicated and lengthy process. It is very important that you consult with an attorney to work with you and walk you through the steps needed to ensure that you have the best chance of having your juvenile record sealed. Not only can an attorney assist you in court during the hearing to seal, but the attorney can also help you gather the evidence you will need to present the strongest case that your records deserve to be sealed. The attorneys of Theta Law Firm can help you accomplish this.

Please consult our other articles dealing with information on how to seal an adult arrest record and expunging an adult record, which can be found here:

The Purpose of Sealing Your Juvenile Record

Simply because you have a juvenile record, many opportunities can be lost. Whether you are applying for a job, or obtaining admission into college, a juvenile record could have a negative impact on your life long after you are a juvenile. In fact, many agencies can look at your juvenile record and develop an unjust opinion of you. To make sure this does not happen, you should consult with an attorney and begin the process of sealing your juvenile record.

What Does It Mean To Seal Your Record?

When your record is sealed, all the documents associated with your juvenile record are closed off from the public. It means that what happened in your juvenile case never occurred and if anyone asks if you have ever been arrested, convicted, or even had a record sealed - you may appropriately reply that you have not.[1]

Are you Eligible to Seal Your Record?

The elapsing of time is a preliminary requirement allowing you to petition the Juvenile Court where you were adjudicated to seal your record. Therefore, you can petition to seal your Juvenile record if one of the following applies:

    1. Five years have elapsed since the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court has terminated; or

    2. Five years have passed since the juvenile was cited to appear before a probation officer or law enforcement officer and no petition was filed to make the juvenile a ward of the state; or

    3. Any time after the juvenile has reached 18 years of age.
Once one of these time requirements is reached, all of the following eligibility requirements apply to petition to seal a juvenile record:

  • You have not been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony as an adult that is considered to involve moral turpitude[2];
  • You have not been found by the Juvenile Court to have committed an offense set out in the California Welfare and Institutions Code § 707(b) after you reached fourteen years of age[3];
  • You as a juvenile have not been transferred and convicted as an adult in adult criminal court[4];
  • The Court believes that you have been rehabilitated;
  • There is no pending civil litigation linked to your juvenile record.
What do I do to Seal my Record[5]?

You will need to file a separate petition for each County that you are seeking to seal records in.

The following are general steps in the juvenile record sealing process:

    1. You will submit a record sealing application that your attorney will help you compile and fill out along with an affidavit to the appropriate authority (usually your county probation department). Currently each county has their own paperwork and forms. The Judicial Council has taken steps to make sure that in the near future there will be a uniform form developed for such filings.

    2. There may be a fee associated with filing the petition that you will have to submit as well.

    3. A screening process takes place where the various agency records are reviewed to determine your eligibility.

    4. A more thorough review process then takes place if you have been deemed preliminarily eligible.

    5. The Court will then notify you by mail of a hearing date in regards to your petition to seal.

    6. Both probation and the district attorney will be notified of the petition if you are deemed eligible and they are given an opportunity to voice their position during the hearing.

    7. You may also present any other evidence and relevant information (including letters of support, diplomas, affidavits, etc) to show that you are rehabilitated, for the Court's review[6].

    8. If your petition to seal is allowed, the Court will notify you when all the relevant agencies have complied with the order to seal.

    9. If the petition to seal is denied, you may re-apply at a later date depending on the reason for denying the petition.
What Happens After My Juvenile Record Is Sealed?

Except in exceptional circumstances, if you are eligible and your juvenile record was sealed, the Court will usually order the records to be destroyed.

If you were declared a ward of the state for being habitually disobedient or truant, then your record will be destroyed five years after the Court ruled that your records should be sealed.

If you were declared a ward of the state for engaging in criminal activity and you have qualified to have your records sealed, then they will be destroyed when you attain the age of 38.

***Note that if you are involved in a defamation lawsuit, your sealed records may be unsealed for a limited purpose and then sealed again at the end of the case. Also, even if your DMV conviction records are sealed, insurance companies could still look at these records to assess risk and set rates.

What if I Want to Seal My Juvenile Record and I was Never Convicted?

Another circumstance can arise that is different from the general sealing of a juvenile record described above. This is a situation, unlike the one above, where a juvenile was never convicted of a crime and would like his or her record sealed.

Under Cal. Pen. Code § 851.7 a juvenile can seal his or her arrest record at ANY time if the following requirements are met:

    1. The juvenile was arrested for a California misdemeanor; and

    2. There was insufficient evidence to hold the juvenile, or the charge(s) against the juvenile were dismissed without a conviction, or the juvenile was acquitted of the charge(s).
In this scenario you can petition the court where the proceedings occurred (or the court associated with the arrest) at any time, to seal all records associated with the case, including arrest and detention records.

[1] California Welfare and Institution Code § 781(a).
[2] Involves certain California theft crimes, fraud crimes, sex offenses, and drug offenses among others.
[3] These are the most serious juvenile offenses and could hurt your eligibility (again if they were committed after the age of 14). These include: murder, arson, rape, carjacking, assault with a firearm, and several other offenses.
[4] California Welfare and Institutions Code § 707.1.
[5] You would be advised to consult with an attorney to assist you with this process as it is generally lengthy.
[6] It is preferable that you have counsel present at this hearing to assist in presenting your case that sealing your record is appropriate and in the interests of justice.

You can reach an attorney at Theta Law Firm by calling us or sending us an email at Theta Law Firm can represent clients all across the State of California, including in any of the following counties: Alameda | Alpine | Amador | Butte | Calaveras | Colusa | Contra Costa | Del Norte | El Dorado | Fresno | Glenn | Humboldt | Imperial | Inyo | Kern | Kings | Lake | Lassen | Los Angeles | Madera | Marin | Mariposa | Mendocino | Merced | Modoc | Mono | Monterey | Napa | Nevada | Orange | Placer | Plumas | Riverside | Sacramento | San Benito | San Bernardino | San Diego | San Francisco | San Joaquin | San Luis Obispo | San Mateo | Santa Barbara | Santa Clara | Santa Cruz | Shasta | Sierra | Siskiyou | Solano | Sonoma | Stanislaus | Sutter | Tehama | Trinity | Tulare | Tuolumne | Ventura | Yolo | Yuba