To Seal or Not To Seal:California new 2015 law helps juveniles get their lives back

Photo Credit: Carrie

Photo Credit: Carrie


The state of California rung in the New Year with a plethora of laws but only one would allow juveniles a fresh new start.

The law allows for the automatic dismissal of juvenile petitions and the sealing of juvenile records once he or she  has completed probation.

Sealing a juvenile record means, the records for that particular person cannot be opened without their permission and will be treated as if the crime never existed.

“So in the event the minor does not need something in this area then the record sealing can potentially help,” said U.S Pretrial Services Officer Denelle Gutierrez. “Often times very determined people find a way to turn their lives around and find employment despite their circumstances. It is not easy but I have witnessed people do it.”

The sealing of juvenile records along with the automatic dismissal of juvenile petitions applies to all juveniles for any offense along with individuals who have committed serious, sexual or violent offenses.

The California Courts website states, juveniles whose cases were dismissed by the juvenile court after January 1, 2015 do not need to seal their records if they did not commit a violent offense such as raping and kidnapping because the court will do it automatically.

The law applies to minors who have not committed a violent crime and have successfully completed their probation.

For juveniles who have committed violent crimes listed in the Welfare and Institutions Code 707 (b), they would have to contact the probation department to have their records sealed.

The department will then help the juvenile file a petition.

Currently, the website that California Courts links to its documents is not up to date.

The website provides juveniles with eligibility information about sealing their court records.

Until the website is up to date, juveniles will have to rely on the help of their probation officers.

The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice had this to say, “we have not updated the website since SB 1038 has gone into effect, though we hope to soon! The law only applies to court adjudications that occurred after Jan 1, 2015; every adjudication prior to that date, and all arrest records, still need to be sealed.”

Individuals with records in more than one county should contact the county with the most recent records.

“Many counties have forms that you will need to fill out listing all of your juvenile arrests and cases. In most counties, those forms must be given to the probation department which will research your case to determine if you are eligible,” stated the California Courts website.

Juveniles will be asked to pay a fee for the sealing of their records, juveniles who cannot afford to pay the fee must ask for a fee waiver.

The probation department will have 90 days to review the forms juveniles submitted. If a minor has records in more than one county, the department has 180 days to review the forms submitted.

The court will then review the application and either decide right away or order a hearing.

According to the Senate Floor Analyses document, the court must seal all of the records, “in its custody pertaining to a petition the juvenile is dismissing.”

The military, some federal agencies, the court, prosecuting attorneys, probation department of any county and the California Department of Motor Vehicles can still see the sealed records with limited access.

The DMV will be able to access the sealed records if they need to check an individual’s background to set a car insurance rate and or if an individual committed a traffic or driving offense. A more detailed explanation of the DMV’s role can be found on their website.

The prosecuting attorney and the probation department of any county will have access to the sealed records in order to determine whether or not a minor is eligible for, “deferred entry of judgment.”

The court may also access the sealed records in order to verify, “the prior jurisdictional status of a ward who is petitioning the court to resume its jurisdiction.”

“The SB 1038 bill will help people with juvenile records find and hold jobs so they can work as a member of society,” said author of the bill Leno.

When individuals with a sealed juvenile record apply for a job, they can now claim they have never been convicted or arrested for a crime.

Courtesy: Chris Gat

Courtesy: Chris Gat









“Expungement typically allows former juvenile offenders to tell prospective employers, landlords, licensing agencies and others that they have never been arrested or convicted, thus giving them a fresh start as an adult,” said U.S Pretrial Services Officer Allyson Theophile.

The fresh new start for life after probation also applies to juvenile sex offenders.

Now, registered juvenile sex offenders are no longer required to register. This means when they apply for a job they can say they have never been a registered sex offender.

Not everyone is excited about the 2015 bill.

In an opposing argument for bill, The California State Sheriffs’ Association stated the sealing of juvenile records should not be applied in all cases concerning juveniles who have committed serious offenses in acts of violence.

The California State Sheriffs’ Association is also concerned with the idea that probation departments and prosecutors will have limited access to the records unless they are determining jurisdictional status or edibility.

Prior to the 2015 bill, the sealing of juvenile records had a required all dismissals be made before a juvenile reaches the age of 21.

“Additionally, the bill would eliminate the arbitrary requirement that the court act on a petition to dismiss juvenile adjudications before the minor turns 21 years of age,” said Leno.

The prior bill did not permit the sealing of records for juveniles with serious offenses and or violent crimes regardless if the individual had completed probation.

Now, the bill breaks down the ceiling of age and criminal offenses.

“The auto-sealing of delinquency records in non-707cases is a developmentally appropriate change that will promote social and economic reintegration by former court wards, contributing both to personal success and to public safety,” said Leno.






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