When a juvenile is arrested and charged with a crime in California, their records may or may not be automatically sealed once they turn 18. Here are the factors that the court considers.
Eligibility for expungement
Upon satisfactory completion of your punishment and the court dismissing your case, the California State Legislature amended Section 786 of the Welfare and Institutions Code allows your records to be automatically expunged. However, there are certain juvenile crimes that the court will not seal if you commit them when you are 14 years or older; they include rape, robbery, arson, kidnapping, attempted murder and murder. For expungement, you must be 18 years or older, or your case ended five years ago, whichever comes first.
How to seal your criminal records
In California, you will need to file a petition with the court that handled your case, asking for your records to be expunged. But before this, make sure there is no pending civil litigation concerning your juvenile offense.
Once you file, the court will schedule a hearing where the judge will grant or deny the motion. In most cases, your lawyer will follow up with this; you don’t need to be present unless there are special circumstances where the judge has questions about the crime. The Department of Probation and the prosecutor’s office can object to the process if they have a reason to, but this rarely occurs.
If the court grants your petition, it will issue an order to all agencies with your records to seal and later destroy them. If the court denies you expungement, you have the right to appeal.
Once the court seals your juvenile records, prospective employers, state licensing agencies, school officials, landlords and lenders will not have access to them. This will make it easier for you to get a job, college education, driver’s license or mortgage for your home. However, there may be an exception if you want to get a federal security clearance or join the military.