Sealing and Destroying Juvenile Arrest Records

Welfare and Institutions Code 781; Penal Code Section 851.7

Sealing your juvenile record can make it easier to find a job, get a driver’s license or a loan, rent an apartment, or go to college because you can legally say – in most cases – that you do not have a record. This is because sealing your record means that those records no longer exist by law. This includes all the records held by law enforcement, the district attorney, probation, and the courts.

In some cases, the court will automatically order your records sealed. In others, the court must grant a petition requesting your records be sealed.

Automatically Sealed: When is the court supposed to automatically seal your records?

The court is supposed to automatically seal your record in two situations. The court is automatically supposed to seal your record if you successfully completed a deferred entry of judgment. Alternatively, the court will automatically seal your record if your case was:  

  1. Dismissed by the juvenile court after January 1, 2015;

  2. You were not found to have committed a Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b) offense; and

  3. The court finds you completed your probation successfully.

If you did not complete your probation or deferred entry of judgment successfully or your case was dismissed before January 1, 2015, you may still qualify to have your record sealed through a petition.

Petition: When am I eligible to have my juvenile record sealed?

There are two ways you can have your juvenile records sealed: (1) Welfare and Institutions Code 781 and Penal Code Section 851.7.  

1) Welfare and Institutions Code 781: Sealing Juvenile Record Convictions

If you were convicted of the offense, you are eligible to have your juvenile records sealed if:

  1. You 18 years of age or older – OR – the jurisdiction of the juvenile court terminated five or more years ago;

  2. You have not been convicted of any crimes of moral turpitude (crimes involving moral turpitude include crimes like theft crimes or theft crimes) or a 707(b) offense after you turned 14 (like robbery or murder);

  3. There is no pending civil litigation based on the juvenile incident you are seeking to seal and destroy; and

  4. The court believes you have been rehabilitated.

2) Penal Code Section 851.7: Sealing Juvenile Records Where No Convictions

If you were never convicted of an offense for which you were arrested as a minor, you are eligible to have your record sealed under Penal Code Section 851.7 if you were convicted of misdemeanor and either:

  1. Released because there was insufficient evidence;

  2. The charges were dismissed; OR

  3. You were acquitted.

Benefits: What are the advantages of sealing your record?

Sealing your records means that you can honestly say you do not have a criminal record when asked about your criminal history in most cases. This will stop employers, state licensing agencies, lenders, school agencies, and landlords from discriminating against you based on your record. If you were required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290, you will no longer have to register as a sex offender.

It is important to note that even when your record is sealed, there are certain circumstances where your record may be reopened:

  • The DMV can still share records they have with insurance companies;
  • The federal government (for the military or other government jobs);
  • If you are a witness in a case or involved in a defamation case;
  • To determine eligibility for Deferred Entry of Judgment in another case; and
  • If your request to have the court unseal your records so you can access them.