Juvenile Record Sealing and Expungement

The laws in most states allow for expungement of juvenile criminal records. Sometimes the records are even destroyed. Some states, however, simply seal the records. All these options are intended to give juvenile offenders a second chance as they enter into adulthood.

But even for juvenile offenses, there are limits. Some states for instance, do not allow for expungement for minors if the crimes received a first degree conviction, or if the minor has too many repeat offenses. As a general rule, crimes committed by juveniles are hidden from the view of the public, unless they are particularly heinous.

In California, juvenile criminal records are sealed and inaccessible by the general public according to California Rule of Court 5.552, and Welfare and Institution Code section 827. Prior to age 18, only court personnel, parents, the minor, legal guardians, and attorneys involved in those cases or subsequent cases can access a minor’s criminal record. Once a person turns age 18, they have the option to petition the court to have the record permanently sealed. The record will become unavailable to any interested parties, and destroyed five years after sealing. According to Welfare and Institutions Code 389(c), 781(d), and 826, the court may rule to keep the records from being sealed and later destroyed. When a dependent turns age 28, or a ward of the state turns 21 or 38, records will also be sealed and destroyed.

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