Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

What defense options are available to a client facing charges in juvenile court? Can juvenile records be sealed?

Posted on: June 5, 2007 at 12:49 a.m.

California law provides that juvenile court is about rehabilitation not punishment, except in cases of serious violence such as murder and rape. Unlike adult court, all proceedings are confidential and not open to the public. The law attempts to straighten out youthful offenders through monitoring school achievement, home life, curfew, and general attitude. Essentially a juvenile court judge is a surrogate parent. Minors are given multiple chances through the Welfare & Institutions Code to have case dismissed, and charges sealed, if they follow the court's orders. A juvenile has the same constitutional rights (except a jury trial) to challenge the evidence against him in a court through cross examination, and calling own witnesses. Most minors are eligible to have their records sealed after they turn 18 years old. The exception to these flexible laws are cases of murder, rape, and the sort, wherein a minor who is at least 14 years old may be prosecuted in adult court, if the DA chooses to send him to state prison. The law feels that the seriousnes of these crimes outweighs the need for rehabilitation.

Tagged as: faq, juvenile law


Law Blog on June 15, 2007 at 4:44 p.m. wrote:

Similar to an expungement in adult court which cleans a criminal conviction, the sealing process further protects the confidentiality of juvenile prosecutions, which are not considered 'convictions' but rather sustained petitions. The process does entail a hearing in front of a judge on the issue of whether the juvenile records should be sealed.

Eric T. on June 15, 2007 at 12:19 p.m. wrote:

If juveniles are allowed to recieve a 'fresh start' can they abuse this opportunity. Is there a maximum to which a person can obtain a seal on their record? How difficult is the process?

Law Blog on June 13, 2007 at 12:37 a.m. wrote:

Most crimes - including drug sales, DUIs, assault, and other felonies - committed by juveniles are subject to sealing provisions under the Welfare and Institutions Code, except the most violent crimes. The spirit of this law is to allow juveniles to receive a 'fresh start' upon reaching the age of majority.

Anand G. on June 7, 2007 at 8:20 p.m. wrote:

In 'Last Chance in Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth,' a very novel and successful method for rehabilitating criminal youth is presented. I agree that rehabilitation is a far superior option to punishment. However, rehabilitation cannot focus simply on the defendant. Juvenile crime is a societal problem and we must deal with it as a society. Every individual must take upon some responsibility in this. The program that has succeeded in Texas is based on the idea of relational responsibility, which says that every person in society is related to the other. Thus everyone is responsible for juvenile crime, not just the youth. Only when we as a society address this issue can we help these juveniles reintegrate into society and lead a successful and normal life.

Vasyl G. on June 6, 2007 at 9:39 p.m. wrote:

Could you please clarify the meaning of sealing juvenile records. Is that the same as considering them purged or expunged, or is it more along the lines that they will remain with you for the rest of your life, but do not come up in background checks and the like? Would offenses like possession of narcotics or even selling of narcotics in 'small quantities' be considered too serious to be sealed?

Sella Benyamin on June 6, 2007 at 6 p.m. wrote:

I agree. I think that trying to help them is a lot better than punishing them. They need to feel like they can have a second chance. Counseling is a good idea for the parents because sometimes after kids screw up, the parents might not be willing to forgive and accept the child again which in turn might drive the child to causing more trouble.

Law Blog on June 5, 2007 at 1:44 a.m. wrote:

I am a strong supporter in allowing the rehabilitation of youth instead of throwing them in jail for extensive periods of time and plaguing them for life with a criminal record. I believe that the best anyone can do for troubled teenagers is to create a positive environment and set reasonable expectations for school achievement and community involvement. I believe the biggest problem in this is often the home environment that the kids and thrown back into- which is often the reason for their initial problems with the law. What kind of counseling/support is offered to the parents in such cases?

Eric T. on June 5, 2007 at 1:41 a.m. wrote:

There are three distinct types of cases that are brought before the Juvenile Court: delinquency, dependency, and traffic/minor offenses. Delinquency proceedings involve minors charged with committing an act which would be a crime if committed by an adult. Juvenile Court jurisdiction over delinquents is described in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 602. If allegations in the petition are found to be true, and if the minor is declared a ward of the court, the minor might remain at home on probation under certain conditions and with removal as a possible sanction for probation violation. Or a ward can be immediately removed from the home and placed in another setting, which can range from a group home to Juvenile Hall or a county camp, or in the more restrictive State of California Department of the Youth Authority. Dependency actions involve minors who have allegedly been abused, neglected, or inadequately cared for by one or more parents. The jurisdiction prerequisites for such proceedings are described in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300. Unlike delinquency or status offender proceedings (where the principal focus is on the conduct of the minor), dependency proceedings are initially directed towards demonstrating that the parent has harmed or is unable to properly care for his or her child. If Juvenile Court jurisdiction is established, the court will then determine whether the minor should be removed from the parent's custody and, if so, what placement would be most appropriate for the minor's needs. Juvenile citations for traffic and/or minor offenses, including violations of municipal code ordinances, are issued by law enforcement agencies throughout Orange County. Although a minor may appear prior to the court date shown on the ticket as long as s/he brings a copy of the citation to the court, most minors appear on the court date indicated on the citation. Traffic/minor offenses can be adjudicated by reprimands, special projects, fines, traffic school, or volunteer community service, or, under certain serious circumstances, the court may refer the citation to the Probation Department so that the minor's case may be handled under delinquency proceedings. *note information taken from: http://www.occourts.org/juvenile/

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