There are times when children make mistakes and must face criminal repercussions as a result. While having a child who has been charged with a juvenile crime or who has a juvenile criminal record may be cause for concern for many parents, it is important to understand that California’s juvenile justice system is structured much differently than the adult criminal justice system. Most significantly, it recognizes that children make mistakes, and therefore prioritizes leniency and rehabilitation over punishment and long-term penalties.
This being the case, minors who have been involved in the juvenile justice system are often granted a path free from the burdens and limitations many other adults face when they have convictions on their criminal records. While there is an opportunity to seal a juvenile criminal record, certain factors must be met, including:
- The case was not transferred to adult court – In some cases, particularly those involving serious crimes, minors under 18 may be charged in adult court, which will result in an adult criminal record. Generally, these charges remain on a criminal record, though individuals may seek to expunge them after time passes and when their cases are complete, depending on the circumstances.
- A juvenile has turned 18 – A minor who has been adjudicated in the juvenile court system may be eligible to seal a juvenile criminal record once they have turned 18.
- A juvenile case has ended – In some cases, minors may turn 18 while their juvenile court cases are still in progress. These minors may not petition to seal a juvenile criminal record until their juvenile court case has ended. Minors under the age of 18 may also petition to seal their juvenile criminal record if at least 5 years have passed since the case was concluded.
- A minor has not been convicted of certain adult crimes – A minor with a juvenile criminal record may not be able to seal their adjudication if they have been convicted of a felony offense or certain misdemeanor crimes as an adult.
As these qualifying criteria clearly show, juvenile criminal records do not automatically disappear once a minor reaches the age of 18. Instead, eligible individuals must petition the court to seal and destroy their juvenile criminal records by court order. Doing so can be an important step in putting past mistakes behind them, and having better opportunities when seeking employment, professional licensing, and even higher education, loans, or housing leases.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our Ventura criminal defense attorneys are passionate about helping individuals take the necessary steps toward positive and productive futures. Our attorneys are readily available to help you learn more your eligibility to seal a juvenile criminal record, or that of your child’s, and to take the appropriate steps in petitioning the court. To discuss your case, contact us for a free consultation.