Guide to sealing juvenile court records
The guide contains information about
- Sealing juvenile records
- Who is eligible to have their record sealed
- How to ask to have your records sealed
Sealing juvenile court records
Do you have a juvenile record?
If you were arrested or involved in a court case or had contact with the juvenile justice system when you were under 18, the courts, police, schools, or other public agencies may have records about what you did.
For certain types of cases, a court can automatically seal juvenile records. For other types of cases, you can ask the court to seal them.
These instructions are only for juvenile records, not records of adult convictions. If you were convicted in adult criminal court as a minor, find out about cleaning an adult record.
How a juvenile record can affect you and how sealing it can help
If you have a juvenile record that is not sealed, it could make it harder for you to
Find a job
Get a driver’s license
Get a loan
Rent an apartment
Go to college
When the court seals your records, it means that your court case no longer exists for most purposes. This means that you can legally and truthfully say you do not have a criminal record when someone asks about your criminal history. If the court seals a record that required you to register as a sex offender, the order will say you do not have to continue to register.
You do not need to report sealed juvenile records on your job, school, or other applications. There may be an exception to this if you want to join the military or get a federal security clearance. If you need advice or have more questions about what the employer might be able to see or use, talk to a lawyer.
Some government agencies and the court can access sealed juvenile records, but only for specific purposes.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
The DMV can share your vehicle and traffic records with insurance companies.
The court may see your records if you are a witness in a case, involved in a defamation case, or apply for extended foster care benefits.
A prosecutor (or probation department)
The prosecutor and others can look at your record to determine if you are eligible to participate in a deferred entry of judgment program. A prosecutor can also see the record to look to see if there's information that may help a defendant in another case.
Prosecutor or judge
If you were a victim to certain crimes and seek certification in connection with an immigration matter, the judge or prosecutor can see the record to determine if you were helpful in an investigation or proscecution.
If your sealed record is for a Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b) offense and you're later charged with a felony, the prosecution can later ask to unseal the record.
You can get more information about who can access or unseal the records in How to Ask the Court to Seal your Records (form JV-595-INFO).
Was your record already sealed?
In certain types of cases, a court will automatically seal a juvenile record. If your case does not fall into one of these categories, you can ask the court to seal your record.
When records are sealed automatically:
The court must automatically dismiss your case if
Your case is dismissed by the juvenile court after January 1, 2015,
You were not found to have committed an offense listed in Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b) when you were 14 years of age or older (these are violent offenses like killing, raping, or kidnapping, and also some offenses involving drugs or weapons), and
You successfully completed probation.
If the court does not find that you have satisfactorily completed your probation, it may not dismiss your case and will not seal your records automatically. In that case, if you want to have your records sealed, you will need to ask the court to seal your records. This is another reason why it is important for you to pay attention to the terms and conditions of your probation and work to get your case successfully dismissed.
If the court seals your records for satisfactory completion of probation, some agencies may be able to still look at them in some situations:
If your records were sealed by the court when the case was dismissed, the prosecutor and others can look at your record to determine if you are eligible to participate in a deferred entry of judgment or informal supervision program.
If you apply for benefits as a non-minor dependent (when you are in extended foster care), the court may see your records.
If a new petition is filed against you for a felony offense, probation can look at what programs you have participated in but cannot use that information to keep you in juvenile hall or to punish you.
If the juvenile court finds that you have committed a felony, the court can view your sealed records to determine what disposition (sentence) the court should order.
If you are arrested for a new offense and the prosecutor asks the court to transfer you to adult court, the court can review your record to determine if transferring you to adult court is appropriate.
If you are in foster care, child welfare can look at your records to determine where you should live and what services you need.
If you are not allowed to have a gun because of your offense, the Department of Justice can look at your records to make sure you do not buy or own a gun.
If a prosecutor thinks there is something in your record that would be helpful to someone who has been charged with a crime in another case, they can ask the court to provide that information. If they ask the court for that information, the court will tell you and your lawyer and you can object.
If a judge or prosecutor needs to determine if a victim of certain offenses was helpful in the investigation or in the prosecution of the offense when the victim is seeking certification in connection with an immigration matter, they may access your records to make this determination
If a new petition is filed against you and the issue of your competency to participate in your case is raised, the probation department, prosecutor, your attorney, and the court can look at your prior competency-related records to assess your current ability to understand and participate in the juvenile court proceedings.
Even if someone looks at your records in one of these situations, your records will stay sealed in the future and you do not need to ask the court to seal them again.
Deferred entry of judgment allows a youth (14 years old or older) charged with at least one felony to become eligible for a probation program. If the youth admits the charges and successfully completes DEJ probation, the juvenile court dismisses the case and seals the youth's arrest and court records.
The court must order your records sealed when it dismissed your case if
Your probation supervision was under “deferred entry of judgment” under Welfare and Institutions Code sections 790 to 795, and
You did what you were supposed to do during the time of that agreement.
If you did not complete the agreement adequately and the court entered judgment against you, you will need to ask the court to seal your records by filing a petition.
As of January 1, 2018, if you
- Participated in a diversion program instead of going to court under Welfare and Institutions Code section 654 (or any other pre-petition diversion program), and
- Satisfactorily complete the program
probation will seal your probation records and notify the law enforcement agency that arrested you, as well as any agency operating a diversion program to seal its records.
Probation must tell you if it has sealed your records. If it does not seal your records, probation must tell you why in writing. If your records are not sealed because probation found that you did not complete the program satisfactorily, you can ask the court to review that decision and if the court finds that you did complete the program satisfactorily it will order probation to seal your records.
As of January 1, 2021, if you participated in a law enforcement diversion program and were not referred to probation, the law enforcement agency will seal its records if you satisfactorily complete the program and tell you that they were sealed. If they do not seal the records, they will tell you and allow you to ask them to reconsider whether you satisfactorily completed the program.
How to seal your record if it wasn't already sealed
Who qualifies to have their record sealed
Generally, you can ask to have your records sealed if
- You're at least 18 years old or its been at least 5 years since your case closed
- The court is satisfied that you have been rehabilitated
You are not eligible if as an adult you were convicted of a crime of moral turpitude (like murder, a sex crime, serious drug offense, or fraud).
There are other requirements if you want to seal a conviction listed in Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b) (serious and violent offenses). To ask to seal an offense under section 707(b), you must be either
- 21 years of age and have completed supervision by the Division of Juvenile Justice, or
- 18 years of age and have completed your probation supervision
If the court seals these records, it will not destroy them. The prosecution, probation, or the court can access the records if you have a later felony case.
You're not eligible if, when you were 14 years old or older, you committed a sex offense listed in Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b) which required you to register as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290.008.
How to ask to have your record sealed
If your records were not sealed automatically by the court, you will need to ask the court to seal your records. If your case was dismissed before January 1, 2015, it is very likely you will need to do this.
There is no cost to ask to seal your records. But, it can take months. If you think you might want your record sealed in the future, contact the probation department where your case happened to find out how to get started.