Q: I am the case manager for a youth in THP-Plus, who was formerly in the juvenile probation system. He committed a crime as a minor, but his records were never been sealed and he is now 22 years -old.
I heard there was a new law that will allow him to seal his records free of charge. Is that the case? And if he successfully seals his juvenile record, does he have to disclose that he was ever arrested in job interviews or on rental applications?
A: Yes, Senator Ricardo Lara authored Senate Bill 504, which was signed by Governor Brown on September 30, 2016 and eliminates the fee to have a juvenile record sealed for individuals under the age of twenty-six. Prior to SB 504, adjudicated youth seeking to clear their records had to pay $150 to petition the court to seal his or her records.
In addition to eliminating the filing fee to seal records for individuals under the age of twenty-six, SB 504 prohibits an unfulfilled order of restitution from barring the sealing of a record. Previously, a youth was required to pay all fines, fees, and restitution owed to a victim in order to seal his or her juvenile record. However, the person is still liable to pay the entire amount of restitution even if his or her records are sealed.
For youth who satisfactorily completed probation and whose cases were dismissed after January 1, 2015, the court will automatically seal their juvenile records, thanks to SB 1038 authored by Senator Mark Leno last year and its clean up bill, AB 666 (Stone) this year. Individuals who committed certain serious felonies when age 14 or over are not eligible to have their records sealed.
Once a youth has sealed his or her records, the individual can answer “no” to any questions asking whether he has a juvenile record or whether he has ever been arrested. Legally, when juvenile records are sealed, they are deemed not to have occurred and the individual can reply accordingly to employers, schools and others. Also, don’t forget that juvenile adjudications are never considered to be felony convictions, whether or not they are sealed. Sealed juvenile records may be reviewed for limited purposes, such as determining eligibility for extended foster care (AB12) or determining eligibility for other programs if the person reoffends while a minor. SB 504 and AB 666 will go into effect January 1, 2016.
Sources: Section 1203.45 of the Penal Code, Sections 781, 786 and 903.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, T.N.G. v. Superior Court (1971) 4 Cal.3d 767, Administrative Office of the Courts.