No one is immune from making a mistake, and this is especially true when a person is young and trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world. Many people probably assume that if they entered the juvenile system as a minor, these records would be sealed and/or destroyed upon becoming an adult. Similarly, when someone is wrongly arrested for a crime that never leads to a prosecution or conviction, it seems logical to assume these records would not be kept, but in both instances, these beliefs are wrong. In order to seal and destroy any record, a petition must be filed in court, and a judge decides whether to grant or deny the request. Getting this information off a person’s record is critical to securing employment and avoiding discrimination from lenders, landlords, and state agencies. This process is not necessarily easy, but is worth the effort so that a person can truthfully answer he/she has no arrest or criminal record when asked. An overview of who is eligible to request records be sealed and destroyed, and a description of the process, will follow below.
First, it should be noted that juvenile records include far more than police reports generated during an arrest. In fact, they can include any document created in connection with any criminal activity a person engaged in as a minor. Consequently, juvenile records can consist of arrest reports, court findings and orders, exhibits used at hearings, and probation reports. Once a court seals these records, it is as if they never existed. However, they can be temporarily reopened for the purposes of defamation lawsuits and for the DMV to allow auto insurance adjustors to inspect records to evaluate insurance eligibility and risk. In order to be eligible to petition for the sealing of juvenile records, the following must be true:
- the person is at least 18 or the jurisdiction of the juvenile court expired five or more years ago, whichever occurs first;
- the person has no conviction as an adult for a crime involving “moral turpitude,” which refers to offenses based on dishonest or immoral behavior. Examples include, theft, fraud, and some sex offenses;
- the court believes the person is rehabilitated; and
- there is no pending civil litigation connected to the juvenile incidents.
Once the petition is filed, the court will set a hearing date where a judge will decide whether to grant the request or deny it. If the petition is granted, the court will notify any agencies holding records or with access to records to seal them.
Adult Arrest Records
The ability to request sealing and destroying adult arrest records hinges on whether the petitioner was convicted of a crime. Thus, to eligible for this relief, the case must involve one of the following circumstances:
- an arrest, but no charges are filed;
- a dismissal of the case; or
- an acquittal by a jury.
In addition, these petitions are generally allowed up to two years after the date of arrest or the filing of charges, whichever occurs later. Note that these petitions only apply to a particular arrest and not a person’s entire criminal record.
The process to contest and seal an adult arrest can be a two-step process that depends on the circumstances of the case. If a person was arrested but no charges were filed, he/she must first petition the arresting law enforcement agency. If the police are convinced the person is factually innocent, they will seal the record for three years, and then destroy it. If the police deny the request or fail to respond within 60 days, the person moves on to step two.
The second step requires filing a petition with the court, and if the judge believes the person is factually innocent, the petition will be granted. Note that this is the only step open to those with cases where the charges were dismissed or a jury acquitted them. Factual innocence means the evidence exonerates the person, not just introduces doubt about guilt.
If you have records that you want to seal and destroy, talk to an attorney familiar with the criminal law system, those at the Manshoory Law Group, APC in Los Angeles. This law firm can help you get the fresh start you need and deserve. Contact us for a free initial consultation.