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What Is the Difference Between Expungement and Sealing a Juvenile Criminal Record?

You have probably heard the legal terms “expungement” and “record sealing” before, but may not know exactly what these terms mean. Expungement means that an individual’s criminal record is cleared completely of a certain crime or arrest. In other words, expungement clears a person’s name and makes it like the arrest and prosecution never happened. Record sealing is similar. If an individual’s record is sealed, this means that only certain people can see their criminal record. A “standard” pre-employment check will not bring up charges from a record that has been sealed.

Juvenile Criminal Records Are Often Sealed Upon Adulthood, But There are Important Exceptions

Most people assume that juvenile criminal records are sealed when the record-holder turns eighteen and becomes a legal adult. Some young people even use this as justification to commit crimes while underage. They assume that once they have turned 18, the crimes they committed as a minor will disappear from their record. Unfortunately, this is inaccurate. While some California juvenile records are automatically sealed when the offender turns 18, many criminal records are not sealed at this time.

Certain Officials Can View a Sealed Record

A sealed juvenile criminal record is visible only to a small number of people in specific circumstances. After being sealed, the record technically does not exist by law and will not show up through traditional means of background checking. However, the record can still be accessed by government officials. For example, if a person who has a sealed juvenile record wants to join the police force, their juvenile offenses may become relevant. Those attempting to obtain a federal security clearance may also have their juvenile criminal records examined. This is very different from an expungement of a criminal record, which completely destroys the all records of the arrest or prosecution and makes them invisible to everyone.

Petitioning the Court to Seal a Record

Some juvenile criminal cases are automatically sealed by the court. For those who do not have their juvenile criminal records sealed upon turning 18, there are still a few options. Adults can petition the court to seal their records. However, many stipulations apply and not everyone is eligible to have their record sealed.

Let Us Help

If you or a loved one have further questions about sealing a juvenile criminal record in California, contact a knowledgeable San Jose criminal defense lawyer. Call 408-277-0377 today to schedule a consultation with Wesley J. Schroeder, Attorney at Law.