Is There a Difference Between Sealing and Expunging Juvenile Records?

If you’ve been accused of a misdemeanor or a serious felony in the San Jose or Silicon Valley Area, a criminal defense attorney can help. At Summit Defense, our goal is always the complete dismissal of all charges. If this isn’t possible, we often negotiate solutions for our clients that allow them to avoid jail and sometimes even prosecution.


Summit Defense
2570 North 1st Street , Second Floor San Jose, CA 95131

Is There a Difference Between Sealing and Expunging Juvenile Records?

If you’ve been accused of a misdemeanor or a serious felony in the San Jose or Silicon Valley Area, a criminal defense attorney can help. At Summit Defense, our goal is always the complete dismissal of all charges. If this isn’t possible, we often negotiate solutions for our clients that allow them to avoid jail and sometimes even prosecution.


Summit Defense
2570 North 1st Street , Second Floor San Jose, CA 95131
Last Modified: March 25, 2024

Difference between sealing and expunging juvenile recordsWhen talking about getting a juvenile record sealed or expunged, legal matters become complicated. Sealing means the records are hidden from the general public but might still be visible to certain government agencies. Expunging is like erasing the record as if the incidents never happened. Understanding these differences is crucial, especially for those who have such records and want a fresh start.

At Summit Defense, we understand that sealing or expunging juvenile criminal records can lead to a fresh start. This is a process to follow if you want to expunge juvenile records. Sealing juvenile criminal records is beneficial, and not all are eligible for expungement. Learn more about how a juvenile criminal record exists in our criminal justice system. Then, contact us for a case consultation.

Overview of Juvenile Records in the Legal System

Juvenile records are files that track a person’s encounters with the juvenile justice system. They can include court documents, arrest records, and law enforcement or juvenile detention center reports. They are a formal record of what occurred and the court’s decisions regarding juvenile offenders. The idea behind juvenile records differs from adult records because they focus more on rehabilitation than punishment.

These records play a crucial role in the juvenile justice system. They help courts decide how best to support the reintegration of a juvenile offender into society. However, a juvenile court record can also have long-lasting effects on a person’s life, affecting their ability to get jobs, secure housing, or pursue higher education. This reality sparks a significant debate about how we should handle juvenile records. Juvenile court proceedings are different from those in an adult criminal court. This difference should matter.

The Nature and Purpose of Juvenile Records

The main purpose of juvenile records is to track the legal history of individuals who have gone through the juvenile court system. This tracking helps ensure that juveniles receive the appropriate guidance and rehabilitation services. It reflects the belief that young people have the capacity to change and should not be defined by their early mistakes. By keeping these records, the system aims to serve the needs of juvenile offenders better.

However, the presence of these records can also lead to privacy concerns. Young people might find their past mistakes haunting them long after they’ve moved on. The existence of these records can hinder their chances at a normal life, affecting everything from employment to education. Thus, while juvenile records serve an important function in the justice system, they also pose challenges for those they are about.

Privacy Concerns and Future Implications

Privacy is a major concern regarding juvenile records. Even though the intent behind these records is good, their existence can lead to unintended consequences. For example, a young person’s past encounters with the law can hinder future opportunities. This situation often leads to calls for more privacy protections for juvenile records.

The future implications of having a juvenile record can be significant. They can influence a person’s ability to secure employment, apply for college, or rent an apartment. As such, society needs to find a balance between. We must maintain public safety and allow young people to move on from past mistakes. Addressing these privacy concerns ensures that juvenile offenders can rehabilitate and reintegrate into society.

Understanding Sealing Juvenile Records

Understanding sealing juvenile records

Sealing juvenile records refers to the process of hiding these records from most people. This doesn’t erase the records but makes them inaccessible to the public, including employers and landlords. Certain government agencies can sometimes access sealed records, but for most purposes, they’re as good as gone. The goal is to prevent these records from interfering with a person’s future opportunities.

The Sealing Process Explained

Getting a juvenile record sealed varies depending on the crime involved. In some cases, the court will automatically seal them. In other cases, this involves filing a petition with the juvenile court. The person must often prove that they’ve rehabilitated, which could mean showing a period without any new criminal activities. A judge then reviews the petition and decides whether the records should be sealed. This process can take time, but it’s crucial to clear one’s name.

Not All Juvenile Records are Automatically Expunged

Despite common belief, juvenile records do not automatically vanish upon reaching adulthood. The expungement or sealing of these records depends on many factors and has implications for young people’s future opportunities, such as education, employment, military enlistment, and housing.

The sealing of records limits public access but retains them for certain official uses, whereas expungement completely destroys the records, treating them as if they never existed. The procedures for sealing or having the records expunged are intricate and vary from state to state; the youth, prosecutor, or judge frequently must take legal action.

However, recent legislative trends aim to simplify these processes by allowing for automatic sealing or expungement under specific conditions. Despite these efforts, many youths remain unaware of how to navigate the expungement process, highlighting the need for improved communication and resources to assist them​

Criteria and Eligibility for Sealing

In general, if you want to have your record sealed, you need to be at least 18 years of age or five years old, and you must have passed since the offense was committed. In addition, the court has to be satisfied that you’ve been rehabilitated. The process is similar to cleaning an adult record. Generally, more serious crimes are harder to seal, and there is usually a waiting period after the juvenile’s last encounter with the justice system. Understanding these criteria is essential for anyone looking to have their records sealed.

Eligibility for sealing also depends on completing any sentences or rehabilitation programs ordered by the court. This completion is a sign of rehabilitation and is a key factor in a judge’s decision to seal records. When applying for sealing, individuals must gather all necessary documentation and evidence of their rehabilitation.

The Process and Impact of Expunging Juvenile Records

  1. Filing a petition. First, the individual must file a petition with the court handling their case. This step formally requests the expungement of their juvenile record.
  2. Reviewing eligibility. The court then reviews the petition to ensure the individual meets all eligibility criteria for expungement, including the nature of the offense and the time that has passed since.
  3. Notifying interested parties. Law enforcement and other interested parties may be notified of the petition. They have the opportunity to object to the expungement.
  4. Court hearing. A hearing may be scheduled for both sides to present their arguments. The judge listens to these arguments before making a decision.
  5. Judge’s decision. If the judge approves the petition, they will order the juvenile record to be expunged. This order means the record will be treated as if it never existed.
  6. Implementing the order. Following the judge’s order, the record is destroyed or returned. This step ensures the record can no longer impact the individual’s life.
  7. Confirmation of expungement. The individual receives confirmation that their record has been expunged. They can now legally claim they have no criminal record in most situations.

Eligibility Requirements for Expungement

Expungement eligibility varies by state but typically includes a waiting period after the last court date or the completion of any sentence. In California, the process is generally called record cleaning. Expungement of juvenile offenses is similar to expunging offenses committed while an adult.

In general, the individual must demonstrate that they have been law-abiding since the offense and that expunging their record serves the interest of justice.

Having no subsequent convictions is often a requirement for expungement. This clean record signifies that the individual has been rehabilitated. The court also considers the individual’s age at the time of the offense and their current age. These factors help the court decide if expunging the record is appropriate. The process is intended to provide deserving individuals with a clean slate.

In general, the following crimes are eligible for expungement. They include:

Reach out to us if you need help expunging these convictions.

Key Differences Between Sealing and Expunging Records

Key differences between sealing and expunging records

  • Visibility. Sealed records are hidden from the public but might still be accessible to certain government agencies. Expunged records are destroyed or erased, making them completely inaccessible.
  • Legal Effects. With sealed records, an individual’s criminal history is not visible in most background checks. Expunging a record legally means that the offense never occurred.
  • Government access. Certain professions that require a government background check might still access sealed records, but expunged records are typically not accessible.
  • Eligibility criteria. The criteria for sealing records are often less strict than for expunging them. Expungement usually requires a stronger case for complete erasure.
  • Process complexity. Expunging records generally involves a more complex legal process than sealing them. This complexity is due to the destruction of the record.
  • Future implications. Sealed records can sometimes be unsealed under specific circumstances, while expunged records offer a permanent solution with no reversal.
  • Application to offenses. Depending on state laws and the nature of the offense, some offenses may be eligible for sealing but not expungement.

How to Initiate Sealing or Expungement Proceedings

The first step in sealing or expunging a juvenile record is to gather all documents from the case. This preparation includes court documents, records of the completion of any court-ordered programs, and evidence of rehabilitation. The former juvenile offender should consult with a lawyer specializing in juvenile law. We can help you understand California’s specific requirements and procedures.

The next step is to file a petition with the juvenile court that handled the original case. This petition formally requests the sealing or expungement of the records. Following all guidelines and providing complete information is important to avoid delays. This is where we can help you.

Contact Summit Defense for Help With Sealing and Expunging Juvenile Records

Contact Summit Defense for help with sealing and expunging juvenile recordsAt Summit Defense, we have experience with juvenile expungement and record sealing. We can use that experience to help you. Let us provide your child with a fresh start. Contact us today for a case consultation.

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